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India still trying to get children in Norway back home

March 29, 2012 14:38 IST

The two Indian children, who have been placed in emergency foster care in Norway since May, could come back after a court hearing there in June, Lok Sabha was informed on Thursday.

"We are taking it up, putting pressure on (Norway). Indications are that they might be back in June, (they will be) in their natural habitat. We would like to see the children back in their natural habitat," Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur said.

Maintaining that a Norwegian court was scheduled to hear the matter in June, she said the government was "doing all it can to bring the children back".

In that hearing, Indian authorities are supposed to recommend to the court that the children -- three-year-old Abhigyan and one-year-old Aishwarya -- be placed in the custody of their uncle.

Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj made a strong plea to deal with the issue firmly and "stop all business relations as a counter-measure" to get the children back home.

She recalled how Italy was trying to get back their two marines, who had killed two fishermen from Kerala.

"What Norway has done amounted to interference in our sovereign affairs. The separation of children from their parents is a violation of human rights and the rights of children," she said.

Swaraj said, "The time has come for us to take counter-measures, not only on this issue, but also on issues like Italian security guards killing two of our fishermen. We cannot even get our children back."

Observing that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said India's business relations with Norway would be hurt, Swaraj said, "We should stop such business relations and assert our sovereignty."

Congress leader Adhir Chowdhury and Communist Party of India – Marxist leaders Ramchandra Dome, Saidul Haque and P Karunakaran also termed the incident as "a
serious case of human rights violation".

Chowdhury said the two children were "victims" of the Norwegian judicial system and wanted to know whether adequate diplomatic efforts were made to get them back.

Dome pointed out that the visa period of the children had expired, while Karunakaran said the issue was a "matter of shame for India".

Haque wanted urgent steps to get the children back to the custody of their uncle, for which the parents had given their consent.

In her statement, the minister narrated the sequence of events leading to the separation of the two Indian children from their parents, an NRI couple residing in Stavanger, by the Norwegian Child Welfare Services.

"The ostensible reason given by CWS included fear of possible violence against the children and lack of adequate parental care," she said, adding that the external affairs minister had sent a special envoy to Norway in February.

She said the matter was discussed in the meeting the prime minister had with his Norwegian counterpart in Seoul earlier this week.

"The government continues to believe that the long term interests of the children would be served better if they grew up in their own social, religious, cultural and linguistic milieu. The government will continue to engage with Norwegian authorities on this matter," Kaur said.

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