Love has Borders

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Illustration: Amitava Sen
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A Mumbai man’s effort to rescue his Pakistani beloved from a forced marriage lands him in jail. For his hapless parents, it has become an ongoing battle to bring their son back home

By Neeta Kolhatkar

They say love knows no barriers. But when you cross borders without a visa and intrude into a country which views Indian citizens with suspicion then it’s inviting trouble. Your plea of trying to rescue your lady love in distress will have no legal validity and cannot serve as a defense. Love can land you in jail and extricating oneself can involve a protracted legal battle. 

That in a nutshell is the tragic love story of Hamid Ansari, a 31-year-old software engineer and resident of Andheri, a Mumbai suburb. He befriended a Pakistani girl over Facebook in 2012. The relationship soon blossomed and when Hamid learnt that the woman, hailing from the tribal belt adjoining the Pak-Afghan border, was going to be forcibly married off by her family, he decided to undertake the risky journey into the Kohat region in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan to rescue her.

Hamid Ansari, a 31-year-old software engineer and resident of Andheri, a Mumbai suburb, befriended a Pakistani girl over Facebook in 2012. The relationship soon blossomed and when Hamid learnt that the woman was going to be forcibly married off by her family, he decided to undertake the risky journey into the Kohat region in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan to rescue her.

When Hamid decided to cross into Pakistan he was in Kabul, ostensibly looking for employment opportunities. What perhaps goaded him to undertake the risky journey were his Pakistani friends—Ata Ur Rehman, Abdullah and Shazia. They apparently told him that he could sneak in via Afghanistan without a visa. “My son was foolish to have believed these people,” a misty eyed Nehal Ansari, Hamid’s father, a practicing lawyer told India Legal.

After Hamid entered Pakistan, Ata hosted him for two days but later booked him into a hotel and also informed the police. Hamid was arrested and was initially accused of spying for India. This charge could not stand in court due to lack of evidence. Ironically, Hamid never met his lady love or her family.

Ever since, Hamid is not a free man. In fact, his hapless parents have been moving heaven and earth to secure his release from a Pakistani prison where he has been languishing for the last four years. Hamid’s mother Fauziya, has been campaigning for her son’s release and has relentlessly pursued every agency for justice. The parents are being helped by a Pakistani woman journalist and senior advocates Qazi Muhammaed Anwar and Nishan-E-Imtiaz who have taken up the case.

Hamid is not a free man. In fact, his hapless parents have been moving heaven and earth to secure his release from a Pakistani prison where he has been languishing for the last four years.

After Hamid’s arrest for a few weeks the parents were clueless about his whereabouts. They registered a complaint with the Mumbai police and later approached the cyber crime cell. A search of his online activities revealed the emails of his Pakistani friends. The last email tracked was sent on November 12, 2012 in which Hamid was told of the porous Pak-Afghan border and how he could cross over.

The parents then began to contact people who could help in Pakistan. This is where Fauziya entered the picture. She first wrote to Jas Upal, the human rights activist who had fought for Sarabjit Singh’s release. Upal guided the Ansaris to the Pakistani woman journalist.

It was due to her efforts that a court in Pakistan directed joint investigation teams along with the Office of Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances, Pakistan to look into Hamid’s case. Fauziya meanwhile had written to the UN, the President of India and others. In its response to a UN query, Pakistan refused to even accept Hamid was in their custody.

The case for Hamid’s release is now being fought by advocate Qazi Muhammed Anwar, a childhood friend of actor Dilip Kumar. A PIL was filed on May 4, 2016 on Hamid’s behalf and the court observed that under Section 382(B) of the Criminal Procedure Code he should be allowed “benefits” in jail and should not be treated as a dangerous criminal.

To quote from its reply:“From the information provided by the esteemed Working Group it is quite evident that Mr Hamid Nehal Ahmed Ansari, S/O Nehal Ahmed Ansari, is an Indian national, was last seen in Kabul. No other concrete evidence has been provided by the Working Group especially with regard to his entry or presence in Pakistan. Accordingly, this case of Indian national last seen in Afghanistan should therefore be deleted from the list of outstanding cases against Pakistan.”

However, the Chief Justice of the High Court in Peshawar confirmed Hamid’s presence in Pakistan when he dismissed a habeas corpus petition filed on behalf of the Ansaris with this observation: “He (Hamid)…we can’t declare him as a missing person rather he is an undertrial prisoner.”

The case for Hamid’s release is now being fought by advocate Qazi Muhammed Anwar, a childhood friend of actor Dilip Kumar. A PIL was filed on May 4, 2016 on Hamid’s behalf and the court observed that under Section 382(B) of the Criminal Procedure Code he should be allowed “benefits” in jail and should not be treated as a dangerous criminal. But the court wanted an NOC from the Pakistan defense ministry before its order is implemented and the matter has been adjourned since then.

Meanwhile, on August 2, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported an attack on Hamid which his parents read online. “It was horrifying. He was attacked thrice and was slapped by the warden,” says Fauziya, Incidentally, the Peshawar High Court summoned the jail superintendent and a committee has been set up and a report is to be submitted on the incident soon.

 Hamid completed his jail term in 2015. But his release is turning out to be a long drawn battle. His parents have petitioned External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for help.

One can only hope that the pressure will secure Hamid’s release soon.

Lead Illustration: Amitava Sen

 

 

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