31 October 2023

Updated on 26 January 2024
Olav Terje Bergo:
A Bollywood lesson for Norway on humanity
• • • •
Olav Bergo was for 25 years chief editor of the newspaper Bergensavisen, published in Bergen, Norway's second largest city, and was for many years the elected leader of the Norwegian News Media Association. In the 1980-ies he was the only Norwegian diplomat stationed in Hanoi, Vietnam, in charge of the controversial Norwegian Assistance Program there, following up his support for Vietnam's war against USA as a student leader.
• • • •

Norway’s Ambassador to India, Hans Jacob Frydenlund and several other Norwegian authorities tried to discredit the movie “Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway” for the way the movie described Norway and the Norwegian Child Welfare Services. Attacking the movie’s credibility, the ambassador insulted Sagarika Chakraborty (41), the Indian mother played by Rani Mukerji. The movie was released in March and is now on Netflix.
Sagarika Chakraborty from West Bengal fought for her children against the Norwegian authorities from 2010 till 2013. She lost and lost and lost again. But after almost two years, she prevailed.
The media discussion now, between Sagarika and the ambassador from the country she stood up against, ended with one more victory for Sagarika and another stain on Norway’s reputation.
If the ambassador had studied the story behind the movie, he would have found that Sagarika’s family was attacked by local authorities when they lived and worked in Norway from 2007 until their family was cracked and Sagarika left for India, heartbroken and alone, in March 2012. Indian authorities brought some justice to Sagarika and her children. Norway did not.
The ambassador ought to know that the Child Welfare Services are big business in Norway and that children are safe only on paper. Thousands of children in a country with 5,5 million citizens are each year victims of malpractice, lawlessness and neglect by the Child Welfare Authorities.
The real story
Sagarika Chakraborty married Anurup Bhattacharya in India in 2007. He had a work visa with a time limit and a job in Norway’s prosperous oil and gas business capital Stavanger. They moved there after the wedding. A boy was born in October 2008. A girl followed in December 2010. The Child Welfare Services came calling just before the girl was born.
From January 2011, two women from the City Child Welfare Services repeatedly came to their home, promising to help her with the baby. According to Sagarika, they did not give her any help: – They would just be on the sofa, whispering and jotting down notes!
The Child Services inspectors had many opinions and much to say about Indian culture and the Indian family’s way of life.
On 11th May 2011 the Stavanger Child Welfare Services kidnapped both the children, without any advance notice to the parents. The boy was two and a half years old. The girl, five months, was still being breast-fed. The Child Services claimed that the parents were dangerous to their children and lacked childcare competence.
It was a lie. The kidnapping was justified with untrue statements.
It must have been hard to live and work in a foreign country, far from home, with a little boy, a baby girl, no network, a language they did not speak and disturbed by frequent visits by the Child Services’ inspectors. But the parents were competent and responsible.
The Child Services hurt the children seriously by separating them from each other and keeping them under control, away from their parents, for almost two years.
The reports from the inspectors and the documents from the Child Services were poor on humanity, understanding and empathy, but brimming with misunderstandings, prejudice and contradictions.
Uproar in India against Norway
In India, the attack on the family was perceived as an attack on their culture, creating an uproar that led to demonstrations outside the Royal Norwegian Embassy in New Delhi and marching through the streets up to the Norwegian consulate in Kolkata. The Indian newspapers probably did not know that the child services in Norway treat Norwegian children and families in just the same way. 
Brinda Karat from the Communist party, Mani Shankar Aiyar from the Congress party, Human Rights lawyer Suranya Aiyar and India’s president Pratibha Patil did not accept the way the Norwegian authorities behaved against the Indian family. PM Manmohan Singh talked to PM Jens Stoltenberg, now general secretary of Nato. Foreign Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj talked to his counterpart Jonas Gahr Støre, today Norway’s PM. But the Stavanger Child Welfare Services would not set the children free.
On 11th February 2012, Stavanger Child Services brought Anurup’s younger brother Arunabhash, unmarried, without children and still living with his parents, from India to Stavanger and kept him there for months.
Gunnar Toresen, then in charge of Stavanger Child Services, gave the parents a painful choice: They had to accept Anurup’s brother as foster father for their children until their 18th birthday. If not, the children would remain with the Stavanger Child Services in foster families in Norway.
Anurup’s work visa in Norway was about to expire. If the parents did not sign the agreement presented to them, accepting Anurup’s brother as the foster father and caretaker “as long they are minors”, their children would probably never see their Indian parents again.   
The parents realised they could save their children only if they accepted Toresen’s foster father arrangement with Anurup’s brother. They signed, with a representative from the Indian Embassy in Oslo present as a witness.

– Our family cracked!
The blackmail destroyed their family and Sagarika left for India the next day. Anurup and his brother remained in Stavanger. The children stayed on in two intermediate foster homes in Stavanger.
When Sagarika arrived in India, the government, Sagarika’s family and an army of helpers offered her their assistance. Sagarika regained her fighting spirit. She took a master’s degree in software engineering and business management and got a job in an international company.
When Sagarika had left, the Stavanger Child Services presented the agreement signed by the parents to the Stavanger High Court, making Anurup’s brother the foster father for his children. The Court consented. 
The next day, 24th April 2012, the Child Services travelled to Burdwan in India with the children and the foster father they had hired the day before. They instructed him to see to it that the children had only minimal contact with their parents.
Anurup was not allowed to travel with his children and brother to India, nor was he allowed to say goodbye to them. The day his brother and children left him in Stavanger, Anurup said on Indian TV: – Our family cracked under the pressure!
Indian competence vs Norwegian incompetence
Sagarika had been in India for a month when her children arrived. She was not invited to meet them. When she asked their foster father to see them, he declined. Loyal to the instructions from the Stavanger Child Services, Anurup’s brother did not facilitate contact between the children and their parents.
In June 2012, Sagarika contacted Burdwan Child Welfare Services, asking for the justice and common sense the Stavanger authorities had not provided to her children. The Burdwan Child Services examined Sagarika’s abilities as a mother and the care provided by the Indian foster father the Stavanger Child Services had hired. On 8th November 2012 they reached a conclusion:
    "Along with expert assistance, we have evaluated the children, their condition in the foster home and the capability of their mother to care for them. We have found the mother to be fit to take care of the children and their foster carer to have failed in his duties towards the children." 
The Burdwan Child Services advised the foster father to return the children to their mother. When he refused, Sagarika asked the Calcutta High Court for help. In a hearing 10th January 2013 the court reunited Sagarika and her children, granting their foster father visiting rights every Saturday afternoon. He came with his parents to visit the children once that month. Since then, he never came. Not once.
Sagarika has now been a single mother in India for more than 10 years. She and her children confirm the wisdom of the decisions made by the Indian authorities in 2012-13.
Sagarika’s life these 10 years prove that the decisions the Stavanger authorities made in the years 2010-2013 were completely, disastrously wrong. Sagarika is not dangerous to her children. She is a resourceful, competent and caring mother for her children.
State crimes against children
It is a crime to separate siblings and take parents, grandparents and friends away from children, based on false statements and voodoo theories. When people of power in the courts, in local and central government behave like bullies toward children, they hurt and fail the children they are supposed to defend and protect. Abuse of power and ignorance of the importance of the child’s relations to their family and friends destroy the life of many Norwegian children each year.
If the rule of law had prevailed, the decision makers of the Stavanger Child Welfare Services in 2010-13 would have been investigated on suspicion of child abuse, abuse of authority, abuse of court process and false statements. But no action was taken by the prosecuting authority for the crimes against Sagarika’s and Anurup’s children.  
Children under the control of the Child Services in Norway kill, are killed, take their own life, become drug addicts and criminals, die from overdose, are sexually abused, become prostitutes, eat broken glass and burn down orphanages (Child Welfare Service institutions some of them are made to live in). Norwegian children controlled by the Child Services have rebelled and protested in these ways for 123 years.
In 1896 Norway was the first country in the world to write a law supposed to protect poor, neglected children. The law entered into force in 1900, when Norway was still struggling under foreign rule. From the start, the law perceived difficult children and their parents as adversaries that had to be brought under state control. Children fought against the brutality of the state and local childcare authorities from the beginning. They still do. 
The Norwegian Parliament is responsible for the crimes against children committed by the state and the local authorities. The abuse of children, the kidnappings and the neglect of children under the control of the child authorities and their partners must be stopped. Only Parliament has the resources, the political and legislative power to do so.
People of power, corruptly using the authority of the state to commit and cover up crimes against children, must be investigated. If proved guilty, they must be held responsible and punished.
Striving to save the tainted image of Norway in India, the ambassador behaved condescendingly and arrogantly toward Sagarika Chakraborty, after the “Mrs Chatterjee” movie was released in March.
Norway’s reputation is still mendable! The ambassador may ask Sagarika, Anurup and their children to accept a humble excuse for what the Stavanger Child Welfare Services did to them in 2010-13. If he does, and if the ambassador’s excuse is accepted, the reputation of Norway would improve, in India and elsewhere.
Norwegian authorities still behave like Trolls
The drama writer Henrik Ibsen wrote a theatre play in 1867, based on the legends of the carefree reindeer hunter Peer Gynt and king Dovre, a troll in the Dovre mountains. The troll made a cut in Peer’s eyes, making the mountain cave look like a royal castle and the ugly troll daughter look pretty.
The next morning, Peer’s saviour girlfriend Solveig rang the village church bells, broke the magic and made Peer see the trolls as they really were: Ugly! 
Hopefully, the movie “Mrs Chatterjee” about Sagarika’s story will mobilise the same moral strength as Solveig’s bells and break the magic of the trolls, so all may see the abuse of state powers against children.
When the City Council of Bergen, just north of Stavanger, studied the Child Welfare Services in detail, they found that laws had been broken in 9 of 10 examined cases. Studies in Eastern Norway have found similar levels of lawlessness.
When the West Coast State Governor later reported that the Child Services in Bergen had failed two more children, the City Council leader Roger Valhammer made the seriousness of the failure and his personal responsibility for that failure, clear for all to see: He resigned, left political life and the Labour party. It was a moral and courageous act.
It is to be hoped that Valhammer's choice was a watershed moment for children’s rights. But his choice also showed how impossibly difficult it is, even for the best of political leaders, to stop the evil, lawless ways of the Child Services and their powerful business friends.
On the 29th April 2023, the Indian newspaper Firstpost wrote: "Sagarika’s case, shockingly, is not unique."(1)
By 2023, the European Court of Human Rights had sentenced the State of Norway for breaking the human rights of children and parents in 24 cases, mainly by violation of Article 8 of The European Convention on Human Rights: Right to respect for private and family life.
For knowledgeable Norwegians, it was no shock. The 24 cases parents and children have won against the State of Norway in the European Court of Human Rights are just the top of an iceberg of state crimes against children and families.
After meeting king Dovre and his daughter, Ibsen’s Peer runs into the Great Bøyg. Peer does not challenge the monster. As always, Peer takes the easy way around.
The Norwegian Parliament seems reluctant to challenge and reform the way the State treats children. They do as the carefree Peer did, when he met the Great Bøyg. They take the easy way around. 
Burdwan Child Welfare Services, Calcutta High Court, Bollywood and Sagarika Chakraborty offer a universal, much better way forward for those who care for children: Humanity, respect and empathy, wisdom, persistence and integrity.

26 January 2024: Firstpost's article
Why Mrs Chatterjee makes Norway defensive and nervous is still on Firstpost's web page but in abbreviated form, and the quoted sentence was in the last part, which has been deleted.


See also
Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway
Official Trailer
Zee Studios & Emmay Entertainment, 23 February 2023
At the movies: The Bollywood film "Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway"
Some comments by viewers
MHS's home page, 7 May 2023

Sagarika Chakraborty:

The Journey of a Mother. The Diplomatic War Between India And Norway
Vishwakarma Publications, Pune, Maharashtra, India, 2022
ISBN-10: 9393757615, ISBN-13: 978-9393757616

Saad Hasan:
Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway: The real story behind an Indian mother's fight
TRT World, 17 March 2023   
Brinda Karat:
Child custody row: Sagarika then, Dharna now
The New Indian Express, 20 March 2023
Mani Shankar Aiyar:
The three women who helped 'Mrs Chatterjee'
The Week, 26 March / 2 April 2023
Marianne Haslev Skånland:
Norwegian non-humans again
Stavanger CPS (Barnevernet) – The India case – and now a Bollywood film
MHS's home page, 22 March 2023
 – :  Were cultural differences the cause of the India/Stavanger child protection case, in the same way as the Bollywood film relates the story?
MHS's home page, 20 April 2023
Bjorn Bjoro:
The Bollywood film should wake us up from our white self-satisfaction
MHS's home page, 20 April 2023
Majoran Vivekananthan:
The illusion that all is well in the end
MHS's home page, 5 May 2023
Siv Westerberg:
Norway and Sweden – where inhuman rights prevail
MHS's home page, 7 May 2012 / 11 November 2017
Øivind Østberg:
The fight over the future of child protection in Norway is hardening
MHS's home page, 8 March 2020
Ragnvald Bjørgaas Petersen:
The CPS Barnevernet needs law regulation
MHS's home page, 25 January 2019
Arne Jarl Hatlem:
Barnevernet  – the CPS – equals merciless Norwegians
MHS's home page, 29 July 2018
Tonje Omdahl:
It is indefensible that the CPS Barnevernet abuses its power and mobilises the police against defenceless children
MHS's home page, 11 June 2021
Ingebjørg Jakobsen:
The Norwegian child protection service Barnevernet – a service which renders help or wields power?
MHS's home page, 12 June 2023l
Olav Bergo:
What can elected politicians in Norway do about our child protection system Barnevernet?
MHS's home page, 13 October 2022
 – :  The stubborn blindness of the defenders of Barnevernet
MHS's home page, 2 March 2019