N A woman on Tuesday loudly interrupted Norwegian ambassador to India Nils Ragnar Kamsvag’s talk on India-Norway relations, demanding that Oslo return Indian children snatched away from their parents by its Child Protection Services.
As former diplomat Ashok Sajjanhar, who was in the chair, rose to introduce the Norwegian envoy and the subject of the talk, ‘Can India and Norway take a leap into the New Era of Partnership?’, the woman came up from the audience to stand in front of the stage holding aloft a placard, that read “Norway Steals Children”.
The woman, later identified as Suranya Aiyar, the daughter of Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, ignored the organisers Ananta Aspen Centre and the India International Centre, where the talk was held, to continue with her protest.
“Norway is supposed to be a beacon of human rights. I want to be allowed to voice my anguish on what is happening in Norway. I want the ambassador to answer to what is happening in Norway. Mothers are being deprived of their children,” she said loudly, as organisers asked her to move away.
“Our children are being held in Norway. Does anyone care about children of lower middle class families who go there for a better future for their children and have their children taken away,” she said.
Later, to exhortations from the organisers, she moved to the back of the hall, but kept holding aloft the placard.
In between the over one-hour long talk, when someone snatched the placard, she went to the front of the hall, interrupting the envoy’s speech, and demanded her placard be handed back to her.
Suranya Aiyar “studied Mathematics at St Stephen’s College and Law at Oxford University and New York University.”
After the talk ended, Ambassador Kamsvag was hurried away by the organisers, who had called in police. The police looked confused at the happenings, and when Suranya said she is a mother too and wants to be allowed to return to her children, they let her go.
Suranya referred to the case of Sagarika and Anurup Bhattacharya, whose two children — then one-year old daughter Aishwarya and three-year old son Abhigyan — were taken away by the Child Protection Services in February 2012.
Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar, who was present in the audience, told IANS that the protest was against the way Norwegians are treating children under their law, which is “implemented in an arbitrary fashion”.
“Sagarika and her children were brought back to India by this lady (referring to his daughter). And the family today is such a delightful family, to think that the children would have been brought up by total strangers in Norway…,” he said.
Aiyar said the simple request of the protesters, who include Left leader Brinda Karat and others, “is just repatriate these children to India to their larger family”.
According to Aiyar, Suranya has helped “Estonians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Romanians, Czechs and Indians who are in touch with her to rescue their children” and even in the US and other countries.
The reasons the Norwegian CPS took away Bhattacharya’s children were “why are you hand feeding the child, and why does the child sleep between the mother and father”, said Aiyar.
“They literally snatch the baby from the mother, and come to the conclusion that their parents are incapable of looking after their children,” he said.
Suranya later posted on her Facebook page: “CPS warriors in Norway and elsewhere, today I held a solo mother’s protest at an Indo-Norwegian event attended by the Norwegian Ambassador to India, Nils Ragnar Kamsvag, at the India International Centre. The Norwegians sitting in the front row did nothing to help me express my anguish at child-snatching and human rights abuse in Norway.
“As usual I was threatened with police — 5 policemen, 3 police women and 2 security guards were called to scare me off. But I stood for the whole event — 2 hours — and at the end the audience members themselves said to me ‘well done’ and told the police to leave me alone. Please spread this far and wide. We will boycott Norway until it stops its brutal practice of removing children from innocent families!”