Norway lets Indian couple see kids after 3 months

Norwegian social workers, who caused a diplomatic storm by removing two Indian children from their parents' care, let the couple see the youngsters for the first time in three months on Friday, a lawyer said.

The social services in the south-western Norwegian town of Stavanger were also continuing to evaluate whether it would be possible to place the children in the custody of their uncle, who lives in India but is currently in Norway.

"We are hoping for a quick clarification," the couple's lawyer Svein Kjetil Lode Svendsen told AFP.

"For the time being, the process is moving in a positive direction. All the feedback we've received shows things are looking good," he said, adding he expected the social services to make a final decision by the middle of March.

Friday's meeting took place in the presence of the uncle, a social services representative and a member of the foster family temporarily caring for the children.

The case has attracted a lot of attention and emotion in India and took on a diplomatic dimension last month when foreign minister SM Krishna demanded that Norway "find an amicable and urgent solution to ensure that the children are returned to the biological parents".

The parents, Norwegian residents Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya, lost custody of three-year-old Avigyan and one-year-old Aishwarya nine months ago after child welfare services deemed they were not receiving proper care.

On television, the parents claimed the child services objected to their feeding the children by hand and sharing the same bed — common practices in India where they are seen as part of the bonding between mother and child.

The welfare services have refused to say why the children were removed, citing confidentiality, but have said such moves are made only in situations that endanger the child or where the child's needs are not sufficiently met.

According to Noopur Tiwari, a journalist with a television channel reporting the case from Stavanger, the decision to remove the children from their parents' custody was linked to the three-year-old boy suffering from attachment disorder.

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India ejects Norwegian ‘for protesting’ against citizenship law

A Norwegian tourist on Friday said authorities had ordered her to leave India after taking part in protests against a new citizenship law, becoming the second European to be ejected over the demonstrations.

India ejects Norwegian 'for protesting' against citizenship law
People protest against the Indian government's Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) in Kolkata on December 12th. Photo: AFP

Janne-Mette Johansson, 71, told AFP that police gave her “verbal assurances” that she could take part in peaceful demonstrations against the law that critics say discriminates against India's Muslims.

“Yesterday (Thursday), Indian immigration officials came to my hotel for questioning and I was mentally tortured. Today, they again showed up at my hotel asking me to leave the country or they will take a legal action and deport me,” she said.

The woman, who had posted photos from the demonstration in the southern state of Kerala on Facebook, added that she would leave India for Dubai on Friday evening and then fly to Sweden.

European visitors to India require visas and the Press Trust of India news agency quoted an official from the Foreigners Regional Registration Office as saying that Johansson “violated visa norms”.

Earlier this week a German studying physics in the southern Indian city of Chennai was also asked to leave after taking part in a protest and comparing the law to anti-Jewish Nazi legislation, PTI reported.

Photos on social media purportedly of the student, named as Jakob Lindenthal, showed him carrying a placard saying “1933-1945 We have been there”.

“After the Nazi era, many people claimed not to have known anything about genocides or atrocities or stated that they were only passive,” Lindenthal told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

“Therefore I see it as a duty to learn from these lessons and not only watch when things happen that one believes to be the stepping stones to a possibly very dangerous development.”

Indian authorities have not commented on his case.

The protests, which have raged for two weeks and left at least 27 people dead, were set to continue on Friday with mobile internet snapped in places and riot police deployed.

The government says that the law easing citizenship rules for religious minorities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan excludes Muslims because they face no persecution in those countries.

But coupled with a mooted citizens register, it has stoked fears including in Washington and the UN rights office about the marginalisation of Muslims who make up 14 percent of India's 1.3 billion people.

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