Mumbai’s Veer-Zaara story may be heading to its climax. After being booked and arrested for smuggling the love of his life out of Saudi Arabia on forged documents nine years ago, a Nerul man had his case heard for the first time at the 37th Esplanade court yesterday.
Hidayat Khan and Banwa outside Esplanade court yesterday. Pic/Emmanual Karbhari
mid-day had reported on July 4 ('Real life Veer-Zaara from Mumbai wait for a happy ending’) about Hidayat Khan, 37, a contractor from Navi Mumbai, who had fallen in love with Banwa, a Saudi Arabian national, while working in the country. He had smuggled Banwa into India in 2005 and the couple was arrested soon after, based on a complaint by Banwa’s family to the Saudi Arabian authorities.
While the couple were released on bail and had four children in India, the fate of Banwa’s nationality is yet to be decided by the Indian judiciary. This, despite the current Saudi Consul General, Abdullah Saliman Al Eisa, writing to the Mumbai police on June 23 to rescind the case and let Banwa live in India.
mid-day’s report on July 4
“Months before my arrest, I visited senior cops and informed them about my wife’s travel to India and the facts about by marriage. One day, they registered an FIR and put both of us behind bars without any intimation,” said Khan
“My wife was seven months pregnant when she was arrested. Though she was granted bail shortly on humanitarian grounds, I was released only after 66 days. I could not be around for her first pregnancy and the baby was delivered the day after I was released,” he added.
Yesterday, in the first effective hearing after the charges were framed by the court, an inspector from the Detection of Crime Branch (CID Crime Intelligence Unit), who is also a complainant in the case, was examined by senior advocates R F Lambay and A P Shahani in the case, nine years after the FIR was filed. Since the time of their arrest, Khan hired several lawyers, but no one could help him and his wife cross the legal hurdles.
“I have spent several lakhs till date in legal fees. I sold all my belongings and spent all the money that I had earned from my job in Saudi Arabia. I saw the worst days of my life between 2005 and 2008. Thankfully, my wife has been very supportive and she has stood by me through thick and thin. She survived on daal and roti to gather our legal expenses,” said Khan.
Banwa says the kids miss their maternal grandparents. “My children have grown now. They do not know about out legal hassles but they keep asking about their grandparents. I console them saying that they live in another country and they cannot come to India.” The couple have four children: Reenal (8), Riyam (6), Ridan (4) and Khulund, who is 15 months old.
According to the Khans, Banwa’s family was very upset with their marriage in the beginning and did all they could to stop the marriage, including complaining to the Saudi Arabian authorities, and even getting him kidnapped. “I was kidnapped by some men in Sewri and they asked me to send my wife back to her country.
They claimed to be underworld gangsters, but I stood firm on my decision. I have fought against all odds for the love of my life. Even Saudi Arabia has given us clearance, but my own country is now against me and is making me run around,” Khan said.
Separation from her family has always kept bothered Banwa. “My parents have almost come to the terms with my marriage, but society will never agree. I have not seen my family for ages. They have been asking me to visit them in Saudi Arabai, but I cannot do so, because my passport is stuck in court. My only connection with them for nearly a decade has been through the phone”.
The love story
In 2004, Hidayat Khan was working as a cashier at Himayani Super Market in Tayaf, Saudi Arabia, which is owned by Banwa’s uncle He met Banwa, who was 25 years old at the time, there, and it was almost love at first sight. After their affair went on for some time, the duo decided to marry and spend their life together.
Every tragic love story needs a ‘villain’, and in their case, the person who was against their marriage turned out to be Banwa’s brother and caretaker, Ayad Subai. He forced the couple to stop talking to each other, and Hidayat had to return to India the same year, as his visa had expired.
The distraught couple kept in touch over the phone and, soon, a plan to smuggle Banwa out of Saudi Arabia, and into Hidayat’s loving arms, began to take shape. According to the FIR filed against the couple at Azad Maidan police station, Hidayat was referred to one Nooral, who had contacts in the Indian embassy. Nooral made a fake passport in the name of Noor Amin Habib-ullah Shaikh and travelled to Saudi Arabia on a Haj visa in December 2004.
“With the help of the Indian Consulate in Jeddah, a fake passport was made for Banwa in the name of Abida Habibullah Shaikh. Using the fake passport, Banwa reached India with Nooral on March 22, 2005. After she reached Mumbai, Hidayat took Banwa to Kolkata and they got married there,” said a police officer.
Investigations later revealed that Khan had paid a hefty amount to Nooral for smuggling Banwa to India. Nooral disappeared soon after, and the police haven’t been able to locate him till date.
Just when Hidayat and Banwa began to settle down, their marital bliss was shattered when Banwa’s family informed the Saudi consulate about her escape and the forged papers. The Azad Maidan police registered an FIR in 2005, and arrested the couple under sections 467 (dishonestly breaking open receptacle containing property), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating) 471 (using as genuine a forged document) and 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code, read with Section 14 of the Foreigners Act and Section 12 of the Passport Act. One of their friends paid surety for them and a legal battle began, which is still going on.
June 23: The day the Saudi Consul General wrote to the Mumbai police to rescind the case and let Banwa live in India