With reference to Vaiju Naravane’s reports “Now, travel travails for Bhattacharya toddlers” and “Efforts under way to end travel ordeal of Bhattacharya toddlers” (August 12, 2012) and Ananya Dutta’s “Families of the Bhattacharya children caught in bitter row” (May 25, 2012), we are writing to express our objection to your false and biased reporting in the case of Abhigyan and Aishwarya Bhattacharya.
Your reports take for granted the case alleged by the Norwegian authorities against Sagarika Chakraborty, the children’s mother. It is unfortunate that no attempt was made to ascertain whether there was any information available to controvert the allegations of the Norwegian authorities about the mother and her children. Moreover, your reports contain allegations based solely on statements of third parties who are in a conflict of interest with Ms Chakraborty without giving her the opportunity to present her side of the story.
Ms Chakraborty has submitted to the appropriate authorities, video and documentary evidence that demonstrate her mutually loving relations with both her children; her fitness as a mother; and the normal development of both children month on month from infancy to within days of their being confiscated by the authorities in Norway. Her evidence contravenes, point for point, each of the allegations in your report about Abhigyan fearing and rejecting his mother and having some serious disorder before being taken away by the Norwegian authorities.
Your reports are also factually incorrect. There is no finding in the Norwegian orders that the mother “regularly threatened to abandon [Abhigyan]” as claimed in your report. It is also one-sided to charge the mother with trying to forcibly remove the children from their uncle without asking for her comment.
Your reports contain the defamatory charge that the mother has psychological problems even though the record of the Norwegian care proceedings contains no finding of psychological disorder against her.
We are also concerned that in reporting on an issue that concerns the welfare of two small children, reliance has been placed only on one side of the story and that no reference has been made to reports that the children have not been taken to visit their designated child psychologist even once since they were taken to Kulti by their paternal uncle; and that the elder boy, who is nearly four years old, has not been admitted to any school and is reported not to have any language skills. There is deep concern that the place where the children are currently situated may not have appropriate paediatric, schooling and medical facilities that Abhigyan might require. Surely you would agree that the children deserve a fair chance of being given a better alternative, if such can be found, than the current arrangement of growing up without either parent and without being able to even meet their parents.
All these issues have been raised before the appropriate authorities. The matter is currently under independent and expert scrutiny and is being evaluated by duly qualified persons, including mental health professionals, child care experts and legal experts. It is vital, both for the sake of the children, and in the interests of justice, that this scrutiny is not derailed by one-sided, ill-informed and shrill reporting.
Given the grave concerns about bias, administrative overreach and denial of procedural and substantive justice in the care proceedings in Norway, we are at a loss to understand as to why your reports have taken such a determined and negative view of a woman who is using legal means to gain access to her children. We are deeply pained at the spectacle of a well-respected publication such as The Hindu bringing its might to bear down on an ordinary individual in the way that has been done in these reports. We urge you to let the mother’s claims be evaluated by the appropriate authorities in an atmosphere of calm and respect for all parties concerned. We therefore request you to publish this letter in full with the same prominence as the reports published about the Bhattacharya toddlers. We also request you to refrain from publishing one-sided reports in the case.
Signatories: Girija Vyas (former Chairperson, National Commission for Women), Mohini Giri (former Chairperson, National Commission for Women), Brinda Karat (former MP), Sudha Sundaraman (AIDWA), Annie Raja (NFIW), Jyotsana Chatterjee (Joint Women’s Programme), Sehba Farooqui (JMS), Suranya Aiyar, Shalini Grover (Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi)