The tale of a non-Kashmiri daughter-in-law caught between law and in-laws

Hope for a happier life and a more comfortable future brought Nishat Ara, a 39-year-old woman from Lucknow, the place she grew up in, hundreds of kilometers away to Kashmir. Today, three and a half years later, she is fighting a long and complex legal battle here.

When her marriage was fixed with an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Srinagar, Nishat Ara, the Lucknow raised woman, thought to have found bliss. But she was mistaken.

Through a popular matrimonial website on the internet, both the parties had come across each other. Because of the distance, her parents were not inclined towards the doctor.

“But constant requests poured in,” Nishat says. “So, my brother who was in IIT at the time made a plan with his friends to come to Kashmir and meet the guy and his family.”

From his visit, her brother concluded that the family was an educated one and that there was no apparent reason to not provide a green signal for marriage. Nishat’s family then asked the groom’s family to visit them in Lucknow but instead they wanted Nishat and her family to visit Srinagar.

As per request of the groom and his family, Nishat and her family came to Srinagar to meet them on 27th September 2014. As it was a second marriage for both the parties, Nishat’s parents were more than happy to find a suitable man for their daughter.

Nishat was supposed to leave for Lucknow on 3rd October that year. A day before their flight, her husband’s family asked them to stay over at their place. When they went to stay there, the groom’s parents proposed marriage.

A day after, Nishat got married with Humayun in a local mosque.

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Before the marriage and on the night of the proposal, the groom’s family didn’t demand any dowry. “However,” Nishat says, “within the first two to three days of marriage, they started harassing me for dowry. Not only me, but they started calling my parents and asking them for a car and a house. They would tell my parents, ‘We’ll keep our son and your daughter separately in another house. Give us money for that.’ ”

As time passed, her ordeal grew in terms of both intensity and frequency. The privacy of the newly-wed was taken away within 20 days of marriage when her in-laws broke the locks of the door of their room, she says. Within a few months, her mother-in-law shifted her son to her own room. “Our beds were separated and mental torture increased,” Nishat says.

She was not even allowed to go to her mother-in-law’s room and used to work like a maid, trying to make good food. “But my mother-in-law would often come and mix water or chilli powder in it. The verbal abuse increased. My father-in-law once called me a prostitute,” she narrates.

In 2016, Nishat developed kidney stones.

“I was in a lot of pain. I used to urge my husband to take me to the hospital but he wouldn’t take me until he had my mother-in-law’s consent. They used to take me to the hospital only when they thought that I would die of pain,” she says. “But they never used their car for taking me to the hospital. ‘Did your father give us the car we asked for? Why should we use our car for you?’ they would tell me.”

Every time, she says, her in-laws took her to the hospital, they would soon take her out without the doctors’ permission. Even her doctor husband, she says, didn’t help her in any way.

Amid 2016 uprising in Kashmir, Nishat developed acute pain in her stomach one day. She begged her in-laws to take her to the hospital but they denied her citing the commotion outside, she says. After waiting for a gruelling three hours she left alone. As no transport was available outside, she walked herself to Florence hospital as it was the nearest one. On the way she was stopped by the government forces. When she reached the Emergency ward of the hospital, she immediately fainted.

The doctors rushed for help and medicated her till she regained consciousness following which she stayed in the hospital for some time. What is worth lamenting the most in this whole event, she says, is the fact that nobody from her new family even bothered to call and inquire about her.

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“I was even denied proper diet because all healthy fruits and foods were kept in my in-laws’ room where I wasn’t allowed to go,” she says. “My condition deteriorated so much that my pancreas and liver got involved.”

At this point, Nishat alone went to her home in Lucknow, where she got operated upon. The cost of the operation was borne by her parents.

When Nishat returned to Kashmir, her husband didn’t come to pick her up. Little did she know that she had a huge shock waiting for her. Her father-in-law told her upon reaching that Humayun had divorced her, a situation that Nishat refused to accept saying, ‘Who are you to tell me whether my husband has divorced me or not? I know better!’

Later when she went for her brother’s marriage, her in-laws, she says, texted her, this: ‘Don’t send her back. We don’t want her.’ She and her family didn’t respond to the text.

After the marriage function was over, her brother accompanied her to Kashmir. They wanted to talk to the in-laws about the whole situation. “However, she says, “in a sad turn of events, me and my brother were beaten up by my in-laws.”

That was the day she decided to file a complaint against her marital home.

On 9th April 2017, after enduring severe physical and mental torture for three years of marriage, Nishat finally left her in-laws home. Initially, her husband accompanied her. They rented a small apartment at Hazratbal, Srinagar. After a few weeks, her husband left her and went back to his home.

“She is a woman, a non-Kashmiri woman, living alone. I am scared for her. I advise her not to let anyone come home,” explains her lawyer Arifa Amin, stressing on the word non-Kashmiri. “She is fighting against a vile man. I am happy that she is taking this step but I don’t want her to be in any trouble.”

Before Arifa became Nishat’s advocate, no one was ready to take up her case because her father-in-law had allegedly corrupted the judicial offices. Arifa only decided to fight the case when Nishat openly told her “my in-laws are not letting me conceive”.

As per the lawyer’s account, Nishat has filed a Section 488 Cr.P.C against her husband for maintenance and Section 202 Cr.P.C against her father-in-law for reclaiming her assets that she brought with her at the time of the marriage and afterwards. But the cases keep shifting from 1st Munsif to CJM to Forest Magistrate because Nishat’s father-in-law keeps filing counter cases.

Her father-in-law has filed a defamation case against her. Moreover, he complained against Forest Magistrate and the advocate that they are “biased” towards Nishat. The Forest Magistrate refused to take the case further and transferred it back to the CJM.

Court for Small Cases took up the case and finally her property was released. The police came and seized the property. The father-in-law didn’t give any statement at all when the police went to get back her assets. However, he filed a Section 406 against Nishat of Criminal Trespass and against the policeman and her brother for Breaking and Entering.

“I don’t want to share my views on it,” Nishat’s father-in-law said when approached for his comments on the case. As her husband’s mobile number repeatedly comes on switched-off mode, the father-in-law said, “I will speak whenever I want to; but not now, and certainly not to you!”

Amid the snub and the advice from her relatives to go back to her maternal home, Nishat is putting her foot down by fighting three legal battles simultaneously. The cases that are open are being frequently postponed because the husband doesn’t turn up for court hearings. As it turns out, her husband hadn’t legally divorced his first wife when he married Nishat. “He had just abandoned her as well as his daughter from the first marriage,” she says.

But amid all this, Nishat’s life has become a journey to and from court. The fear of being alone notwithstanding, she is determined to win and take her husband back.


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