Updated: August 1, 2020 1:31:42 pm
The only thing that 20-year-old Zeeshan Siddiqui has to show for his intrepid journey from Osmanabad to the borders of Pakistan is a broken tooth and a bruised ego.
Siddiqui had undertaken a 1,200-km trip during the lockdown, first on a bicycle and then on a bike, from Osmanabad in Maharashtra to Kutch in Gujarat in an attempt to cross over to Pakistan to meet his alleged Pakistani girlfriend before he was apprehended by the Border Security Force (BSF) on July 16.
After a debriefing from both the Gujarat Police and the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), Siddiqui returned to Osmanabad earlier this week and vowed never again to reach out to the 20-year-old Pakistani woman, whom he had allegedly connected with on social media because of their love for an Indian TV serial.
“I was in love with her and couldn’t think of anything else apart from seeing her,” Siddiqui said on why with just Rs 8,000 in his pocket and a bicycle, he abruptly decided to leave for Karachi.
He got in touch with the woman on Facebook in 2015. “I had cleared Class X and was new to Facebook then. While discussing a daily soap in a group, we got in touch. A few days later, I sent her a friend request and we became friends,” he said.
As the two chatted more often, they shared contact numbers and went on to make both audio and video calls. “After a few months, we fell in love. This went on till 2017. She had even told her parents about our relationship. She demanded the same from me, but as we were too young to discuss such things with parents, I did not,” said Siddiqui on why their two-year-old relationship ended.
However, early this year, when he was in Hyderabad, the romance was rekindled. The woman is said to have told him about her parents’ insistence on getting her married, following which he decided to embark on a “rescue mission”.
Siddiqui had planned to leave for Pakistan in March, but the nationwide lockdown was announced and all international flights were cancelled. “I didn’t even have a passport. Due to the pandemic, no passports were also being issued. I wanted to go to Karachi legally and thus was waiting for the lockdown to get over,” he said.
But as the lockdown kept getting extended and there was a fear that the woman might get married, Siddiqui decided to leave for Karachi. He had initially planned to work in Karachi for a few months before asking the woman’s parents for her hand.
He scrolled through Google for a day and ascertained how to enter Pakistan. On July 9, he bought a bicycle for Rs 1,500. Two days later, he left his house.
He reached Ahmednagar the next day, when he realised that cycling till the border would be difficult, and hence bought a second-hand bike for Rs 3,000. “The bike was in a bad shape… on the first evening, its spark plug got damaged and it slipped,” said Siddiqui, who lost his tooth in the accident and sustained bruises on the face and hands. “Still I did not stop,” he said. “Mere andar ek junoon sawaar tha.”
After having his meals in dhabas and resting overnight on footpaths and bus stops for four days, he reached Rann of Kutch on July 16. “I was in touch with the girl all this while. She knew I was coming and she always opposed it,” he said.
After walking for over 10 hours in the desert, BSF jawans stopped him just 1.5 km before the India-Pakistan border. He was then handed over to the Kutch police. Siddiqui was booked for violating lockdown norms and under Criminal Amendment Act for illegally entering prohibited areas.
“I spent two-and-a-half days in jail and five days in police custody,” he said. He was then brought to Osmanabad and after being questioned by the local police for two days, he was handed over to his family. His father Salim said, “I am relieved that by God’s grace, my son is back with us… I will see to it that he doesn’t chat with her ever again.”
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