22 March 2023
Updated 31 March 2023

Marianne Haslev Skånland:
Norwegian non-humans again
Stavanger CPS (Barnevernet) – The India case – and now a Bollywood film
• • •
The article was written before the film started showing on 17 March 2023. It was published in Norwegian on 15 March.
   Since the film started running, there have been many new articles as well as postings in social media, many containing interesting information in addition to what we knew before. I have, however, chosen to keep this translation information-wise the same as the original, have only added to the contents very slightly, and added one new article in the references.
   In one or two cases I have kept as references articles which I only have in Norwegian. These may be replaced in the future if I either have the time to translate or I find published articles in English with the same points.
The title 'Norwegian non-humans again' is a little elaboration of the title of an article by Mani Shankar Aiyar, 'Norwegian non-humans', published originally on 15 November 2015 in Columns in The Week magazine in India. It was about the same problem, i.e Barnevernet, so by permission I translated it into Norwegian and published it, with the same date(39). The Norwegian title 'Norske ikke-mennesker' was my own invention. 'Ikke-mennesker' is not a regular Norwegian compound word, but everyone understands it right away: it means "not-humans", "not-people".
   I found that this my present account of much of what I know about the Bhattacharya case, fitted so well with 'non-humans' and actually also with my own Norwegian translation of the title, that I must now ask Mr Aiyar's forgiveness for having pinched back both the English and the half-baked Norwegian title. For the English, I have only added 'again'; it both distinguishes my article from Mr Aiyar's and points to the time-difference.
  The English original of (39) seems unfortunately to have been deleted from the web, (a very bad habit that even maintream media have!), but a google translation back from the Norwegian version works well, and although I can of course not claim that the original was exactly like that, Mr Aiyar's new article(14) from 18 March 2023 agrees completely with it, especially in its forward-looking conclusions. Regarding my translation of it as 'Norske ikke-mennesker', see below in my discussion of an article in VG.
With one exception, the articles from Norwegian newspapers which I discuss do not exist in English version. Translations from Norwegian sources are mine, including quotations of what interviewed people have said. The responsibility for correct rendering is therefore mine.
Marianne Haslev Skånland
• • •
The Indian film industry of Bollywood has recently come up with the film "Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway"(1). It was released on 17 March 2023, and is now playing in about 20 cities in Norway. It is said that sales have been good here in Norway, and the Norwegian public certainly needs to see it(2). Whether it will wake up anybody in our 'establishment' is more doubtful.
The case on which the film is based was caused by the official Norwegian child protection service (CPS), which bears the name Barnevernet.
    In the spring of 2011, Anurup Bhattacharya and his wife Sagarika Chakraborty were deprived of their two children by Barnevernet in Stavanger city. The case became very well known in India, and also in the Middle East and elsewhere in South Asia, and was debated and written about extensively in newspapers and on the internet.
    There was an informative article on the case in Mail Online on 19 January 2012(3), and here in Norway one in December 2011 in Stavanger Aftenblad(4) and in Ny Tid on 12 January 2012(5).
    After I had written an article(6) which was published by the newspaper The Hindu, with its headquarters in Chennai but read nationally, I received several inquiries, most of them from India, which led to some long-term contact. But there was also quickly an email from a little group of Indians in Norway, who had written an early description and analysis and published it in a very useful 'White Paper'(7), which the group wanted published in as many places on the web as possible. I made good contact with a person in the group, and spoke with the family.
Strong action was beginning in India, with a lot of publicity. There were several demonstrations, including a large one in Kolkata, where Sagarika was from. They marched, among other things, to the Norwegian consulate. I haven't seen confirmation that there were actually 6,000 demonstrating, as claimed, but the demonstration was considerable, journalists and photographers showed up, and there were many good posters (photos, see 8). (The red text across some of the photos can be seen to say "Let's occupy the Norwegian consulate!". But it was probably more of a slogan, at least the reports said the demonstration was peaceful.)
Based on this case, called 'the Bhattacharya case India/Stavanger', which had been the gateway to obtaining extensive information about Western child protection, an influential and competent group in India drafted a petition to the Indian National Human Rights Commission, with a detailed report attached, 'a case study' on the Bhattacharya case. The report was an analysis based on a review of all court documents and all child welfare documents to the court, translated into English, in addition to other information and documentation that the children's mother Sagarika could provide. She had by then returned to India. The report shows that a long series of claims from the child protection services are not in accordance with the facts and with other claims in their own descriptions (see below).
    A press conference was held in New Delhi in connection with the presentation of the petition and its attachments.
(9) Overview:
Petition: Indians want government to guard against CPS
India, October 2012
Forum Redd Våre Barn (Rescue Our Children), 12 October 2012
(10) The report on the case, which was attached to the petition:
The confiscation of the Bhattacharya children by Norwegian authorities – a case study –
India, 12 October 2012
The report as it appears here online, does not include the signatures. However, they are the same as the signatories of the petition (see its last page):
(11) The petition:
Humanitarian Crisis for Indian children and their families in confiscatory child care proceedings abroad
India, 12 October 2012
(12) Press release:
Saving Indian Children From Confiscatory Proceedings Abroad
India, 12 October 2012
(13) News reports, other articles, reports on political initiatives for reform:
Materials Filed with Petition to NHRC
India, 12 October 2012
Some allegations and particulars in the Bhattacharya case
From the case, a good number of incidents have been described which the CPS, Barnevernet, believes they and their partners have 'observed', incidents which have given them all 'concern', and which they have 'interpreted' as meaning that the parents do not give the children good care and are incapable of doing it. Many of these phenomena and claims, and several more, have been well known in the press since 2011-12, especially in India, and among the family's friends and acquaintances, so that people have been able to form an opinion on whether what was stated was real, and if so whether it was important and whether the interpretations and diagnoses of Barnevernet had anything to do with reality(3, 7, 14, 15).
    I mention a few items below, with brief comments; there are more, in much the same style, such as the family not speaking Norwegian and having little social network outside the home, and the mother having had a post-natal depression. Many such allegations and their interpretation are recurrent in very many CPS cases. Read the 'White paper'(7), 'a case study'(10), and one of Suranya Aiyar's new articles(16)! (Mrs Aiyar is a lawyer, and the one who has most actively followed and made an effort in the case from the beginning and for several years. She is a daughter of Mani Shankar Aiyar(15).)
The child protection agency claimed in the Bhattacharya case, as negative and substandard, for example
• that the mother did not make sure that her daughter, baby Aishwarya, did not fall off the changing table when she was changing her.
   – The family did not have a changing table, but changed the baby in a low cot with a bed rail, from which the baby could not fall.
• The claim later becomes that Sagarika left the baby alone on a bed or couch when she was to change her.
   – Inaccurate observation or registration by Barnevernet: a low cot is something else.
• the mother having low ability to 'mentalise'.
   – "Barnevernet do not provide a reference to what tool they used to measure her level of mentalization capability." ('White paper'), cf also (47).
   This is a common CPS accusation against parents who think and reason differently from what CPS personnel think they ought to do, or who do not understand why the CPS people ask strange, irrelevant questions about their doings instead of about their real, practical needs.
• that the mother locked her son in the apartment (it is also described as her locking him out).
   – Sagarika locked her son Abhigyan out of the kitchen (so he walked freely in other parts of the apartment) when she was cooking on the stove, because her son was restless and had tried to come over to the stove and tear down pots with boiling contents.
• that the son sought attention from the mother, for example shouted at her constantly, and she did not respond each time but continued to do the housework, (but the CPS also claimed that the son rejected her and was afraid of her, when he wriggled out of her arms and did what he himself wanted).
   – Unnecessary to comment on beyond what everyone knows: It is normal that children sometimes fuss and want their parents' attention and at other times turn away from their parents and want to run around on their own.
• that it was wrong for the son to sleep in the same bed as the parents.
   – Many Norwegians think that is unfortunate, and some think it is a recipe for incest. However, 'co-sleeping' is common in India, where it is believed that children feel secure by being close to their parents when they sleep. And in any case, Barnevernet in Stavanger claimed that they understood cultural differences and did not discriminate on a cultural basis. So?
• that Sagarika fed her son with her hands, whereas Barnevernet wanted to 'guide' her by 'teaching' her to feed with a spoon.
   – Many Norwegians do not like the idea of letting their children eat directly from their parents' hands; they think it is unhygienic and gross. However, it is common in India. Again, Barnevernet denied having cultural prejudices. So perhaps it is Barnevernet that re-writes, from culture to madness, when the father Anurup is reported to have told tv2 in 2012 that what Sagarika did (when feeding with a spoon, which the son presumably did not like) was characterised by Barnevernet as 'forced feeding'(3, 37). (In some cultures, adults too eat with their hands food which we in Norway usually eat with a spoon or a fork. By the way, fried chicken can also be eaten with our hands at formal parties in Norway. – And then a small rinsing bowl is usually put out next to each place at the table.)
• Sagarika spoke sternly to her son when he repeatedly spat out his food on the floor, and she raised her hand to him in warning. Barnevernet's interpretation of this was that she was generally violent towards the children.
    – But in the case documents that the child protection agency presented to the county council and the court, no allegations of violence or physical reprimanding of the children going on were taken up, nor figured in decisions.
• Sagarika was claimed to be 'immature', because she had grown up in Kolkata and had her life experiences from there.
   – It is popular in child protection to claim that 'immaturity' is a stress factor (which, together with other 'factors', is said to make parents unfit), cf (17). This is of course made use of especially against young mothers. It stands in significant contrast to what is known about the age of first-time mothers in societies around the world, showing a domineering, know-all attitude on the part of the CPS, the CPS attempting to impose a life-style which, for one thing, contrasts with what medical and other expertise have begun to say in our own society: that there is a biologically unfortunate trend in recent times that women are relatively old when having their children.
Generally, when CPS staff are confronted with the fact that complaints like the above are baloney, untrue, or inappropriate harassment, and that it is not acceptable for a child protection service to use them as arguments in court to justify a claim that taking children into care is necessary, then the child protection staff tend to shift their arguments. They become secretive, say that there are serious reasons and not such details as those that people complain about, but that it is all confidential and they cannot break their duty of confidentiality. That is also, rather predictably, what the head of Barnevernet in Stavanger, Mr Toresen, says when he is asked in 2023 about the co-sleeping and hand-feeding in the Bhattacharya family in 2011: "This was not the basis at all, the matter had nothing to do with cultural differences"(35).
    This is not true. Everything was well known all along both through the Indian media and through the family and those who knew them and informed others(3, 7, 10). Shifting the argument is just the CPS trying to pretend the case was mysterious and that there was very very serious neglect of the children.
The 'serious' reasons? :
• that the son had delayed language development, and that he often banged his head on the floor, that both are abnormal behaviour and were due to the mother having inflicted an 'attachment disorder' on him, which had seriously 'inhibited' his development. In other words, the mother had caused the son to become abnormal.
   – I am myself a linguist. That late language development in children should be due to the parents, in a normal, speaking environment, is a notion and diagnosis by child welfare services, and by psychologists and psychiatrists associated with them, which is nonsense and totally without scientific evidence or support. Normal language development can vary by several years. Anecdotally: Einstein is supposed to have said that he had not spoken a word before he was four years old. Asked why, he said that as a child he hadn't thought there was anything much of interest to say anything about.
   It is, on the other hand, a fact that CPS personnel and their psychological advisers generally over-rate their understanding of language development and linguistic analysis. I have functioned as an expert witness in court in some Barnevern cases, and observed that the claims made by the CPS regarding the language of the children involved were hardly as competent as that of elementary students of linguistics in our university courses.
   Regarding banging the head, two possible explanations that sound reasonable are mentioned (see 'a case study'), but not by Barnevernet: that the boy was frustrated because he could not express properly what he wanted, and that he sometimes looked at his mother to see her reaction when he banged.
• When the daughter was with the mother, but others were also present, the daughter did not look at the mother but at others. This was assumed by Barnevernet to be a sign of an 'attachment disorder' between mother and daughter.
   – At the age of less than 3 months, a 'diagnosis' based on where a child fixes its gaze is fiction. Furthermore: If there is to be an 'interpretation' at all of what it means that the baby looks at others and not at its mother, when the mother is sitting close to her, it would be more realistic to assume that the daughter feels she can look at other, unknown people, in safe certainty that her mother is there as a bastion.
It was almost predictable that there would be allegations of 'attachment disorder' between the mother and the children. It is a diagnosis that the child protection agency makes in many cases, it has long standing in the CPS and the psychology which the CPS makes use of. The notions of 'attachment' and 'attachment disorder' are structured in such a way that they are vague and hardly possible to disprove. (We therefore know that they are not scientific concepts.) Correspondingly, the terms and their use have received very weak research support. The ideology originates from John Bowlby, who was a psychoanalyst (there are also self-contradictions in his writings). It is rather obvious that the theories of 'attachment' and 'attachment disorder' the way they are used should be judged as quackery (18; 21(section 'Attachment theory and other ideas'); 22).
   Sjöberg's account(18), "Tvångsadoption? Psykologer om en mors olämplighet, och om barnets 'anknytning' " (Forced adoption? Psychologists about a mother's unsuitability, and about the 'attachment' of the child) was submitted to the High Court in Oslo in 2001, as expert evidence for the mother Adele Johansen in a case of forced adopting away of her daughter. The European Court of Human Rights had in 1996 convicted Norway(19) of a violation of the right to family life for keeping mother and daughter separated, so that (it was assumed) no 'attachment' had 'developed' between them(20). Despite the judgment, Norwegian authorities prevented mother and daughter from getting even to know each other, and went ahead and adopted the daughter away. Sjöberg demonstrates that the concept of 'attachment' was well established in the CPS and had been used against Adele in 1995-96.
Or did Barnevernet think of even other 'serious' and 'confidential' matters that would justify their course of action in the Bhattaharya case? If so, then allegations must have been made about it in court. And then, where is this stated in court documents such as the judgments?
I have been asked by some CPS critics if 'attachment disorder' is my hobby horse, since I have referred to it quite often. The answer is: Well, not really mine, it's that of Barnevernet.
How the case developed
The Bhattacharya case was taken up at high political levels in India, both in parliament and government. The Indian government sent representatives both to instruct its embassy in Oslo, to be present during the trials where attempts were made to arrive at an arrangement, and to let the Norwegian authorities understand that India wanted the children set free and sent to India. Stavanger CPS refused to meet the Indian embassy in Norway, and would not comment on the matter. The CPS declared that they would not give in to political pressure but finally tentatively agreed that the children could be placed with the father's brother in India for upbringing.
But they demanded a number of things. Among these: They wanted the uncle first to put his work completely aside (he was a dentist) and stay in Norway for several months in order to gradually meet and get to know the children, who were claimed to be very psychologically damaged and made 'abnormal' by their mother, and therefore to be vulnerable and need extensive treatment. Such treatment could be allowed to be given in India, but would have to be managed by Norwegian CPS. The uncle was also to receive extensive psychological evaluation, training and instructions from the CPS, they demanded, and he was not to have any contact with his brother and sister-in-law or hear from them about the case(23).
Barnevernet wanted binding documents from India guaranteeing that Norwegian Barnevernet would still have almost full control over the children (and thus also over those who had the children in their care) even after they were back in India(24) with their uncle, (cf a case between Swedish child protection and Malaysia, where Sweden would make regular reporting and continued Swedish power over the children a condition for the children to be sent to their family in Malaysia(25)).
    The uncle and his parents (the uncle was unmarried and lived with his parents) were to ensure that the children were not allowed to have any contact whatsoever with their mother or her family. Stavanger CPS would stipulate that the children's mother Sagarika must be forced to sign an agreement that she would never have the possibility to go to trial in India to make contact or get the children back. She sensibly refused to sign this, but was pressured to sign a somewhat less dictatorial agreement. She was also subject to what she judged to be an attempt to confiscate her (Indian) passport to prevent her from leaving Norway before she signed such a declaration.
The Indian foreign minister raised the issue with the Norwegian foreign minister, who was Jonas Gahr Støre, now in 2023 Norway's Prime Minister (cf 35). Støre told the Indians that "We have to look at the way our rules work", and held that the Norwegian government could not get involved in pending court cases, nor could they investigate Barnevernet's claims about parents and children, nor give Barnevernet any order about what their claim should be in such a court case, nor instruct them about anything else (but cf 14). In a (Norwegian) interview while the case was going on, I recall Støre saying with a cheerful laugh that the fate of all of Norway's foreign trade with India now lay in the hands of a child protection chief in Stavanger.
It is a serious matter when the Norwegian authorities take it so lightly that Barnevernet has apparently been put in a position to, without question, 'possess the truth' about both diagnoses, symptoms, events and allegations, as well as about what is good for children, in matters that concern the lives and fate of children and their families.
    And it is a serious question why Norway has positioned itself in such a way with legislation, rules and rule-practice, that a child welfare office can rule over the government, while the government and other authorities in reality sit passively and administrate the injustice(47, 48).
    And why is the media not strongly concerned about this issue?
The CPS (Barnevernet) in Stavanger had put heavy pressure on the children's parents, especially on the mother Sagarika, with their claims and demands. Several of Barnevernet's demands were also such as would easily bring the parents into conflict with each other. Under the pressure, the parents fell out, as often happens in CPS cases. The husband changed his statements, now saying that Sagarika had a psychiatric disorder, and was almost mentally handicapped and had to be kept away from the children. The newspaper The Hindu had published a number of good articles that supported the parents and common sense, but shortly after their European correspondent had been in Stavanger and interviewed CPS chief Gunnar Toresen and Children's Ombudsman Reidar Hjermann, The Hindu wrote that it 'has been ascertained ' that Sagarika needed help but would not receive it, and that her son was 'diagnosed' with an 'attachment disorder'. Some other Indian newspapers also gradually came to believe that there were good reasons for the CPS to take over care of the children, and that the case was actually a conflict between the parents, but that the CPS authorities could not reveal anything – even though the allegation of attachment disorder was well known (and is just nonsense anyway).
When Anurup Bhattacharya had turned his back on Sagarika, and it was obvious that the Norwegian authorities would not help her, or the children in relation to her, Sagarika went back to India. The children were brought to the father's brother and his parents, they denied Sagarika contact with the children and acted hostilely towards her, but she eventually received first a court order for the children to stay with her until a final judgment was passed (27), and this became the final decision, that she got full legal custody, from Calcutta High Court(28). Unless I remember completely incorrectly, the Wikipedia article about the film 'Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway' had, as late as the 15 March, a reference to these two decisions in the Indian courts. On the 20 March I noticed that those references had been removed!(45).
    In the phase when the father Anurup had started to blame and attack the mother, Sagarika, the person who was supposed to be the parents' lawyer, Kjetil Lode Svendsen, had switched to representing only Anurup Bhattacharya, and he argued almost like the CPS itself(29), and spoke quite negatively about his former client Sagarika Chakraborty: "We wrote an agreement in Stavanger that these children, now four and two years old, could not live at home."; "India did not like that Norway took care of the children,"; "Today, while the uncle was at a court hearing, the mother with the help of the police went and picked up the two children and took them, says lawyer Lode Svendsen on Tuesday."; "In the meantime, the mother has the children. So it remains to be seen whether the mother will comply with that, says lawyer Lode Svendsen. – I expect that she will comply, or it could backfire on her, he says." ; "According to Lode Svendsen, there must have been internal strife in the local child welfare committee in Calcutta, which believed [my emphasis, MHS] that the uncle was not good enough."
It is therefore not true that Sagarika kidnapped the children, as Toresen claims: "One year later, the case had an aftermath when the mother's family broke the agreement and kidnapped the children from the father's family"(35). Sagarika took the matter to the courts.
   And when Barnevernet's chief Toresen says at a seminar in 2018(30) and again now in 2023(35) that he knows nothing about how the lives of the children have been over the next ten years, it must surely be Barnevernet's and the Norwegian authorities' own behaviour in the case throughout that has prevented Toresen and Barnevernet from, by a natural and friendly inquiry, obtaining information that the mother and two children whom Barnevernet were supposed to have 'helped', have done well and are doing well, much better than under the child protection service's 'care'.
After Sagarika's return
Sagarika Chakraborty, when she returned home to India and began the work to get the children back, was properly examined by competent psychologists and psychiatrists and was found to be completely normal, despite the severe stress she had been through. She has since got herself an education in software development and business administration, and works in a computer company.
    After being in a Norwegian emergency foster home, the son had become worse, not better: When he was transferred to India, he was less concentrated and responsive and banged his head on the floor more than he used to do when he was at home with his parents. (Barnevernet had claimed that the banging had ceased when he was taken away from his parents and placed in foster care).
   One of the accusations against the mother being that she had caused her son's late language development through an 'attachment disorder', it is of interest that, after a year in the care of Barnevernet's fostering arrangement in Norway, without his mother Sagarika's presence, he had become completely silent. Things improved again when he came home to Sagarika. On his return he was judged to be 3 years behind his peers in terms of maturity and knowledge. Sagarika got him medical and educational help, and after a few years with her he was judged to be only a year behind in maturity and eventually in school skills. The daughter was celebrated quite early in her school as 'best in her class'.
    Sagarika has also been actively involved in supporting families from other countries who are affected by Norwegian Barnevernet. Among other things, there was a demonstration (in New Delhi and in Kolkata) in 2016, on the occasion of Barnevernet in Naustdal having taken the 5 children of the Romanian-Norwegian family Bodnariu(31). In the pictures from the demonstration(32) Sagarika and the children can be seen on the bottom one (on the right) and on some of the others, including the one with a large Norwegian flag, Sagarika in light blue jeans and a dark blue top. The Indians were also engaged concerning the Czech case(49), as can be seen from some of the posters, and lawyer Suranya Aiyar, when she received an invitation to the Czech embassy in New Delhi, brought a card of thanks to the Czech ambassador for the Czech efforts to help Mrs Michaláková. – The sections 'What Norway does' and 'Waking Norway up?' in (49), from 2015, also have a summary of some action by the Norwegian CPS in the Indian case after 2012.
Norwegian media now on the occasion of the film about Mrs. Chatterjee. Three newspapers
Several Norwegian newspapers have written about the coming Bollywood film and about the trailer, which has been out for a while, as well as the real case which the film is based on. I will comment on a very few articles which are revealing. They are from the month before the film started showing: from Bergens Tidende (BT), from VG, from Dagsavisen, and from Norge IDAG(33-37).
Now the question is: Has the media taken care to find good information about the real story behind the film this time? And have journalists and media editors familiarised themselves with the real content of child protection cases in Norway?
The first three newspapers I mention have done what Norwegian media companies normally do, and which we are well aware of in CPS matters: What they write leans clearly in the direction of the official Norwegian version of child protection problems and criticism. For example, they summarily repeat the authorities' version, so that a case appears from what I would call the point of view and the interests of the establishment; possibly they interview some CPS workers or public employees in affiliated sectors, or someone who expresses only mild criticism or the same opinions as does Barnevernet.
Bergens Tidende (BT)
Bergens Tidende's article (originally from Aftenposten, which BT is affiliated with): In "Norsk barnevernssak skapte rabalder i India. Nå er den blitt Bollywood-film" (Norwegian child welfare case created uproar in India. Now it has become a Bollywood film)(33), it is claimed that: "The media in Norway and India covered the case widely at the time."
    No, not in Norway. They covered the version of the authorities quite intensely and repeatedly, but there was no broad coverage with unprejudiced discussion or searching for the facts in the Norwegian media (cf 48).
    Nor does this present article show any willingness to seriously question whether Norwegian official statements are a reliable source when it comes to child protection. The formulation about "uproar" in India and the content of the article seem to me to have a significant undertone of condescension, towards India and towards criticism of Barnevernet.
    The newspaper has interviewed a Norwegian-Indian; his opinion is said to be that it is a "common misconception" that official Norway makes money from taking children.
    Yes, it is true that Barnevernet's activities do not bring money directly into the national treasury. But it provides paid work, the content of which it is not considered polite to question, to many thousands of people, in Barnevernet itself and in allied businesses. Large, in part international companies run institutions, where the authorities buy places for foster children, for millions. In addition, the authorities keep advertising for people to act as foster parents, also a type of work, with offers of payment on a scale which for Indians is incredible. A great deal is known about possible income from acting as a foster home (a couple of examples: cf the introduction to (6); example d) in (21)). Yngve Nedrebø(38) has interesting things to point to about foster home pay, and says: "I once attended an introductory course for foster parents. After a brief opening, it was time for questions. Many eager hands came up. First question: "What do we earn?", question 2: "How can we earn more?" The course instructor laughed and said that these were always the first two questions. That probably says more than anything else about the reasons why people sign up as foster parents."
VG's article, too, "Norsk barnevernssak blir Bollywood-film: – Katastrofale konsekvenser" (Norwegian CPS case becomes Bollywood film – Catastrophic consequences)(34), is concerned with money, yes mostly with trade and finance.
The newspaper has interviewed a section chief, Kristin Steinrem, in The Norwegian Diretorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufdir), which is a part of the Ministry. Steinrem says about placement in foster homes for profit: "It's an opinion we've heard before too, and it is downright wrong. That is important to emphasise." It is, however, not wrong just because she says so or emphasises it. But the newspaper has probably never looked for examples or overviews that could give them background knowledge showing that claims from Bufdir are one thing, reality can be something else entirely.
   Another recurring claim from public authority is also repeated by Steinrem: "There are strict conditions in the law that must be met before a decision is made about taking children into care in Norway, and such a decision is to be the last resort." - Is to be? Is that the way it is, then?
    VG then interviews Rina Sunder with an Indian background. She works with Norwegian-Indian trade cooperation, but has also worked at the Children's Ombudsman's office, an agency well known for its uncritical cooperation with Barnevernet. The newspaper has a picture of her with the Minister of Trade, Industry and Fisheries, she "fears the consequences for trade and relations between India and Norway as a result of the bad publicity for Norway", and says it "could have fatal consequences". When she says "Norway's goal is to increase trade with India and strengthen our relations with the country", perhaps the interviewer could have asked if Sunder, as a thoughtful person, had investigated some of the aspects of Norwegian child protection that the film trailer announces. But no. Both Sunder and the newspaper seem to think that the content of the trailer is nonsense. Knowledge and arguments that could form a basis for their opinion are, however, lacking.
    The interview ends this way: "It is very unfortunate that Norway and Norwegians are referred to as 'ikke-mennesker' [not-humans], says Sunder." But despite the fact that VG has apparently had three journalists on this article, they have not found out whether there might be some knowledge behind the use of 'not-people'/'not-humans'? If this description of Norwegians has spread among Indians in India or Norway, it is actually quite uplifting. They probably have it from a translation of Mani Shankar Aiyar's article from 2015(39). The Norwegian translation 'ikke-mennesker' was my own invention. Mr Aiyar is an Indian politician, former member of parliament, oil minister, sports minister, diplomat and economist. The article "Norwegian non-humans" summarised important aspects of the Bhattacharya case and what is needed to bring about fundamental change in Norwegian child protection. Furthermore, a new article from Mr Aiyar har just come out(14), and is as glass clear as the one from 7 years back. Incidentally, you can see Aiyar in some of the photos from the 2016 demonstration in New Delhi against Norwegian child welfare, with white trousers and shirt, dark blue vest(32). The demonstration in India focused not only the Bodnariu family's case, but also the case of Czech Eva Michaláková(49), and Norwegian child protection in general in the international picture.
    In the same article, VG also has an interview with Gro Hillestad Thune, who speaks wisely as usual. She knows what Barnevernet is like. "This film will reinforce Norway's bad reputation internationally, and that is deserved", she says to VG.
   However, nothing much has been made of this interview. Perhaps VG agrees with the authorities that the child welfare criticism is annoying, it must go away without us having to spend time on it, away so as not to create difficulties for the important matters, trade and income? One simply allows Bufdir and others to say, without being met by demands for verification or proof from the media(?), roughly this: 'No! No! We are the official Norway, that in itself is evidence enough, what we say is what counts.' The quality of Steinrem's argumentation is reminiscent of Mari Trommald's, also from Bufdir, on an earlier occasion(40).
I have picked two articles from Dagsavisen: "Tidligere barnevernsleder om Bollywood-film: – Dette er ikke historien slik den skjedde"(Former CPS chief about the Bollywood film: – This is not the story the way it happened)(35) and "Familiefar i barnevernssaken som blir film: – Jeg blir fremstilt som skurken" (Family father in the CPS case turned into a film: – I am portrayed as the villain")(36). Both articles are useful, especially the first. Misleading as I believe many elements in these articles are, I am nevertheless glad that they have been published, since it gives an opportunity to comment on a number of formulations from the newspaper and on claims from the then Head of Barnevernet Gunnar Toresen and Sagarika Chakraborty's husband Anurup Bhattacharya.
• Both Toresen and Bhattacharya say that there was full agreement between all concerned, "a unanimous agreement", about the placement of the children with their uncle and the conditions for it, and that the children could not grow up with their parents.
    – It was far from a voluntary agreement. The parents, and in the later stages Sagarika in particular, were pressed very hard (cf above), and were given no choice at all if the children were to be freed from Norwegian foster home or institutional life. Everything was certaily happening against Sagarika's will, not by any agreement entered into voluntarily.
    Even under Norwegian law it is hardly acceptable, is it, to present an agreement signed under duress as binding, as if it were voluntary?
• Toresen: "Extensive guidance was carried out relating to the interaction between the parents and the children, he says."
    – How and when did this guidance about 'interaction' take place, then? 'Teaching' Sagarika to feed the children with a spoon etc can hardly be considered instruction in 'interaction'. Barnevernet generally talk a lot about interaction, but there is no documentation at all that they have any proficiency to judge the interaction, or let us more sensibly call it the relationship and the communication, between children and parents. Examples shown in 'a case study' of what the CPS assumes is a poor relationship between the parents and the children in the Bhattacharya family, clearly show the helplessness of the CPS observers when it comes to systematic observation and registration. The lack of "comprehensive guidance" then also shows up in Barnevernet's reports to the court: "Several pieces of evidence are reported for the first time late in the proceedings. New evidence is produced for findings that were not produced when the same findings are made earlier in the proceedings. There is no record of how many visits in total were made to the home by reporting care workers and over what period. The evidence as discussed in the orders indicate that there were no more than 3-4 visits to the home, including the day on which the children were confiscated." ('a case study').
• Dagsavisen, about Toresen: "When the case was running, there were strong restrictions on what he could say due to confidentiality." Toresen: "It was difficult to counter the criticism without being able to tell details. Today, 11 years later, we can say a little more."
    – So what does he say in 2023? That all the details, about co-sleeping, hand-feeding, etc, which were already well known in 2011-12 and naturally upset Indians profoundly, were irrelevant to the case. – He already said that back then.
   But it was well-known very early that Barnevenet right from the start complained about all sorts of things in the family's daily life (cf 3). Now Toresen says the case had nothing to do with such details?
   Has Dagsavisen ever questioned why Barnevernet carried out such meaningless commands about how to bring up children, and why all these ridiculous details are mentioned, including in the child welfare's documents to be used by the court, if they have no significance for taking over care? Does Dagsavisen ask questions and demand answers about such discrepancies?
The claim that the children had suffered an 'attachment disorder' from the mother was also well known from early on (cf 14). Since Toresen is still secretive about it in 2023, is it reasonable to believe that he may have understood after all that this 'real' reason for having taken the children into care may not be so easy to defend, neither scientifically nor in light of the children's and Sagarika's later lives?
• "Later, a lot of information has become known through the media in Norway and India, in that the parents themselves have told about the conflict between them. This means that it is now possible to tell more about what happened"(35). Anurup Bhattacharya: "The marriage didn't go as we expected, says Anurup to Dagsavisen"(36).
   – This is twisting matters into a suggestion that the case was 'really' a parental comflict. So are the statements about "the violent emotions that the case triggered in the family" (does that imply that it was emotions, as opposed to reason?), "During the time the child protection service worked with the family, major conflicts emerged between the parents"(35).
    That is not the case. There may certainly have been diagreements between the parents, as in very many marriages. But this child protection case was not at all rooted in conflicts between the parents. They stood together against Barnevernet for almost a year. That is also what the husband told me: If only they got the children back to India, they would all be together again (private conversations). That was before he turned against his wife.
    The Bhattacharya case was, on the other hand, a type of case that very many families in Norway recognise: that Barnevernet burdens and stresses the family over a very long time, with pressure, unreasonableness, horrors and misdirection, and takes the children as a kind of hostages. In their despair and search for a solution, the parents come to believe that the 'fault' lies with the partner, and the marriage eventually breaks down under the pressures from Barnevernet. Barnevernet creates conflicts in the families they intervene in.
• Anurup Bhattacharya: "Since 2011 I haven't seen my children. This has broken me completely. For five years I was depressed, and now I live a lonely life here in Stavanger, says the father"(36).
    – As far as is known, Bhattacharya still works in the oil industry, presumably making a good income. Around 2016, Sagarika tried to find a Norwegian lawyer who could help her, but Norwegian legal expenses exceeded what she could manage. The purpose was to try, through the Norwegian legal system, to get Bhattacharya to contribute to the children's upbringing by paying some child support, which he had not done until then. As far as I know, Sagarika Chakraborty's family has also not succeeded in obtaining information of whether the Norwegian child protection authorities' arrangement with Anurup's brother involved a regular foster home engagement with remuneration(cf 23). I know the Chakrabortys have tried.
• "Barnevernet made a decision to move the children temporarily to emergency care and then chose to file a case for taking over care."
   – A distorted representation. 'A case study' says: "The mother claims that contrary to what is stated in the record the children were taken away by the care workers before she was informed that they were being taken into care. She claims that the boy was at kindergarten and the girl had been taken from her arms by a care worker on the pretext of taking her for a walk, when care workers informed her that they had taken both children into care."
And: "So there was no independent review of the CWS's decision to confiscate the children before they were taken away. The decision itself was passed post facto, i.e., after the children were taken away."
• Toresen still thinks the same as he did: "Based on a child protection professional assessment, I still believe that it was right to intervene towards the family."
    – So we know that nothing impacts on his opinions. And such 'assessments' are well known from child protection; Toresen is not alone in believing that Barnevernet's approach to families is right and child-friendly. Actual results in society show something different, but until now the entrenched belief has been that bad outcomes in child protection cases are single, random mishaps and are caused by children and parents, not by the basic ideas and actions of Barnevernet.
• Toresen: "But we completely underestimated how an ordinary child protection case could in the short term become major international politics."
    – This too is an incorrect interpretation, suggesting, as it seems to do, that India in a non-objective, biased move turned the matter into an international conflict, involving disproportionate, uncontrolled agitation on the part of India. On the contrary, it is to the credit of India that they did not ignore, as an insignificant detail, how two children and first the parents, then only the mother, were treated by a Norwegian welfare agency and the entire Norwegian 'establishment'. India took on the work and effort to avert a tragedy, ethically important for the choice of future path, even though just then it threatened only one small family.
A bright spot: One more newspaper
An article in the weekly newspaper Norge IDAG from 1 March 2023 stands out favorably from the four articles above(37). It was written by associate editor-in-chief Trine Overå Hansen. The article title "Barnevernet under lupen" (Barnevernet under the microscope) does not say much, but it has the Bhattacharya case as its theme.
    Overå Hansen provides a couple of pieces of information about the case that we do not easily find in other media, and which are interesting enough:
   "My wife is used to feeding with her hands, but those who came from Barnevernet said she should feed with a spoon. When she did this, they wrote in the documents that it was forced feeding, the father told TV2 in 2012."
   "On behalf of the parents, the organization Human Rights Alert-Norway reported Barnevernet's chief Gunnar Toresen in Stavanger to the police for violations of several sections in the Criminal Code as well as violations of several articles in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Convention on Human Rights."
Overå Hansen compiles information and particulars from several sources, in a way that shows the wider picture: She mentions the Norwegian-Roumanian Naustdal case, Silje Garmo's asylum in Poland, and points out that the European Court of Human Rights has found Norway guilty of having violated human rights in Barnevern cases (including forced adoption) in what is becoming a considerable number of times(41). With the Bhattacharya case as her starting point, she draws sensible general conclusions:
" 'Mrs. Chatterjee Vs Norway' is expected to be seen by millions in Asia and Africa.
    This is not good news for the state of Norway, which wants to strengthen its relationship with India, as the fifth largest economy in the world.
    But it can be really good news for Norwegian and foreign parents who have problems with Barnevernet."
   "Completely ordinary people who are accused by the Norwegian CPS Barnevernet of being bad parents often have few resources to fight with against the powerful state. But if tens of millions get an insight into the abuses in the Norwegian child welfare service Barnevernet, something could happen, even in the the corridors of power."
Norge IDAG has a Christian ideological basis and profile. It is worth noting that over several years they have shown a different understanding of the problems with today's CPS than have the newspapers Vårt Land and Dagen, which also consider themselves Christian, but are close to the politically correct beliefs favoured by the authorities(42).
    Previous writings, too, of Trine Overå Hansen have shown her to have considerable insight into child protection issues, insight into realities and not just into the propaganda. That is the kind of thing that helps.
Racism - culturism?
Some film reviews etc were published abroad even before "Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway" was available for general viewing. From a couple of reviews(43, 44) I assume, without having seen it (yet), that the film probably has a clear element pointing to the Norwegian Barnevernet's action against the Bhattacharya family as racism and/or cultural ignorance and prejudice. The Wikipedia article on the film(45) is short and does not touch on this question.
Such a focus is not unexpected. From very early on in the Bhattacharya case, there were strong reactions from many Indians over what they perceived as racial-cultural discrimination: the child welfare authorities' preoccupation with how the children slept and ate, that the parents spoke Bengali with their son, etc. In my article in 2012(6) I started on the basis of one out of several reader comments: "It would be interesting to see how many other white Norwegian children are taken away from their parents just because they don't have 'proper toys'." I wrote that yes, Barnevernet gives that kind of reasons when they take ethnically and culturally Norwegian children as well.
It is unfortunate if Indians believe that ethnic discrimination is the most important thing in child protection cases. It can lead to believing that discrimination is the only flaw we have to fight against, and this in turn makes people more vulnerable, because Barnevernet certainly has an arsenal of other surprising accusations and 'diagnoses' which they dig up against essentially anyone. Another example of a misconception, one that also took hold in India regarding the Bhattacharya case, was that the 'opposition to child protection' was driven by radical feminists, or by people who were opposed to radical feminism! Neither is the case.
    But these kinds of guesses coming up is understandable. When you come across something that appears to be completely incomprehensible, as the confiscation of the Bhattacharya children by Barnevernet was for a society that considers the value of the biological family to be so self-evident that it does not need to be explained, then you search for possible explanations for the absurdity of what is happening, search for something understandable that one has at least heard of, something of which this new thing must be a variant.
Indians are well acquainted with cultural diversity, minorities and majorities, a diversity of languages, multilingualism, status as a colony and liberation to independence, and conflict and struggle over all this. At the same time, most Norwegians are by no means free from habits of racist and culturally based condescension towards others. We are unsophisticated, inexperienced in living in a heterogeneous society, we tend to be self-righteous and self-congratulatory.
It should be unnecessary to remind us of India's long history of art, mathematics, classical literature, religion and philosophy. In my own subject, linguistics, the Indians were world champions who already from the 3rd century BC have achieved insights and produced works which have not only had a great influence but are valid to this day. European grammatical attempts from antiquity do not reach the same quality.
Even now, Norwegian child care workers are not all that familiar with other nations and cultures. In my experience, Barnevern workers are often socially naïve, trained to think they should judge people but without any real knowledge base for doing it, rarely reasonably proficient in any other language. I remember a humorous song that appeared some 40 years ago: (in a sort of direct translation) "It's Norway which is good, it's our climate which is best ... Hooray for Norway, the 17th of May [our constitution day] and oil And all that stuff"(46). The song is full of arrows that hit the mark and the irony is a better characterisation than entirely agreeable.
Taking the Bhattacharya children into 'care' was senseless and disrespectful to the children, to their needs and their rights. No wonder many Indians (there are probably quite a few wide awake ones among the billion!) are exasperated when they are lectured patronisingly to by fairly simple 'Vikings' from 'up here in the rock pile up north' about how advanced we and our child protection are(47, 48).


Footnotes / References
(1)  Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway
Official Trailer
Zee Studios & Emmay Entertainment, 23 February 2023
(2)  Fullt! Studentlaget drar på kino!
Juvente Kristiansand studentlag skal på søndag den 19. mars dra på kinotur.
(Full up! The student club goes to pictures! Juvente Kristiansand student club are taking a trip to the pictures on Sunday 19 March.)
Juvente, 19 mars 2023
(3)  Indian couple have children taken away by Norwegian social workers because they fed them with their hands
Mail Online, 19 January 2012
(The link works strangely, but will click in by updating and then back-tracking)
(4)  Barnevernet har tvangsplassert indiske barn (Barnevernet has placed Indian children by force)
Stavanger Aftenblad, 23 December 2011
(5)  Deprived of the children – siblings split
Modern Times, 12 January 2012
(6)  Marianne Haslev Skånland: 
The Iron hand that rocks the cradle
in The Hindu, 30 January 2012
on MHS's home page, same date
(7)  Abhigyan & Aishwarya Rescue Mission:
Child Welfare Models – Case for Upholding International Order and Cultural Sensitisation
AaRM, 25 January 2012
(8)  Photos from demonstration in Kolkata, early January 2012
Forum Redd Våre Barn (Rescue Our Children), 15 January – 5 February 2012
(9)  Overview:
Petition: Indians want government to guard against CPS
India, October 2012
Forum Redd Våre Barn (Rescue Our Children), 12 October 2012
(10)  The report on the case, which was attached to the petition:
The confiscation of the Bhattacharya children by Norwegian authorities – a case study –
India, 12 October 2012
The report as it appears here online, does not include the signatures. However, they are the same as the signatories of the petition (see its last page):
(11)  The petition:
Humanitarian Crisis for Indian children and their families in confiscatory child care proceedings abroad
India, 12 October 2012
(12)  Press release:
Saving Indian Children From Confiscatory Proceedings Abroad
India, 12 October 2012
(13)  News reports, other articles, reports on political initiatives for reform:
Materials Filed with Petition to NHRC
India, 12 October 2012
(14)  Mani Shankar Aiyar:
Mani Shankar Aiyar responds to Norway's Amabassador: 'Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway' is not an attack on a country but a call to reconsider its child protection system
The Indian Express, 18 March 2023
(15)  Mani Shankar Aiyar
Wikipedia, last edited 1 March 2023
(16)  Suranya Aiyar:
Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway: Child protetion in its current form has failed
The Indian Express, 2 March 2023
(17)  Aage Simonsen:
Norwegian child protection hits immigrants hard
MHS's home page, 4 July 2012 / 10 November 2017
(18)  Lennart Sjöberg:
Tvångsadoption? Psykologer om en mors olämplighet, och om barnets "anknytning".
Yttrande till Borgarting Lagmannsrett, Oslo, september 2001
('Forced adoption? Psychologists about a mother's unsuitability, and about the 'attachment' of the child.' Expert opinion to Borgarting High Court, Oslo, September 2001)
BarnasRett (The children's right), 2001, revised 2008
(19)  Case of Johansen v. Norway
European Court of Human Rights, 27 June 1996
(20)  Marianne Haslev Skånland:
Some professional child experts (4): Karen Hassel, psychologist, adoption expert, editor of the CPS Barnevernet's projects
MHS's home page, 13 January 2019
(21)  Marianne Haslev Skånland:
The Child Protection Service (CPS – unfortunately the cause of grievous harm.  Part 2: Content, dimensions, causes and mechanisms of CPS activities
MHS's home page, 16 March 2012
(22)  Marianne Haslev Skånland:
How Norwegian experts came to reject biological kinship as relevant in child welfare policy
MHS's home page, 13 October 2017
(23)  Marianne Haslev Skånland:
The Norwegian "child protection service" and the children's uncle
MHS's home page, 11 February 2012
(24)  Custody row: Norwegian Child Welfare body seeks fresh legal guarantee from India
India Today, 11 March 2012

(25a)  Marianne Haslev Skånland:
When Malaysians are attacked by Western child protection – what to do?
MHS's home page, 20 February 2014
(25b)  Malaysian family in Sweden – children taken
Forum Redd Våre Barn (Rescue Our Children), thread of postings over 5 pages, 22 January 2014 – 5 October 2014
(26)  Marianne Haslev Skånland:
Norge har kjørt seg ut med sine lovlige og ulovlige barnevernsordninger
(Norway has driven itself off the road with its legal and illegal management of child protection)
MHS's home page, 15 October 2022
(27)  Finally I got justice, says mother of children in Norway custody row
NDTV on youtube, 12 January 2013
(28)  Norway custody row: After eight months, mother gets custody of children
NDTV, 8 January 2013
(29)  India-saken: Moren tok over barna (The India case: The mother took over the children)
Stavanger Aftenblad, 8 January 2013
(30)  Seminar om norsk barnevern sett med internasjonale øyne (Seminar about Norwegian CPS seen with international eyes)
Regjeringen (the Government), 17 October 2018
(31)  Demonstrasjoner den 31 januar 2016 (Demonstrations on 31 January 2016; here: in India)
Forum Redd Våre Barn (Rescue Our Children), 1 February 2016
(32)  Protest in India against Barnevernet abuses (photos)
Norway stop destroying families's albums, 31 January 2016
(33)  Norsk barnevernssak skapte rabalder i India. Nå er den blitt Bollywood-film (Norwegian child welfare case created uproar in India. Now it has become a Bollywood film)
Bergens Tidende, 24 February 2023
(34)  Norsk barnevernssak blir Bollywood-film: – Katastrofale konsekvenser (Norwegian CPS case becomes Bollywood film – Catastrophic consequences)
VG, 25 February 2023
(35)  Tidligere barnevernsleder om Bollywood-film: – Dette er ikke historien slik den skjedde (Former CPS chief about the Bollywood film: – This is not the story the way it happened)
Dagsavisen, 26 February 2023
(36)  Familiefar i barnevernsaken som blir film: – Jeg blir fremstilt som skurken (Family father in the CPS case turned into a film: – I am portrayed as the villain)
Dagsavisen, 27 February 2023

(37)  Barnevernet under lupen (Barnevernet under the microscope)
Norge Idag, 1 March 2023

(38)  Yngve Nedrebø:
Etterlever Faktisk.no kravene til faktaforståelse, dokumentasjon og vilkårslogikk? (Does Faktisk.no live up to the demands of grasp of facts, documentation and conditional logic?)
MHS's home page, 5 March 2023
(39)  Mani Shankar Aiyar:
Norwegian non-humans / Norske ikke-mennesker
MHS's home page, 15 November 2015
(40)  Norwegian Barnevernet and thick bread slices
Video interview and English text
Present: Elisabeth Augdahl and Marianne Haslev Skånland
MHS's home page, 28 May 2016
(41)  Convictions of Norway in the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in cases concerning child protection (Barnevern)
MHS's home page, 12 March 2020 –, updated last 27 March 2022
(42)  Marianne Haslev Skånland:
Norwegian Pentecostalists: Our child protection is so good!
MHS's home page, 13 January 2016
(43)  Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway review – Rani Mukerji goes dowdy in mama-drama ordeal
The Guardian, 13 March 2023
(44)  Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway Movie Review: This heartbreaking mother-child drama finds its pulse a bit too late / updated as Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway Movie Review: A heart-breaking mother-child story marred by high-pitched execution
Times of India, 14 March 2023 / 17 March 2023
(45)  Mrs Chatterjee Vs Norway
Wikipedia, updated last 13 March 2023
(46)  Text: "Det er Norge som er bra" (It is Norway which is good)
Prima Vera – Jan Teigen and others, first publication date unclear
The song:
on youtube
(47)  Marianne Haslev Skånland:
The Norwegian child protection service (CPS) Barnevernet – what is the truth?
MHS's home page, 22 February 2019

(48)  Nils Morten Udgaard:
Norway and 'civil society'
MHS's home page, 13 November 2016

(49)  Marianne Haslev Skånland:
The child protection case in Norway about the Czech children of Eva Michaláková
MHS's home page, 19 October 2015