The Child Welfare Committee, Burdwan, has issued an interim order that the custody of four-year-old Abhigyan and 23-month-old Aishwarya be given to their mother, Sagarika Chakraborty, contrary to a Norwegian court order that the NRI children stay with their uncle Arunabhas Bhattacharya.
However, according to a release issued by the CWC, it was “unable to take charge of the children today [on Thursday] being handed over owing to unavailability of police assistance to control an unruly mob that had gathered around the foster home [the house of Dr. Bhattacharya].”
“This is a civil matter involving the families of the parents… The order of the CWC was handed to us today [Thursday]. We have also received intimation from the Embassy of Norway that an attempt may be made to forcibly take the children away, which must not be allowed. I will refer the matter to the State [West Bengal] government with the requests from both authorities,” Ajay Nand, Commissioner of the Asansol-Durgapur Police Commissionerate, told The Hindu on the phone.
Mr. Nand said the police had been directed by the CWC to take the children away from Dr. Bhattacharya’s residence at Kulti in Bardhaman and hand them over to Child Line, a non-governmental organisation, but he did not want to act in haste.
The release said the order of a District Court in Norway did not “justify an absolute or permanent separation of the children from either of their parents.”
“Along with expert assistance, we have evaluated the children, their condition in the foster home and the capability of their mother to care for them. We have found the mother to be fit to take care of the children and their foster-carer [Dr. Bhattacharya] to have failed in his duties towards the children,” it said.
Dr. Bhattacharya, who was away from his residence during the day, termed the order “one-sided,” having been issued without any intimation to him or his family. “I was not informed of a hearing or the order. I was out of town for personal reasons and was suddenly informed that this order was issued. My parents are terrified that the children may be taken away by force.”
He alleged that the CWC continuously harassed the Bhattacharya family, be it over the issue of visitation rights to Ms. Chakraborty or forcing the children to regularly travel the long distance to Bardhaman or Kulti for weekly meetings.
Dr. Bhattacharya said his elder brother Anurup Bhattacharya, the father of Abhigyan and Aishwarya, who is still in Norway, was kept out of the loop. “If the CWC was concerned about the separation of the children from either of their parents, should my brother not have been considered?”
The children came under the media glare after the Norwegian Child Welfare Service took over their custody in May 2011, concluding that their parents were not in a position to provide them with the necessary care. They were handed over to Dr. Bhattacharya in April this year at the intervention by the government of India.