What Does Gunnar Toresen Know About Children? by Suranya Aiyar

Suranya Aiyar’s first article here protesting the confiscation of children by child protection services. Published in 2012 by Kafila.

This was written in the context of the first time people in India learnt about child protection services in Norway, when two children of a Bengali family, the Bhattacharyas, were taken into foster care in that country. In the succeeding months the children were returned to India in care of their paternal uncle. The mother, Sagarika Bhattacharya, applied to the Indian authorities for the children to be returned to her. The Indian child welfare authorities and West Bengal Ministry for Women and Child Development did a full investigation, subjecting the mother to evaluation by a battery of psychologists and child experts. One by one experts and independent evaluators confirmed the mother to be normal, and perfectly fit for raising her children. They were finally returned about a year later by order of the Kolkata High Court.  The children have been with their mother and maternal grandparents since then. They are thriving and well. Search this website for more information on the Bhattacharya case.

As informative as the article are the comments to the article from Indian feminists, Nivedita Menon, Kavitha Krishnan and Sunalini Kumar, criticising Suranya Aiyar’s defence as a mother of another mother as being sexist and “biological essentialism”. Also their pointing with glee to statements made against Sagarika in the press by her estranged husband and mother-in-law. The husband has never visited the children since they left Norway, and does not support them. According to Krishnan in her comment, there is nothing special about a child’s bond with its mother, and she says that she is going to check with such of her friends as have children about this (“Then, I’m not sure about this business about babies needing the biological mother’s care at all costs. Mothers do often feel conflicted, ambivalent, stressed towards babies. …..let us not fall back on essentialising biological ‘family’ and ‘mothering.’ I plan to send this link to a couple of my women friends who recently became mothers, and one who is planning to adopt, to see what they feel about it.”) Menon takes the position that filial ties are meaningless as tribals raise children communally, and Sunalini Kumar agrees because there was patricide among royal families.