New Delhi/Kolkata, April 24 (IANS) The two NRI children, who were in foster care in Norway after they were separated from their parents on grounds of alleged negligence, returned to India Tuesday.
Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur was at the airport in New Delhi to welcome Abhigyan, 3, and Aishwarya, 1, along with their joyous grandparents. The children were accompanied by their Norwegian care-givers.
The two children were taken to Kolkata in the evening.
The children of Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya had been taken under protective care and given to foster parents by Norwegian child welfare services in May last year.
The siblings were given to their uncle, Arunabhash Bhattacharya, by a Norwegian court in the city of Stavanger Monday, following which the Indian government facilitated their return to India.
Speaking to media persons at the airport in Kolkata, a relived Arunabhash thanked External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Brinda Karat for their help in getting the children back.
'Please give us some space to lead a normal life,' he said.
The Norwegian court's decision came as a major breather for the Bhattacharya family, which had been trying to get back the custody of the children for nearly a year now.
The Indian government had put in all diplomatic efforts to ensure that the siblings returned to their homeland and grew up in their family environment.
Soon after the children returned to India, Krishna stated that he was 'delighted to welcome' them back home.
'They belong to India. They are Indian nationals,' he said, expressing the confidence that their uncle 'will take care of them in the environment of their extended family in India.'
He also thanked the Norwegian government and his counterpart for his 'constructive approach in resolving this humanitarian issue', and congratulated the Norwegian judiciary.
Indian ministry of external affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said the goal of the Indian government all along had been that the children should be permitted to grow in 'an Indian environment of their extended family'.
'That has happened now with the return of the children back to India,' he said, adding that 'as far as foreign relations aspects is concerned, that has drawn to a close.'
The paternal grandparents of Abhigyan and Aishwarya, expressed happiness at the return of the children to India and lauded the government's efforts.
Ajay Bhattacharya, the grandfather who was at the New Delhi airport to receive the children, thanked the government for its 'unbelievable help' in getting the children back.
'We had lost all hope of getting the children back. It is all because of the efforts of the government that the children are back. I am so happy and proud. We hope the children will now have a peaceful and a normal childhood when they return to Kolkata,' he said.
Monotosh Chakrabarty, the maternal grandfather, hoped for a settlement of the marital discord between Anurup and Sagarika, the reports of which had earlier put in jeopardy the transfer of the children's custody.
'Sagarika is happy on their return but is pained that her children are not with her. I sincerely hope that whatever dispute is there between the couple is settled quickly so that the kids can get love and care from both their parents,' he said in Kolkata.
Sagarika, who according to Chakrabarty was at a relative's home in Kolkata, posted a comment on a social networking site after the children landed in the country.
'I do not know how my children are, but always pray to God that they should be well in future,' she wrote, conveying her regards to government and those who stood up to bring the children back.
Speaking to the Indian media from Norway, the children's father Anurup, however criticised the Norwegian authorities, in particular the child welfare services, for causing the family difficulties.
'Things could have been sorted out in a different way. But they (Norwegian authorities) did not allow for that to happen. The pressure (they put) also led to panic and differences between us (parents). We cracked under that pressure,' he said.
'The removal of the children was, of course, something pre-decided. The people (from child welfare services) who came to our home were not helping us, but pushing us to the brink, to create a situation that would justify the removal of the children,' he charged.