Monday, February 27, 2012

Italy shoots, Norway abducts, India bleeds: Must the world take us for granted?

Two astonishing events have shown up some of India's inadequacies for the world to marvel at: Italians killing two Indian fishermen and Norwegians taking two small children away from their Indian parents. Both involve conflicts of culture and race and both point to India's unwillingness to recognise that reality.

India's fishing boats are not allowed to be armed. Nor did a case of piracy ever occur off the west coast. Yet an Italian shooter formally said the boat was armed and moving aggressively. Maybe the shooters were bored. It was a big ship, a long voyage. It was evening, Grappa time. Excellent marksmen, they hit one hapless fisherman on the head, the other on the chest.

By Delhi's standards, India took a strong stand against the intransigent Italians. What we should notice, however, is Italy's herculean efforts to save their citizens from the clutches of India. Ministers, diplomats, lawyers and maritime experts dashed to India, with every conceivable legal/diplomatic manoeure up their sleeves. Compare that with India's virtual non-action when our merchant marine captains were arrested in Taiwan and South Korea.

A newly crowned Kerala Cardinal , still in the Vatican, reportedly pleaded on behalf of the Italians. This was odd even in terms of faith; one of the dead fishermen was a Catholic named Valentine (Jalestine?) and the fishing boat's name was St. Antony. Do Italian Catholics rank higher than Indian Catholics? There were enough Catholic priests in Kerala to protest against the Cardinal's misplaced priorities and that redeemed the Church's credibility to some extent.

If the Italian shooting was a crime, so was Norway seizing the Indian babies, aged 3 and 1, from their parents. The published reasons were that the parents were hand-feeding them and making them sleep on the same bed with them. The authorities also said there was an emotional disconnect between the mother and the kids. Despite the Indian Government's intervention, Norway's child welfare authorities refused to give any further explanation.

If the stated reasons are the only reasons, Norway is plain stupid. So there may be other reasons. But as long as the Child Protection Service remains high and mighty about it, it will be seen as a culturally insensitive, racially prejudiced, beehive of deviants. They have given the parents permission to see the children twice a year until the children are 18 years old. This in spite of an assurance to India that the children would be handed over to their father's brother.

The Child Protection Service has a rather notorious track record. A 2005 UN report criticised Norway for taking too many children under state care – 12,500 at the time, in a country whose total population is half of Bangalore district's. Also, let us not forget Breivik, the full-blooded Norwegian who machinegunned 77 fellow citizens at a Labour Party camp near Oslo last year. He no doubt ate with a baby spoon and slept in his own room from birth, his parents kissing him Good Night as they shut the door every night. A correctly brought-up psychotic killer.

What the Child Protection Service did to the Indian babies was nothing short of abduction. India should have brought on Norway the kind of heavy-duty pressure Italy is bringing on India in a much weaker case. But we saw only the usual protocol-bound mumbo-jumbo.

Norway itself set us an example. When the Supreme Court cancelled 2G spectrum licences, Norway's Telenor was one of the companies affected. Within days a Norwegian minister was in Delhi to pressurise India in favour of Telenor. Why didn't India send ministers, child welfare specialists, lawyers, diplomats to Norway to correct the injustice done to an Indian family for not bringing up its children the Norwegian way? Must we always let the world take us for granted? Either Norway must explain why it has done what it has done, or it must let the Indian children and their family return to India forthwith. If this is not done, India must declare it as an unfriendly act.