The charge of “false and biased reporting” of the Bhattacharya children case is completely incorrect.

Though I have extensively covered and written about the case before, the August 12 stories were actually about the travails of two very small children, one of whom has a serious personality disorder, being made to travel a distance of 250 kilometres twice weekly to meet their mother.

The Hindu has tried several times to speak to Sagarika Chakraborty but she has refused to speak to this reporter and to Ananya Dutta of the paper’s Kolkata bureau for some time now.

My reports are based on extensive video footage obtained from Norwegian sources that show Ms Chakraborty interacting with her children, especially with her son Abhigyan. I have consciously refrained from going into the details of the videos out of a desire to preserve Ms Chakraborty’s privacy and will not provide a detailed description of what they show even now. I will, however, be more than happy to share this material with any expert panel looking into the matter should it request me.

I would like the signatories of this letter to specify the “third parties” whose interests are inimical to Ms Chakraborty’s and on whose declarations I have allegedly based my report.

As a reporter, I have no view on the question of Ms Chakraborty’s “fitness as a mother.” But the claim of the signatories that the two children experienced “normal development … month on month from infancy to within days of their being confiscated by the authorities in Norway” is controverted by a recorded interview the mother and father gave me on March 10, 2012, before their break-up became public.

I was specifically told that Abhigyan had started showing autistic characteristics as of the age of five months. Abhigyan stayed in Kolkata with his mother and maternal grandparents from birth to 14 months.

At the final court hearing in Stavanger attended by the Ministry of External Affairs’ Additional Secretary (West), Baneshri Bose Harisson, and India’s Ambassador and Consular officer, psychologist Melheus Henning gave a detailed report on Abhigyan’s Attachment Disorder and his mother’s depressive state. It describes Abhigyan as suffering from “Indiscriminate bonding disorder; impressive language disorder; parent ill and rejecting; inadequate parental supervision and control.” This reporter possesses a copy of that report and would be willing to share it with the expert panel the signatories refer to.

The final judgment delivered by the Stavanger District Court on April 23, 2012 handing the custody of the children to their paternal uncle describes the mother’s relationship with her children in great detail: “The mother has mental difficulties. She appears to be very unstable/swinging, immature, depressed and anxious… The mother does not involve herself in the children, she ignores them and rejects them and she appears to be threatening towards them. This is shown by the fact that she is angry, screams and lets the son of three years alone in the room even though he strongly expresses fear of being left. She locks the door and makes herself totally inaccessible….” There are many such passages in the judgment.

There is no reason to accept the court’s characterisation as authoritative or as the final word on the matter but it is simply not true that my reports, which have drawn on this material, have been “factually incorrect.”

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