Uncle will get custody of Indian kids: agency

In a case that has reached the highest diplomatic levels, Norway's child welfare service said on Tuesday that two Indian children taken into its care will be handed over to their uncle pending a court ruling.

"It has been concluded that care of the two children should be awarded to the brother of the children’s father enabling him to take the children back to India," said the Child Welfare Service in Stavanger in a statement.

The proposed solution will be presented to Stavanger district court, with a provisional court date set for March 23rd.

The family had asked for an uncle, Kolkata-based Arunabhas Bhattacharya, to be given custody of three-year-old Avigyan and one-year-old Aishwarya.

Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya lost custody of their children after officials in Stavanger, south-western Norway, objected to their feeding the children by hand and sharing the same bed, according to press reports.

These are common practices in India, where they are seen as part of the bonding between mother and child.

The welfare services have refused to detail 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.

The case has stirred emotions in India and took on a diplomatic dimension last month when Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna demanded that Norway "find an amicable and urgent solution."

India on Monday sent a special envoy to Oslo to meet the Norwegian foreign minister and other officials to discuss the case.

The two children were removed from their parents in May last year by the Norway's Child Welfare Services,  which deemed they were not receiving proper care at home in Stavanger.

The parents, Norwegian residents Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya, have rejected the allegation and are fighting to return to India with their children.

The Indian government has told Norway that the children are being deprived of the benefits of being brought up in their own cultural and linguistic environment and should return to India as soon as possible.

On February 17th, the Norwegian authorities allowed the parents to see their children for the first time in three months.

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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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