The tussle for two Indian children placed in state care in Norway took an unexpected turn after their father endorsed the action of Norwegian authorities, and sought to blame the children’s fate on his wife’s “severe psychological problems”.
Anurup Bhattacharya, a geophysicist, claimed he had moved out of their family home in the town of Stavanger, southwest of capital Oslo, after his wife assaulted him Monday. “Sagarika has assaulted me many times before,” he said. “But this time she created a massive commotion and physically assaulted me.”
“If I concealed the seriousness of… our family’s problems, it was because I thought that was the only way we could get our children back. But I now realise that was a mistake and I should have spoken the truth right from the start,” he said.
When the Barnevernet child protection agency took away Abhigyan, 3, and one-year-old Aishwarya in May 2011, the
parents had accused the authorities of unfamiliarity with Indian cultural practices such as feeding children with the hand and sleeping in the same bed.
“It was not just cultural bias that prompted the child welfare services to act. My wife has a serious psychological problem,” Anurup said.
Norwegian officials said confidentiality prevented them from discussing the case, but they denied reports that the children were removed for reasons such as eating with their hands.
Anurup's father Ajoy Bhattacharya, who lives in Kulti, Burdwan in West Bengal, told HT on Tuesday that Sagarika had “a schizophrenic streak” and used to beat up her husband and the children.
“We are keeping quiet as we want to bring the children back,” he said.
Sagarika's family could not be contacted.
“Anurup came to know about her mental disorder shortly after their marriage in 2007 and has been tolerating her bad behaviour ever since. But now, he can't take it anymore,” said Ajoy. The Norwegian authorities were aware of her illness as they had been observing Sagarika for long, he said.
The allegations come ahead of a hearing on March 23, when a Stavanger court is expected to decide whether Anurup’s brother, who lives in India, can be given the custody of the children.
However, the claims of marital discord — and there is only Anurup's statement to go by —are not likely to ease growing international pressure on the Barnevernet.
On Monday, Russian activists held demonstrations against it in four cities, including Moscow.
According to the Norwegian news portal, Nordic Page, the protest action by the Young Guards and Russian Mothers movements was aimed at securing the release of 15 Russian children, who have been removed and placed with Norwegian foster families.
It also remains to be seen if the reported discord between the couple was a factor in the decision by the Norwegian authorities to remove the children or whether the move increased tensions between the couple.
(With inputs from agencies)