A five-and-a-half-year-old boy was taken away from his NRI parents by Norwegian authorities on Wednesday, reports said. The officials accused the parents of beating the child. This is the third such incident in the past five years where a child was taken away by the Child Welfare Department of Norway. Speaking to The Indian Express, the father of the boy, Anil Kumar said that the authorities did not even give them prior information. The child, Aryan, was taken into custody on 13 December from his kindergarten school at 9.30 am. “They did not give us prior information. At 10 am, the same day, four policemen came to my house, took my wife into custody, and interrogated her from 11.15 am to 2.45 pm,” said Kumar

Kumar, who is a citizen of Norway, moved to Oslo 26 years ago from Punjab and is a owner of an Indian restaurant. Speaking to CNN-News18, Aryan’s father said that the authorities had absolutely no evidence against them and that the authorities did not have summons to take Aryan.

“Aryan cannot sleep. He cries all the time and he misses us. Aryan’s mother (Gurvinderjit Kaur) hasn’t stopped crying. We have never hit him, there is no evidence against us,” Kumar told the channel.

Kumar, who also is the vice-president of the Overseas Friends of the BJP in Oslo, said that Aryan was sent to a children’s welfare home in Hamar, about 150 kilometres away from Oslo. Kumar is a Norwegian citizen and his wife holds an Indian passport. They have appealed to the Indian government for help alleging that their son was taken away without any evidence and is suffering at a children’s home under the custody of child welfare department. External Affair Minister Sushma Swaraj, on Thursday stepped in to help family.

Sushma sought a report from Indian Ambassador in Norway on the allegations made by the Indian couple that the Norwegian authorities had taken away their five-year-old child on frivolous complaint of abuse. BJP leader Vijay Jolly had written to her and the Indian Ambassador in Norway after the couple sought his help in getting back the custody of their child. The parents also alleged that the authorities asked leading questions to the child. “How will a small kid know? The questions were leading. We have never hit our child,” Kumar told News18.

Meanwhile, MEA officials said, “Our Embassy officials in Oslo have spoken to the boy’s father Anil Kumar Sharma and extended full support. However, Sharma informed the mission that he has hired a lawyer to represent him in the case.” When contacted, Norwegian Embassy spokesperson said, “The Embassy became aware of this case yesterday evening. We have asked relevant authorities in Norway to provide us with further information, and are awaiting their response.”

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

“We met the child welfare officials twice, on 14 and 16 December, and they haven’t been able to produce any evidence. They said they received a complaint from a person. We are not sure who registered this baseless complaint against us… By doing this, he or she has ruined our family life,” Kumar was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.

In his letter to Indian Ambassador Debraj Pradhan, Jolly had raised concern on “forcible custody” of the boy Aryan by Child Welfare Department of Norway on “baseless and fabricated complaint” in Oslo on 13 December. Jolly said he has received a call from a senior MEA official saying that help will be given to the Indian couple.

The Indian embassy in Norway confirmed to News18 that Indian ambassador Debraj Pradhan has already spoken to the child’s father. Quoting sources, the channel reported that Kumar has hired a lawyer to defend his family in court and “the ambassador will be meeting him again.”

Norway’s child welfare department was tight-lipped on the exact facts of the case. News18 reported:

“When the channel (CNN-News18) emailed them to ascertain the status of the case and the charges against the parents they responded saying, “The Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion is responsible for the general child welfare policy. However, the government does not have the authority to comment on or intervene in individual cases.”

It is still not clear when the child would be returned to his parents. Government sources have indicated that the legal processes may take time.

This is the third case since 2011 when children have been taken away from their Indian-origin parents by the authorities in Norway on the grounds of abuse. In 2011, a three-year-old and a one-year-old were separated from their parents, prompting the then UPA government to take up the issue with Norway. The Norwegian court later allowed the children to be reunited with their parents. In December 2012, an Indian couple was jailed on charges of ill treatment of their children aged seven and two years old. Later, they were were sent to their grandparents in Hyderabad.

What does the Child Protection Laws in Norway specify?

The Norway child act places great importance on family ties and child’s upbringing in a healthy atmosphere with their parents. According to the  Norwegian Child Welfare Act is applicable to all children and their parents living in Norway, regardless of their residential status, religion and nationality. The general child welfare policy is mainly comes under the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion in Norway. The child welfare cases are handled by the local child welfare services and their job is to conduct family investigations in case of child abuse.

The Child Welfare Service in Nowray is also known as Barnevernet. Barnevernet is an independent body and no ministers can instruct the board in decisions related to the welfare of child. Reports cite many cases where the Barnevernet has been criticised by social workers and child psychologists who argued that they need to reform their methods. Every year nearly 53,000 such cases were handled by the child welfare service in Norway.

How common is the practice of separating children?

The Indian Express reported that over 80 percent of cases where the Child Welfare Services concludes that some kind of intervention is needed, they offer various kinds of assistance to the parents. In 2014, at least 43,000 families got assistance and were let of, while 9,611 children were removed — temporarily or permanently — from the custody of the parents.

First Published On : Dec 23, 2016 15:02 IST

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NRI couple in Norway lose custody of child, seeks Sushma Swaraj’s help: All you need to know