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Mrs. Chatterjee Vs Norway: A Heartfelt Real Life Story of an Indian Mother

Shifa Dutt



Mrs. Chatterjee Vs Norway

The trailer for Mrs. Chatterjee Vs Norway was released on Thursday and it brought back to life this colossal decade-old case that threw light on the plight of Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya and many parents in Norway. Though being the story of both parents as they had their two children taken from them owing to the strict child-rearing policies in Norway, It is the story of the mother, played by the supremely talented Rani Mukherjee. The case was so big that it caused a diplomatic row between India and Norway, making it a film we look forward to watching.

It was in 2011 when Norway’s child welfare service called Barnevarne, took custody of Anurup and Sagarika’s children. They placed them under foster care all under the pretext of bad parenting. The couple fought for their children involving the Indian government and it took them two long years before being united with them. The journey of this colossal battle is of Sagarika Bhattacharya who faced many hurdles along the way, being the mother and is amazingly played on celluloid by Rani Mukherjee. A film by Ashima Chibber, Mrs. Chatterjee Vs Norway also features Jim Sarbh and Neena Gupta in key roles and releases on the 17th of March, 2023.

What Happened?

Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya moved to Norway in the year 2007 and had their first child, a boy named Avigyan and a girl the following year called Aishwarya. It came to the notice of Avigyan’s family kindergarten that the boy had started developing ‘autism-like’ symptoms. Reportedly the family was under watch for a few months by the child welfare service and in May 2011, the authorities came and took the couple’s children away and put them in foster care under the pretext of bad parenting.

The point they thought constituted bad parenting was Sagarika’s hand-feeding the baby, which is a very common practice among Indian households and equated it to force-feeding. Another point of objection was the children sleeping in the same beds as the parent, again a practice very common among Indian families. The charges included a slap by Sagarika, just one, and also that the children did not have enough room to play. Adding to the rather bizarre seeming list to us Indians, they said the clothes and toys provided to the kids were “unsuitable”.

After a historic diplomatic row between India and Norway, the Norwegian authorities offered the custody of the children to the brother of their father, enabling them to be brought back to India. By the time this happened, Sagarika was already blamed for the entire affair and was left by Anurup. Sagarika had to resort to legal remedies in order to get custody of her children, which after a lengthy battle, she did. Which indeed makes it a battle between a Mother and a Nation, a battle Sagarika won in the end.

Norway’s Child Welfare Services: Barnevernet

Barnevernet in Norway is known for having extremely strict regulations when it comes to child protection. Being a public organization responsible for child protection in the country, the organization is often accused of ignoring varied cultural practices when it comes to imposing these strict regulations. Barnevernet is responsible for implementing measures for children and families with special needs in relation to the home environment.

They also provide assistance in the form of counseling, advisory services and aid measures that includes external support contacts, relief measures in the home and access to daycare. In Bhattacharya’s case, counseling was provided which the couple claimed to have followed but to no accord. Barnevernet has been held very critically for its practices, especially against migrant families by immediately exercising “child removal” without appropriately understanding the cultural differences. In fact, in September 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the organization violated the right to respect for private and family life protected under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.