I am scared for the life of my daughters, is how Shirley Ann Hodges turned Shabnam Khan,39,reacted from Karachi on Tuesday. Shirley,a former resident of Ahmedabad,has been living in confinement in her husbands home since last 12 years.
I had trusted my husband,thats why I married him after defying my family and agreed to come here. He always claimed that he was an Indian and also had an Indian passport. But he fooled me. I found that he was from here where his family lives. Before he took me here he had visited Pakistan twice,but had come back, Shabnam told The Indian Express over phone from Karachi. She desperately wanted to be reunited with her parents in Ahmedabad.
Her biggest worry is her two daughters Chandani (12) and Sanjana (8). Shabnam said her daughters are not allowed to attend school or pursue any sort of education. She said her husband wants to marry off Chandani who is just a child. In fact,she said when she tried to stop her husband he threatened to sell the girl.
Back home in Maninagar of Ahmedabad her family is having nightmares. Already in grief over their daughters condition Shabnams maternal grandmother fell in the bathroom on Tuesday and was rushed to a hospital where she is being operated.
Shirley married Gul Mohammad Khan in 1998 in Ahmedabad and changed her name as Shabnam Khan. She lived for couple of years at Shah-E-Alam in the city. In 2000,she was taken to Pakistan after her husband assured to take her back in six months.
On the contrary,she says,she was confined in a house and was not allowed to step out. In fact,she was barred from talking to her parents back home.
Its been 12 years since I am here but have always been confined to this house and never stepped out. I have not seen even a tiny part of Karachi. My neighbours have not seen my face once and all they know about me is that I am a woman from India. I am really scared and want to come back, she said.
Shabnam was in her mid-twenties when she first met Khan at Karachi Store in Maninagar where she used to buy milk every morning. Khan at that time used to sell blankets and was also into money-lending.
She fell in love with Khan and finally got married despite strong objection from her family.
In 2000,she was taken to Landhi in Karachi with her newly-born daughter Chandani promising her family to take her back in six months. She found out that her husband was already married and have six children.
Six months passed but there was no news of her and for several years we remained in dark about her condition, said her brother Noel Hodges,who runs a restaurant in Ahmedabad.
Hodges started running from pillar to post to get in touch with her sister. Despite numerous requests to Pakistani Embassy in New Delhi and its counterpart in Pakistan nothing came out. Last month,Shabnam wrote to the Pakistan Human Rights Commission and informed about her condition. On the other,her brother Noel Hodges also requested well-known activist Asma Jahangir who promised to intervene.
They all have assured us to help. The greatest help came from activist Gagan Sethi who took the matter up. I just want to get my sister back home, Hodges said.
He said he came in touch with his sister since last year after his uncle in US went to Pakistan and met Shabnam last year who gave her a laptop. After that Hodges came in touch with Shabnam through Internet.
According to Sethi,the Pakistani human right commission has taken up the the matter and trying to resolve it. However,he said the larger issue remains that both the governments should make arrangements that people from the two countries could come and go easily.