Srinagar: Mehnaz Siddiqui came to Kashmir from Karachi, Pakistan, in July 2009 when she married Abdullah Danish Shervani, whom she met on social networking site Orkut. She was 25 at the time. Nine years later, she has publicly alleged that her Kashmiri husband has “assaulted and tortured” her, since right after marriage.
“I left everything for him – all luxuries, even my parents. I didn’t think for a moment that he could do this to me,” Mehnaz told Kashmir Reader.
She started facing torture from the early days of her marriage, she said. “I was completely new to the society and culture in Kashmir, almost like an empty slate. But he (Shervani) and his family instead of guiding me started picking faults with everything I did, or not did. They did not welcome me as a bride either. I was no better than a maid. The abuse started very early, but I wanted things to work smooth between us, because I loved him. I did not want to go back to my family in Karachi,” Mehnaz said.
She said Shervani’s family was not ready to accept her and the couple had to move out to a rented place in Rajbagh and later in Qamarwari. “During our stay at Rajbagh, we were struggling with the money as none of us earned well. I sold my gold to make that rented house a home,” she said.
On July 11, 2010, Mehnaz gave birth to a son, whom they named Muhammad Abdullah Shervani. On October 12, 2012, she gave birth to a daughter, given the name Ayesha Abdullah Shervani.
“When my daughter was born, it upset Shervani’s family. They called us home, fearing that society would badmouth them. At their residence, my condition became more pitiable. No one cared for me or even spoke to me. Rather than showing any compassion, I would constantly be at the receiving end of slurs from his parents. His family never made any efforts to reach out to me,” Mehnaz said.
Mehnaz started working at a school in Rajbagh at a salary of 3,000 rupees per month. “I later started teaching at a school in Pulwama, which earned me 13,000 rupees per month. During this time, I had to travel with both my kids, one of whom was barely a few months old. I had no one to support me and I could not afford domestic help. I finally started working at a school in Srinagar, where the salary was comparatively decent at 20,000 rupees per month. However, during all this while, he (Shervani) told me that I being a Pakistani national would not be able to open a bank account. He took all my salary. We kept moving from one place to another and finally started living at a quarter at Kashmir University campus, where he got a job as liaison officer,” Mehnaz said.
Though the couple now had a settled home, things did not get better, much to Mehnaz’s grief. Here in this separate house, Shervani’s “torture” was easily buried inside four walls. “He would beat me regularly and even lock me inside the house,” she said.
The torture continued and now the kids were witness to it as well. “In August 2016, I applied for visa like I used to do every year. In January 2017, while we were still living together, he started sending letters to various agencies like MHA, misleading them into believing that I had connections with separatists. All of this was happening behind my back. Because of his claims, obtaining the visa became difficult for me. I remained under the radar for long and the foreign registration office did not let me fill the application for visa because he (Shervani) had misled them into believing these things about me,” Mehnaz said.
Mehnaz gave birth to her third child in December 2017. “He never took me to a gynaecologist for check-up or ultrasound. Due to his tortures and negligence, the baby was born with clubbed hands and feet, kidney problems, liver problems, paralysed large intestine, and collapsed lungs. He had surgery of his intestine in SKIMS. He was on ventilator and fighting for his life for almost a month. Finally he died on January 25,” Mehnaz said.
“On his death, Shervani’s mother accused me of being a drug addict and held me responsible for it. They did not let me be part of my son’s funeral. I was forced to stay in the university quarter and receive guests there. In the coming days, the abuse continued. Shervani told me on January 29 that he was taking me to a doctor. He instead drove me around in his car and abused me. He forced me out of his car at the Nigeen bridge and said I was free to commit suicide. My wounds from surgery had still not healed when he hit me hard with his car and left me in the middle of the road to die,” Mehnaz said.
During her pregnancy, Mehnaz said, Shervani beat her and moved out to his parents’ home, after telling her that he had divorced her. “Verbal talaq was used to end the marriage from Shervani’s side. Such talaq has no legal validity and should have no sanctity as it is misused by people,” Mehnaz said.
“Shervani says he divorced me in September 2017 but I didn’t receive or sign any legal document,” she said.
Mehnaz filed an FIR against Shervani for domestic violence in police station Nigeen on February 1 this year. “This agitated Shervani so much that he started contacting my family in Pakistan and told them to call me back. He would regularly call my mother and threaten her. I also filed a petition in the district court seeking maintenance from him for my kids, as he had not been paying for their expenses including their school fees. By February, I had no money left and had to manage by borrowing money from acquaintances, money I am yet to pay back,” Mehnaz said.
“Despite knowing that his crimes are non-bailable, multiple FIRs have not deterred him from harassing me. I request the authorities to cancel his anticipatory bail because as long as he remains outside jail, he will keep harming me and my kids and anyone associated with me,” she said.
Mehnaz said that Shervani can even kill her. “My life is at stake,” she said.
“I have no relatives living here in Kashmir and I cannot afford to rent a place. I managed to get a restraining order from the court,” she said.
Going back to Pakistan has never been an option for Mehnaz as her children are Indian nationals. “Pakistan won’t keep them and it won’t be easy for them to settle elsewhere. Also, I have been away for nearly a decade,” she said.
“I request that Shervani be suspended from his job of liaison officer in light of the fact that he has two FIRs lodged against him. He should be charged for contempt of court as he doesn’t present himself before court and doesn’t take the proceedings seriously,” Mehnaz added.