In a cross-border love story turning sour, a Pakistani woman, Mehnaz Siddiqi, who had tied the knot with a Kashmiri man a decade ago, has accused her husband of domestic violence and death threats. The husband, Abdullah Danish Sherwani, a liaison officer with the University of Kashmir, has reacted by calling his spouse “anti-national” and a Pakistani spy and has sought her deportation to her home country.
Mehnaz recently “exposed” her husband with an open letter on the social media, writing in detail about the torture she alleged she suffered in Danish’s hands. Danish, on his part, recently wrote to the National Investigation Agency and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh about Mehnaz’s alleged espionage. During Rajnath Singh’s latest visit to the valley, Danish tweeted to him labelling his wife as an anti-national, while also seeking audience with Singh. He claimed that he had divorced Mehnaz and described her presence in Kashmir as a serious security breach. Mehnaz denies that she is divorced.
In her letter, which contains explicit details of insufferable domestic violence, Mehnaz alleged, “He would beat me regularly and even lock me inside the premises. The torture continued and now kids were witness to it too and victims as well.” She currently lives in Srinagar along with her children at the university staff quarter issued to her estranged husband. She has sought police protection.
It was over the now defunct Orkut that the couple had first interacted. Mehnaz soon fell in love with Danish. In 2009, Danish visited Pakistan on a study tour sponsored by the University of Kashmir and sought her hand in marriage. Mehnaz’s Karachi based family objected to it, but later gave up seeing Mehnaz’s deep fascination for the man who had impressed her with his unmistakable “religious mannerism”. However, Mehnaz now feels Danish’s exhortation of religion is a camouflage for his heinous character.
She alleged that she had suffered a miscarriage due to manhandling by him. “I conceived and had a miscarriage once due to extreme physical torture. He beat me up brutally and I was in pain for two days before he took me to see a gynaecologist on the third day when I was bleeding profusely,” she revealed in her open letter. She accused Danish of forcibly taking away her salary of Rs 20,000 a month, earned as a school teacher.
When this reporter reached out to her, she told him that her lawyer had forbidden her from giving any statements to the media. Danish also refused to talk to The Sunday Guardian, citing similar restrictions from his lawyer.
In her open letter, Mehnaz further alleged that Danish had attacked her during a successive pregnancy last year: “I conceived once again in March 2017. He did not want the baby and kept forcing me to get an abortion done. He beat me brutally with an intention of causing the abortion. He even approached me with knives in his hands with an intention induce an abortion but couldn’t succeed… I gave birth to a baby boy in December 2017, 25. I was alone at that time and I repeatedly called him to take me to hospital for delivery. He did not respond and I boarded a cab full of passengers because I couldn’t make sense of things due to pain. The driver was kind enough to drop me at the hospital and a female co-passenger accompanied me inside…
“…He never took me to the gynecologist for checkup or ultrasound. In result of his torture and negligence my baby born with clubbed hand and feet, kidney problem, liver problem, pralized large intestine and collapsed lungs. He got surgery of his intestine in skims. He was on ventilator and fighting for his life for almost a month and died on 25 Jan 2018.” [The quote has not been edited for grammar.]
The University officials, who investigated Danish’s charges of Mehnaz being a Pakistani spy, say they found them to be untrue. They have recommended disciplinary action against Danish.
Mehnaz is knocking the doors of the courts and the government to get justice and to stay with her children in Kashmir. “She is the victim of government apathy and even the Women’s Commission has not helped her,” said one of her women supporters in the university, while talking to this newspaper. She said that Mehnaz was getting little to no support from the university authorities and the chairperson of the Women’s Commission, Nayeema Mehjoor, has asked her to meet her along with her husband for reconciliation.
Arshi Zuhar, Mehnaz’s lawyer, told the media that Danish had resorted to all kinds of dirty tricks to drive his wife out of the valley, but a resolute Mehnaz continues to seek justice.