This blog entry by CJ reporter Runjhun Sharma is part two in an ongoing web series about a Pakistani-Indian couple living in Old Delhi who are being separated after thirty years of marriage because they failed to file the proper paperwork. See part one, her behind-the-scenes video of their neighborhood, here. Stay tuned for part three!
This is a sorrowful story of a couple who got married thinking that they would spend their entire lives loving each other but are now being kept apart. No country for Nuzat Jahan, 48 year old woman and a mother of three children, who is a Pakistani resident and came to India three decades ago after marrying Mohammad Gulfam.
As a part of the Citizen Journalist show, I interviewed Gulfam ji, to know more about how the border had taken a toll on his 30 year marriage. Gulfam, who lives in Old Delhi, was separated from his wife after three decades of marriage because authorities said they didn’t fulfill the legal documentation for a transnational marriage. But talking with Gulfam ji suggests that he was caught in a system too complicated to easily master.
Nuzhat was arrested by the Indian Government on 2 May this year and kept in Tihar jail for six long days, after which she was to be deported back to her home country of Pakistan. Instead of going back, however, she was given the unpleasant treatment of being transferred to Nirmal Chaya -a beggar home for women – which is the same treatment given to many who overstay visas in India.
According to Gulfam ji, he applied for an extended visa for his wife’s stay in 1985 but Pakistani authorities denied the visa extension on the grounds that she should seek Indian nationality. ‘Agar mujhe passport mil jata toh mujhe aaj ye din nahi dekhna parda’ said Gulfam ji. He showed me the police documents verifying his wife’s identity. In 2006, the police approved her identity documents, but her citizenship documents were still pending in MHA. He also showed us copies of all the legal formalities that one needs to fulfill for a certified cross border marriage as well a plea to the government officials to renew his wife’s passport over these years. Now after thirty years, the couple is being blamed for her illegal stay in addition to the punishment being enforced on them. “My wife is not a criminal, she’s a housewife” said Gulfam ji with tear-filled eyes, looking at his marriage photo album.
Repeatedly, Gulfam ji told me that he wasn’t extremely well-read, and found it very difficult to understand the paperwork and procedures required to obtain his wife’s Indian nationality. Looking around his home, I saw his grand children playing amid signs of the humble life he has led. He earns Rs. 6000/month doing various jobs in the area. Although authorities can and should prosecute visa irregularities, one can’t help but feel sorry for a couple that doesn’t seem to deserve this cruel separation.
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