Real life Veer-Zaara from Mumbai wait for a happy ending

Having smuggled the love of his life out of Saudi Arabia, where they met, city man and the woman, who is now his wife, have been engaged in a legal battle against the authorities for nine years

Life is, sometimes, stranger than fiction, and this is a tale that could prompt another Veer-Zaara. A Mumbai man fell in love with a Saudi Arabian woman while he was working in a supermarket in the country. After her brother said no to the marriage and the man had to return after his visa expired, he arranged for her to be smuggled into India on a fake passport in 2005.

The couple got married immediately but, in true filmy fashion, the love story took a long, torturous twist. The woman’s brother complained to the authorities and the Saudi consul general filed a complaint against the couple with the Mumbai police. They were arrested, let out on bail, and have been fighting a case to prove the woman’s nationality for nine years, during which they have had five children.

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A happy ending to the story finally came in sight on June 23 this year, when the current Saudi Arabian consul general wrote to the Mumbai police, informing them that the Saudi government does not wish to pursue the case against the woman and that she can legally stay in India. But and here you can almost hear the audience sigh they still face trial according to Indian laws. The consul general’s letter has been submitted in court, which will now hear the case on August 8.

Curtain rises
In 2004, Hidayat Khan was working as a cashier at Himayani Super Market in Tayaf, Saudi Arabia. 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.

Settling down
Hidayat and Banwa, meanwhile, thought their troubles were over and began to settle down. But, their marital bliss was shattered soon after, 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. In the nine years since the filing of the case, Hidayat and Banwa, who live in Nerul, have had five children.

No respite
The couple got their first respite on June 23, when the current Saudi consul general, Abdullah Saliman Al Eisa, wrote to the Mumbai police to rescind the case and let Banwa live in India. Banwa and Hidayat’s happiness now hinges on the 37th Metropolitan Magistrate Court, which will hear evidence in the case on August 8.

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