I knew something like this was afoot from the very beginning. The entire media and the elite glam-sham people were up in arms revolting against Norway and their "high-handed" and inhuman ways of treating Indian kids for quite some time with some even screaming racism and xenophobia. Yes, laws are strictly enforced in European countries but they still do not jump on people without solid evidence and facts supporting it, especially when it can become a diplomatic issue unlike the system we have here. Knowing this, I knew that there was something foul in the State of Denmark. Or in this case, its Scandinavian neighbour. Then this came in.
For those who came in late, Norwegian authorities had removed the children of an Indian Bengali couple to a foster home citing the following.
"The three-year-old son displayed erratic behaviour at school. Officials objected to Abhigyan and his one-year-old sister, Aishwarya, sleeping in the same bed as their parents, and being fed by hand. This, they said, amounted to force-feeding. They also said Abhigyan and Aishwarya showed an emotional disconnect with their parents." Source: NDTV
Norway's child welfare said it intervened when parents did not take "adequate responsibility". Source: BBC
The underlying tone from the Norwegians was that the mother did not take care of her while the parents and the remaining accused the authorities of being culturally intolerant towards Indians.
As expected, this caused considerable public outrage in India and later exploded into a major diplomatic row with the Government getting involved in the case, the opposition creating ruckus in the Parliament, the grandparents meeting the President and Foreign Affairs minister and so on. It all seemed warranted as co-sleeping and feeding children by hand is the norm in India, part of the culture. It would seem outrageous to think that the government could interfere and dictate terms on how to raise one's children and could take away one and three-year old kids from their mother giving some lame reasons! As an Indian, I too was shocked and thought this to be draconian like everyone else and initially was very angry thinking that they did this because the kids were Indian and because the parents tried to bring them up in Indian cultural surroundings! (Or that was how our media fed us). But something did not seem quite right here.
Nothing is foul in the State of Norway?
First of all, Norway is their country. And when you live in their country, you have to obey their laws and rules of their land as inhuman and draconian as they may be. We really cannot demand and expect special concessions for us just because some of us with our cultural complexes feel that our system is superior to theirs. That is unfortunately the fact and we have live with it. Would any of these outragers go ahead and eat publicly during Ramzan in Jeddah or spit paan on the streets in Singapore because that is the way we do it in India? Just because we are Indian, we cannot carry our "chaltha hai" attitude wherever we go. In fact, this attitude only paints us in poor light.
Second: Why didn't they just take the kids and leave the place if it was so bad for them? I cannot imagine what problems Norwegian authorities would have if Indian citizens would want to go back to India. There were negotiations going on between the Indian and Norwegian governments that the kids be given custody to the Uncle and so on, but still only the kids would leave but not the parents, who apparently wanted to stay on in Norway. Our "phoren fascination" much? If it were me, I would have taken the kids and returned home.
Third: Norway was ranked the best place in the World for child care, quality of living and so on. So it would be only logical to think that there might be some benefit of doubt and a reason for them to take such measures as they did. I don't think that no one else in Norway feeds their kids with their hands! We in India might think highly of our culture but we are light-years behind countries like Norway with our infant mortality rate at 47/1000 and rampant female foeticide, infanticide, trafficking of children and babies and so on.
But this action seemed to be quite blunt. I would not think that any country could be so openly culturally intolerant. But as it turned out, this was not the case it was made out to be.
How an Entire Country was Fooled by a Domestic Violence Case
It turned out they were right. Now the husband claims that his wife is mentally unstable and that he had concealed this fact to get custody of the children. She apparently violently assaulted him and he now wants to get separated from her and it also seems that she used to get violent before as well. He comes out with more truths and admits that the Norwegian authorities did not act on cultural bias but because of the psychological problems of the mother and admits that he had been misleading everyone related to the case, the entire Nation, the media, both governments and so on. The Uncle also admits that the children are much happier in the foster home (with another family) than they were with their parents. Read the entire story here. The children were behaving abnormally because of the quarrel between the parents. So that settles that. India, the government, the media and all of us people are now standing embarrassed and with egg on our faces and our country has been made a laughing stock because we jumped the gun and blew up a domestic despute case into a major international scandal. I but certainly feel very sad for the children and pray that despite everything they grow up to a fulfilling childhood. It was not if Norway was right or not. They know how much valuable childhood is and unwaveringly acted in the best interests of the children.
The Mombatti Mafia, usually headed by elite sections of the society and hyperactive journalists who set out on candle light vigils at the drop of a hat have got some explanation to do. Coming to think about it, aren't there far, far more serious issues regarding children in India right now than this one? Many of these people (who I have seen) hugging homeless puppies on the road would not even cast a glance to homeless children on the same road. There are tens of thousands of girl children being killed in India, more are being trafficked, kidnapped, forced into begging and prostitution. There are thousands of Baby Falaks everywhere denied of a childhood or of even a life. In fact, I believe we should implement the Norway model here to prevent more baby Falaks and ensure a childhood for our children. But there are no candle marches anywhere for this. Too dirty? Not enough glamour? Protesting against faraway Norway is much glamorous I guess. Vidyut's post here explains this. And of course the media is also responsible in sensationalizing this issue, misleading everyone! But there is nothing new here. And not to forget the Indian foreboding sense of "cultural superiority" that makes us believe that we are entitled to special treatment where ever in the go in the World.
Egg on Our Faces.
There is an old age saying: Never get involved in family affairs of others. There might be a lot beneath the surface that you do not know. When the real facts come out, if they do, you will be left a fool as is the case here. As a person who has seen many family feuds, I knew this. In the end, the government wasted precious time, money and resources by mobilizing all its its diplomatic forces to negotiate with a country we had no qualms with and probably ending up in their unfavorable books as well. We owe Norway an apology and the guy needs to be punished for misleading everyone. If this goes on and we start knee-jerk reactions against every country, the only friend India will be left with will be Afghanistan.
In the end, we as a country have been made total fools in front of the World (Sasi in Malayalam) by a squabbling husband and wife. Not to mention that the Government has spent my hard-earned tax-Rupees to settle a domestic family feud. Good going!