Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Afghan bride wins 'maintenance'
By Moska Najib
BBC News, Delhi
A court in the Indian capital, Delhi, has ordered an army doctor to pay monthly maintenance to an Afghan woman who has accused him of bigamy.
The Delhi court said that Sabra Ahmadzai's case of bigamy against the doctor, Maj Chandrashekhar Pant, was legitimate.
It directed Maj Pant to pay Ms Ahmadzai 8,000 rupees ($169) every month.
Maj Pant has denied marrying Ms Ahmadzai, saying his appearance in a wedding video was fabricated.
Ms Ahmadzai alleges that Maj Pant told her he was already married with two children after their wedding.
The ruling is only an interim order. A full judgement is yet to be delivered.
But a magistrate at the Mahila Court in Delhi, which resolves disputes related to women's issues, said she believed that "a prima facie case of economic abuse falling within the definition of domestic violence as given under [the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act] is made out in favour of the applicant".
The court also confirmed Ms Ahmadzai's association with Maj Pant as a "relationship in nature of marriage".
Maj Pant's lawyer did not respond to phone calls from the BBC. The defence ministry has not commented apart from saying earlier in the year that it would investigate the case.
Ms Ahmadzai's lawyer, Ravindra Garia, said she would pursue the case further.
"We would like the court to pass a similar final order, so she gets compensated for the mental trauma caused by her husband's conduct," he said.
Ms Ahmadzai was working as a Hindi translator in a hospital in Kabul when she says she met Maj Pant.
She said that she decided to marry him after he converted to Islam and after receiving the consent of her family and relatives.
Ms Ahmadzai said they were "together for about 15 days when he was transferred back to India".
"He promised to return with his parents and left. In six months he only called me three times, and in his last call he told me, 'Sabra you are young and you can marry again - I have two kids and a wife from before'," she told the BBC in February.
In Afghanistan marrying a foreigner is still taboo.
Army Major’s Afghan wife continues quest for justice
To slap him with criminal case once he is sacked
Abhishek Anshu/R S Markuna New Delhi/Haldwani
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
A city court has brought some cheer to Bibi Sabra Ahmadzai, an Afghan woman who married an Indian Army officer almost three years ago and was later dumped by him, but her quest for justice would end only after his dismissal from service. Talking to The Pioneer, Sabra said she would initiate criminal proceedings against Major Chandra Shekhar Pant after the Army dismisses him.
Reliving the trauma, she said, “Those two years in Afghanistan without my husband by my side were terrible. The conservative society there passed foul comments against me, and it made me more depressed.” But Sabra is happy now that the court has accepted her claim of being Major Pant’s wife and she wants to fight for justice till the end. She added, “It is all about justice. After what my husband did to me, he should be dismissed from Indian Army. I want him punished for his misdeeds.”
A city court had on Monday ordered Major Pant to pay on a monthly basis Rs 5,000 for maintenance and Rs 3,000 as rent to Sabra after she filed a case in April 2009 under the Domestic Violence Act. Sabra had produced their wedding photographs, a CD, nikahnama and the rent agreement of Kabul with Major Pant’s signature on it, in the court to support her claim. The husband, on the other hand, claimed that the “fabricated evidence” were meant to implicate him. But the court accepted Sabra’s claim that she was Major Pant’s legally wedded wife.
Major Pant was posted in 2006 as a doctor with the Indira Gandhi Hospital in Kabul and Sabra also worked there as a translator. Since her family did not agree to their marriage, Major Pant adopted Islam and rechristened himself as Himmat Khan. They married as per Islamic rites on November 10, 2006. After the wedding, Major Pant returned to India with a promise to take her to India soon. But in 2007, he informed Sabra that he was already married and had two children. She said, “I waited two years for him, but he did not return. So I decided in 2008 to come to India.”
In India, Sabra contacted Army officials, the External Affairs Ministry and other Government agencies as well. As Major Pant was posted at an Army Hospital in Pithoragarh, she and her relatives reached there and took up the matter with the Army officials concerned. She also spoke to the local police and her complaint was registered in Pithoragarh. Subsequently, Sabra filed a case in Delhi’s Karkardooma court in April 2009. Her request for prosecution of Major Pant for bigamy is pending with the Union Government.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Give alimony, court orders Army doctor
Pitthoragarh, October 6
On the petition filed by Sabra, the metropolitan court of Sunaina Sharma at Karkardooma, Delhi, ordered on September 11 that the marriage of the doctor with Sabra had been proved.
He would have to provide Rs 5,000 per month for her maintenance and Rs 3000 per month for rent of an alternative accommodation.
“I am very happy with the court’s judgement which proved me right, but I will continue to fight the case lodged by me at kotwali Pitthoragarh on December 7, 2008, under Section 494 and 495 of the IPC,” said Sabra over telephone from Delhi where she is doing some courses in Hindi.
Sabra, a resident of Kabul, came in contact with Indian Army doctor Chandra Shekhar Pant in 2006 when the doctor was posted there on a medical mission.
After passing her senior secondary examination, Sabra had started working as a translator at the international airport in Kabul.
"I was working as translator at the international airport where the doctor proposed to me on the pretext that he was unmarried. With the consent of my parents, we got married on December 10, 2006,” said Sabra.
She said that after their marriage, they lived in a rented apartment in Kabul before the doctor moved to India following his transfer.
Before leaving Afghanistan, Dr Pant promised to take her to India. Sabra not only produced in court her 'nikahnama' with the doctor but also the rent deal with the landlord there.
Sabra waited for the return of her husband for two years but when he neither returned nor responded to her telephone calls, she came to India looking for him.
“After reaching India, I came to know that he was already married and had two children from his first marriage,” said Sabra.
In search of him, Sabra reached Pitthoragarh in Uttarakhand where the doctor was posted in the army hospital in December 2008.
“First, I went to his residence and asked him to accept me. But when he asked me to get out, I lodged an application at the police station in Pitthoragarh as well as with the SDM, Pitthoragarh, for justice,” said Sabra.
The civil society in Pitthoragarh took the case of Sabra in their hands and helped her lodge the case.
“If the court has agreed on Sabra’s contention and accepted that she had married the doctor, then the Army should act against the doctor,” said Govind Kafaliya, a social activists who helped Sabra with her case.
The Army doctor denied his marriage before the court and contended that the photographs, marriage video and 'nikahnama' had been doctored.
The doctor also contended that, as the applicant was a foreign citizen, the court cannot initiate any trial in India without seeking the sanction of the central government according to Section 188 CrPC.
The doctor also alleged that Sabra never had a relationship with him therefore she did not fall within the definition of aggrieved person under the Act.
The court said that after careful perusal of the provisions of the Act, the court felt that there was no bar for a foreigner to approach the court for the seeking relief under the Act.
“I had faith in the Indian judiciary and that has been proved,” said Sabra who thanked the Indian judiciary, media and social activists who helped her pursue the case.
Major told to pay Afghan 'wife' Rs 8K every month
Smriti Singh , TNN
6 October 2009, 05:25am IST
NEW DELHI: The story of 20-year-old Bibi Sabera, an Afghan national, has taken a crucial turn with a trial court directing her alleged husband
Major Chandra Shekhar Pant to pay her a monthly maintenance. Sabera came to India to claim status of `legitimate wife' after she was allegedly dumped by Pant, who married her in Kabul according to Islamic rites.
While Sabera's plea seeking prosecution of Pant for bigamy is pending with the central government, the trial court's observation came after it found the incident to be a "prima facie case of economic abuse falling within the definition domestic violence''.
Awarding her an interim maintenance of Rs 8,000 per month, metropolitan magistrate Sunena Sharma trashed the arguments of Major Pant that Sabera was trying to falsely implicate him in the case and that he never married her. He claimed the photographs and other evidence place on record by Sabera's counsel Ravindra S Garia were fabricated and that his colleagues in the hospital knew he was already married.
Not convinced with Pant's contention, MM Sharma said: "It seems highly improbable that the applicant who has come from Afghanistan just to seek her status as a wife from the respondent, would have come with a false plea.'' The court relied on the nikahnama and the rent agreement executed in Kabul and placed on record by Sabera at the court. Both bore Pant's signature.
During the arguments when Pant's counsel contended the provisions of domestic violence act are not applicable to a foreign national, the court replied "there is no bar under the act for a foreign national to approach the court seeking relief if she proves herself to be in a domestic relationship''.
According to Sabera, she worked with the Indian mission in Kabul as a translator for Major Pant in 2006. She said the doctor had converted to Islam to marry her and changed his name to Himmat Khan but did not reveal his actual marital status.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned'
Posted by Guest in Featured Articles
May 7, 2009
Anandi Mukharjee, a student activist based in New Delhi writes about Sabra Ahmadzai, an Afghan girl who travelled from Kabul to Pithoragarh to Delhi in search for an Indian Army Major who had married her in Kabul but had disappeared 15 days later. Mukharjee narrates Sabra’s quest for justice as the army investigates her claims of marriage and being deceived.
While the inquiry is in progress, the Indian army Chief, Deepak Kapoor, says action will only be taken if the Major is found guilty.
‘If an inquiry reveals that an army man is at fault, he is automatically liable to appropriate disciplinary action and it will be immediately taken. The army does not believe in shielding a perpetrator of any kind of corruption or crime,’ says Kapoor.
But he also adds that the army has done its own investigation and has a certain ‘dichotomy’ between army records and what Ms. Ahmadzai claims in her records to the police.
‘The dichotomy stems from the fact that her so-called marriage took place in December. As per our records and according to the details of the officer on the Mission to Afghanistan, he was there from January to November. So there is a basic dichotomy between what the FIR has said and what the officer has done when he was detailed there.’ says General Kapoor.
I have actually lived with Sabra for a while, during her stint in New Delhi. From talking to her and knowing her personally, it’s obvious that this case is everything for her. While the Home Ministry turns her away everyday, she refuses to lose hope. She wants to fight the case in the civil courts, but since Major Pant is an army person, she needs the permission of the Home ministry to do so, and well, the Home Ministry seems to be too busy with other things – they never give her the appointments she wants. And yet, Sabra comes back with a smile on her face everyday. She is grateful for the love and support she gets from us, the student activists and many others. One can’t see an iota of bitterness in her.
I personally let Sabra live with me because I was moved by her spirit. Her journey – from Kabul to Pithoragarh to Delhi has not been an easy one. And yet, this sheltered Afghan girl has taken everything in her stride. When one asks her, she just says, ‘for a woman, this is life. But I’m also fighting for other women like me. What happened to me should not happen to anyone else – that is what my fight is for.’
She has her bad days, she looks at his photographs and breaks down, but she is a remarkably strong person. And that, I believe is the spirit of women. She knows her case might take years, but she is not willing to give up. As the saying goes – ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.’
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Fighting errant spouse and the system
March 22nd, 2009
By Sabra Ahmadzai
It’s been a little over three months in India. These days I make the rounds of the Defence Ministry and the Embassy seeking appointments and trying to meet officials. I also regularly have to talk to the media about my story. “Bura nahin lagta hai… baat karnee padti hai.” (I don’t mind… I have to talk to them.) Still, I wish one of them would go to the Defence Ministry and ask why officials there are refusing to even grant me a meeting.When I go there I am told that so-and-so official is in a meeting, gone out for lunch or whatever.
I remember the day I landed in India with my mother on November 30, 2008. With my ailing mother, I took a taxi to Anand Vihar. Then we travelled all night in a bus to Tanakpur Depot. From there, we took a jeep to Pitthoragarh.
He didn’t see me at first, he was so happy, laughing with his colleagues. I stood in front of him and said, “Hello sir, kaise hain?” (Hello sir, how are you?) He looked stunned. I wanted to slap him. His wife knew about us; she told me she was with him only because of her sons.
I’d given Pant three options — either I stay with him and his entire family, or he come back to Kabul with his family and begin living there or the third, divorce me. He refused all three options and offered me money instead. Then he asked me to leave. I refused and that is when he told me point blank that no one would listen to my story.
I decided to go to the police station. As luck would have it, there was a workshop going on related to women’s issues. Members of the media and the human rights bodies were there and they took up my case.
To say that I was hurt was an understatement. Was I the one who went to him? He went to my father and family members thrice with his proposal before I agreed and even then, only on the condition that he changed his religion. I thought, whatever my parents decide, they would keep my good in mind.
The stories he used to feed me! He left Kabul a fortnight after we got married and I heard nothing from him for three months. He called then to say he’d met with a really bad accident and that was his excuse for not coming out of the house and calling me. He didn’t call for another three months, and when he did, he asked me to marry someone else saying he had kids to take care of.
Life had become hell by then, for me and even for my sister. People would taunt us, “Kabul mein ladke nahin mile kya? (You didn’t meet any men in Kabul did you?)” And that was the least offensive. I’ve been lucky to get the support of many good people here. But the authorities seem to be in no mood to give me justice. They think I would get tired and go home. But they don’t know how stubborn the little girl is.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Afghan bride presses bigamy case in India
Feb 22, 2009 04:30 AM
SOUTH ASIA BUREAU
NEW DELHI – At a time when Indian women have been assaulted by so-called "moral police" for going to pubs, Sabra Ahmadzai , a 20-year-old Afghan, is being championed by women's groups for pursuing her rights.
Two years ago, Ahmadzai married an Indian army doctor who was assigned to a Kabul military hospital. Twenty days after the marriage, he returned to India, vowing to come back for her. But after leaving, he informed Ahmadzai he had a wife and children back home and was never going to return.
She decided to go to India and file a criminal complaint against him.
Her case has become a cause célèbre – featured in daily newspapers and on TV in both India and Afghanistan. She has met with India's home affairs minister and Afghanistan's ambassador to India.
A recent demonstration by her supporters blocked traffic for five hours here.
This is a very conservative country, slow to change. Dowry, female bondage and forced prostitution are common in some parts of India, especially rural areas. But a growing middle class is rethinking traditional attitudes.
Ahmadzai's dark eyes smoulder as she tells her story, sitting in a quiet corner of the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus here.
Two years ago, she married Maj. Chandrashekhar Pant just before he was reassigned to India but promised he would return.
Six months later, in July 2007, Ahmadzai says he phoned to say he already had a wife – and two children.
"He told me I was young and beautiful and should go ahead and get married again."
In Kabul, she was scorned – even though village elders and her family had approved of her marriage to the physician.
"After he left, women said I was a stigma and should take poison," Ahmadzai says. "Boys said they would marry me for 20 days, too. I decided to do something about it."
So on Nov. 30, Ahmadzai borrowed $3,300 and boarded a plane to India to find Pant.
Over the past two months, her case has been keenly watched and has stoked furious debates both about women's rights and the conduct of Indian soldiers abroad.
"People say there's no more need for a women's movement, but cases like Sabra's remind us we have a raison d'être," says Kavita Krishnan, general secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association. "This is still a country where a chief minister recently stood up and criticized women who go to pubs. And it's still a place where the army protects its own against a woman like Sabra."
Sitting on a low brick wall outside her guesthouse, Ahmadzai explains she met the 40-year-old Pant when she was helping out as a translator at the hospital where he worked.
"This man three times came to my family to ask to marry me," she says.
"The first time, my father said it would not be right for me to marry outside our religion."
Pant pledged to convert to Islam and changed his name to Himmat Khan to appease Ahmadzai's father.
"My family eventually said I should do this because he had treated so many of our sick children and this was the right thing to do," Ahmadzai continues.
Knitting her brow, she tells of the day she found her husband in the Himalayan town of Pithoragarh, a two-day trip from Delhi.
"When he called me to say he had a wife, he had told me where he was posted and that's the only information I had to find him.
"I got off the bus in Pithoragarh and went to the army hospital. When finally I found him, he was totally surprised. He rushed me out so I wouldn't speak to anyone else."
Pant took Ahmadzai to his home and the two began negotiations.
She gave him three choices: she could move in with his family in India; his Indian family could move with them to Kabul; or he could travel to Kabul and grant her a divorce.
"He said no to all three and just wanted to give me some money," Ahmadzai says, brushing her hair from her face.
Days later, she filed a police complaint. Under Indian law, Pant faces as many as 10 years in prison if convicted if bigamy.
Pant has denied he ever married Ahmadzai and said the wedding photos and videos she has provided are photo-shopped fakes.
Gen. Deepak Kapoor said at a press conference last month that there are discrepancies: Ahmadzai says the wedding took place in December 2006, but Pant was in Afghanistan from January to November of that year.
Ahmadzai says the army misinterpreted the wedding date from the Islamic calendar date she provided.
"They are doing what they can to protect their soldier," she says.
"But this will not go away. I will get justice."
Monday, February 9, 2009
Afghan bride confronts missing major
By Moska Najib
BBC News, Delhi
Ms Ahmadzai says that she has proof on video of her marriage to the army officer
Early morning prayers at Hazrat Nizammudin, a sufi shrine in the Indian capital, Delhi.
In the main hall of the onion-shaped dome people are milling around, their hands clasped in prayer.
Men entering the shrine pay their respects as women huddle outside, peering in.
Sitting by a pillar and praying is 20-year-old Sabra Ahmadzai. She left her home, Afghanistan, for the first time in November of last year.
Along with personal belongings which included copies of her wedding video and marriage certificate, she boarded a flight to India to confront the man she says is her missing husband - a doctor in the Indian Army.
Ms Ahmadzai was working as a Hindi translator in a hospital in Kabul where she met her husband, Maj Chandrashekhar Pant.
She is now pursuing a case of bigamy.
"We were together for about 15 days when he was transferred back to India," she says.
"He promised to return with his parents and left. In six months he only called me three times, and in his last call he told me Sabra you are young and you can marry again - I have two kids and a wife from before."
In Afghanistan marrying a foreigner is still taboo.
But Ms Ahmadzai said that she decided to go ahead after he converted to Islam and after receiving the consent of her family and relatives.
Dressed in a white gown and holding hands, her wedding video shows the couple walking down the aisle, cutting their wedding cake and performing the ceremonial rituals of an Islamic marriage.
Ms Ahmadzai says she waited for two years for her husband to return but the talk in the neighbourhood of her abandonment became unbearable.
"People would often ask me why hasn't your husband returned? Does he even call you? I was quite upset by all this, so I decided to come to India and confront him."
Having travelled two days on a local bus to the small hill town of Pithoragarh in the Himalayas, Ms Ahmadzai met Maj Pant on the hallway of the local hospital.
She says he was taken aback by her unexpected visit to his hometown.
"I told him I will give you three options and you can choose what suits you best," she said.
"When a girl marries she lives in her husband's house, so either you let me live with your family here in India, or you and your family come with me to Afghanistan. And if you are not happy with either of these choices, then at least come to Afghanistan and divorce me in front of the same cleric and the same people."
Ms Ahmadzai - who has now been in India for more than six weeks - is grateful for the support of local students and non-government organisations (NGOs).
With their help, she has already registered a complaint with the police. Her lawyer, Ravindra Garia, says they have a solid case against the major.
"Sabra is here, there are video CDs of her marriage and she has a wedding certificate which is a documentary proof that this marriage actually took place," he says.
However, according to the local police, Maj Pant has said his picture in the wedding video has been fabricated.
"Chandrashekhar Pant denies that any marriage ceremony has taken place and believes that these photographs are actually cut and paste," Police superintendent of Pithoragarh, PS Rawat told the BBC.
While an inquiry is in progress, the Indian Army Chief, Deepak Kapoor, says action will only be taken if the major is found guilty.
The bride has thanked all who have helped her in Delhi
"If an inquiry reveals that an army man is at fault, he is automatically liable to appropriate disciplinary action and it will be immediately taken. The army does not believe in the philosophy of shielding a perpetrator of any kind of irregularity, corruption or crime," he said.
Gen Kapoor says the army has done its own investigation and has found a certain "dichotomy" between army records and what Ms Ahmadzai claims in her complaint to the police.
"The dichotomy stems from the fact that her so-called marriage took place in December. As per our records and according to the details of the officer on the mission to Afghanistan, he was there from January to November. So there is a basic dichotomy in what the FIR (First Information Report) has said and what the officer has done when he was detailed there," Gen Kapoor said.
Meanwhile, for Sabra Ahmadzai this is a battle that must be fought - even if it takes many years.
"I have learnt that you should not marry outside your community," she says, "and if you do then you should inquire and be careful."
As she walks out of the shrine into the winding lanes of Nizamuddin, she talks of returning to Afghanistan and opening an NGO that will help other Afghan women from being exploited in these difficult times her country is facing.
"This fight is not just for me," she says while nibbling on prayer sweets and rose petals, "but for people who are facing similar situations and they must fight it out."
Saturday, January 31, 2009
Struggle for Justice by Deceived Afghan Bride Resonates in India
By Rama Lakshmi
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, January 31, 2009; Page A08
NEW DELHI -- Twenty-year-old Sabra Ahmadzai finished her final high school test in Afghanistan, took out a bank loan and then flew to India on the last day of November. She came to look for an Indian army doctor who she said had deceived, married and then abandoned her in Kabul, making her an object of shame and ridicule.
In India, Ahmadzai's journey has become a rallying point for young women across college campuses who find in her a source of inspiration to question powerful hierarchies of traditional societies. The students in three universities in the capital are trying to set up a "Justice Committee for Sabra" by enlisting eminent lawyers, retired judges, professors and independent activists.
The first thing Ahmadzai did in India was confront her husband in front of his first wife and children. But Ahmadzai did not stop there. She also filed a police complaint and challenged the Indian army, meeting with government officials, women's groups, human rights organizers and student activists. She says her mission is to see her husband, Maj. Chandrashekhar Pant, punished under Indian law prohibiting bigamy.
Pant was stationed at the Indian medical hospital in Kabul and married Ahmadzai two years ago. The ceremony was held 20 days before he returned to India, she said.
He later called Ahmadzai to inform her that he was already married and had two children.
"I had nothing else but anger when I left Kabul. I did not know a single person in India," said Ahmadzai, her close-set eyes darkening as she recalled her troubles.
She sat in the office of the students union of New Delhi's prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University, under a large poster with the words, "Oppression is your privilege, protest is your right."
"But now so many Indians see my fight as theirs," she added. "I want him behind the bars of a jail so that no man ever attempts this again with any other woman in the world. My family trusted him. He not only cheated me, but broke their heart, as well. My family has been ostracized in Kabul because of this shame."
Pant did not respond to multiple text and telephone messages requesting comment and does not have a lawyer representing him publicly.
Ahmadzai carries her nikaah nama, or marriage certificate, and a compact disc of photographs and video clips of her elaborate Kabul wedding, attended by about 700 people. "She is battling the power structures in both Afghanistan and India. She is an inspiration for all of us here," said Sucheta De, 25, a geography student who is a counselor at the student union. "What we women regard as our personal struggle is often a political struggle against dominant social structures."
Ahmadzai worked at the Indian hospital in Kabul as a part-time interpreter for the equivalent of $150 a month, while attending school in the afternoon. She said she had learned Hindi from the popular Bollywood movies in her middle-class home.
Pant, who was her boss, approached her family three times with his marriage proposal, Ahmadzai said. When her mother sent him away because he was not a Muslim, he returned with a priest pledging to convert from Hinduism to Islam, she added.
"I did not love him. He was my boss and twice my age. But the elders and the priest said, 'We have given our word and cannot take it back,' " she recalled. "He had won their hearts by treating sick children of my relatives, too. They liked him. I followed their wishes obediently."
Pant changed his name to Himmat Khan, and called her "Cat" in Hindi, she said. But after less than three weeks of married life, she said, Pant told her that the army was sending him back to India and that he would return for her. Ahmadzai said she received three calls in six months and the last one, in the middle of 2007, was an "unimaginable blow." "He said: 'Sabra, you are young, beautiful; you should remarry. I have a wife and two sons here in India,' " she recalled.
Then the taunts began. People in Kabul jeered at her. "If I spoke ill about him, it was like slapping my own face. So I kept quiet," she said. "Women said that I was a stigma on earth and should take poison and die. The local boys harassed me and shouted that they are ready to marry me for 20 days, too. I decided to come to India to confront him."
She pledged her uncle's ancestral land for a bank loan, collected her savings and went to India with her mother. From New Delhi, she took a bus to meet Pant in the Himalayan town of Pithoragarh, where he is stationed.
"I told him to come to Kabul and divorce me in front of everybody," Ahmadzai said. "It is better to be divorced than abandoned in my society."
Pant refused to accept her or divorce her, offering her money instead, she said. Enraged, Ahmadzai filed a police complaint. Overnight, her cause was adopted by local activist groups. A signature campaign began. Women and students waved placards and protested in support of her, and blocked traffic for five hours demanding that Pant be punished. Ahmadzai addressed the crowds. The city's newspapers splashed her story on their front pages. Ahmadzai's mother fell sick and returned to Kabul, but Ahmadzai came to New Delhi and met the home affairs minister and the National Commission for Women.
Earlier this month, Gen. Deepak Kapoor, the Indian army's chief of staff, told reporters that army officials are looking into Ahmadzai's allegations.
Pant could face charges of bigamy and changing his religion without the army's permission, transgressions that could result in expulsion from military service. Under Indian civil law, Pant could face seven to 10 years in prison for bigamy, if convicted, according to Ravinder Singh Garia, Ahmadzai's attorney in New Delhi.
Police in Pithoragarh said they have registered Ahmadzai's complaint but have not filed charges against Pant because the case involves actions allegedly committed abroad and because the army is conducting a probe. "Our inquiry is in progress," Kapoor said. "If he is found to be at fault, we will not hesitate at any point to take action."
But, the army chief added, there was a discrepancy in the dates. "She said in her police complaint that her marriage took place in December," he said. "But as per our records, the major was there in Afghanistan from January to November."
Ahmadzai said the army interpreted the date incorrectly from the Islamic Afghan calendar date she gave in her police report.
Her supporters say that Pant should be tried in a civilian court.
"The army can punish him, but it cannot give her justice. Only a civil court can," said Mobeen Alam, 30, a doctoral student and joint secretary of the Jawaharlal Nehru University student union. "If the army is indeed conducting an inquiry, why have they not contacted Sabra to record her version?"
Ahmadzai's appointments in New Delhi are now managed by the university students in the sprawling campus that is the font of India's liberal politics. She communicates with her family daily on Google Talk, sits in on films and debates the Israeli war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Ahmadzai now says that if her case drags on, she may try to enroll in an undergraduate course. "I do not know how long my struggle will go on," she said. "At least I will have a degree while I wait for justice."
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Ditched Afghan girl pursues Indian husband
By Amrit Dhillon, Correspondent
Published: January 24, 2009, 00:31
New Delhi: A young Afghan woman has arrived in India to confront the Indian army officer who married her two years ago in Kabul and then dumped her a fortnight later.
Sabra Ahmadzai, 20, was working as a Hindi translator in an Indian army hospital in Kabul where she met Major Chandrashekhar Pant, a doctor posted at the hospital.
"He was very keen to marry me but my parents were hesitant because he is a Hindu. He persuaded them to let me marry him and converted to Islam for my sake," she said.
Ahmadzai arrived in the Indian capital in December to be reunited with her husband only to discover that he is married with two children.
She says that after Pant - or 'Himmat Khan' as he became after his conversion - left Kabul, he called her regularly. The calls tapered off and then stopped.
Her neighbours and relatives began taunting her that she had been 'a holiday wife', ditched by a man who did not love her. Men began jeering, asking if they could also spend a fortnight with her.
"I decided that life wasn't worth living. The shame was terrible. I had to find out what had happened and why he was behaving like this. I took leave and came here to find him," she said.
After flying to New Delhi, she made a two-day bus journey to Pithoragarh in north India where Pant lives with his family and works at the local hospital.
When she confronted him, she gave him two options: let me live with you here or return to Kabul with your family and we'll all live together.
It seems that Pant refused both options and instead offered her financial compensation. "I refused his money. It maddened me to think he could buy me off. I have decided I will fight him in the courts to get justice," said Ahmadzai who is being helped by New Delhi lawyer Ravinder Garia.
Garia says Pant can be charged with bigamy. Ahmadzai has already filed a complaint with the police charging him with this offence.
Garia also wants the Indian Army to fire him. "His behaviour is unbecoming. He is an educated man who knows the law. He knew he was committing a crime. He has been dishonest and deceitful," he said.
Pant refuses to speak to the press but reporters say in the initial meetings, his wife was contemptuous towards Ahmadzai and quote her as saying "such women know how to trap men like my husband".
Mobeen Alam, an Afghan student in New Delhi, said he felt sorry for Ahmadzai because her position in Afghan society as an abandoned wife is pitiful. "She will find it hard to remarry. She made a mistake marrying a foreigner but we need to punish her husband so that other men don't do this to other girls," said Mr Alam.
Ahmadzai says that she will not rest until her 'husband' has been punished. "I have been suffering for months while he's been happy in his life. He hasn't even said sorry to me," she said.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Afghan woman wants 'justice' from Army
Press Trust Of India
New Delhi, January 15, 2009
First Published: 17:46 IST(15/1/2009) ; Last Updated: 17:47 IST(15/1/2009)
Afghan national Sabra Khan wants the Indian Army to do "justice" by speaking to her or her lawyer on the police case against a serving major on bigamy charges.
Reacting to army chief General Deepak Kapoor's remarks at a press conference yesterday that there was a "dichotomy" in the FIR, Khan said: "If they (Army) are doing an investigation, they should also speak to me or my lawyer (about the complaint)."
Her lawyer Ravinder Gariha, speaking on Sabra's behalf, said the army was not intending to do justice to Sabra, but was investigating the charges against Major Chandrasekhar Pant to ensure discipline within its ranks.
"Army is not investigating the complaint to do justice to Sabra, but is investigating to ensure discipline can be maintained," Gariha told a television channel in New Delhi.
On Thursday, Kapoor had said the army had done its own investigation and found certain "dichotomy" in what Sabra claimed in her FIR to the police and the army records.
"The dichotomy stems from the fact that her so-called marriage took place in December. As per our records and the detainment of the officer on mission to Afghanistan, he was there from January to November. So there is a basic dichotomy in what the FIR has said and what the officer has done when he was detailed there," Kapoor had said.
The woman, being a foreign national, had to follow the procedure of approaching the Indian Embassy in Kabul, he had said at the annual Army Day eve press conference.
Betrayed Afghan girl's fight: Army Chief reacts
Rupashree Nanda / CNN-IBN
Published on Thu, Jan 15, 2009 at 10:30, Updated on Thu, Jan 15, 2009 at 10:59
New Delhi: The Army Chief has finally reacted on the allegations of Sabra Ahmadzai, an Afghan woman who claims to have been deserted by her husband, an Indian Army Major.
Twenty-year-old Sabra has travelled all the way to India, carrying with her photographs of her marriage to Major Chandrasekhar Pant, who she claims went as far as converting to Islam to win over her parents.
Major Pant married Sabra when he was in Kabul as a part of rebuilding efforts by India two years ago. However, Major Pant left for India three weeks after the marriage and in six months, the frequent phone rings went silent. And therefore, after two years Sabra set out for Pithorgarh in Uttarakhand looking for her husband, only to discover that he is already married and has two children.
“How can a doctor do this? How can someone do this? He has insulted his profession, insulted the army and insulted the country,” Sabra says.
Every day, Sabra meets lawyers, ministers, journalists and students to tell her story. Her most recent meeting was with the Afghan Ambassador to India. She has been assured of her country's support but she has a few questions for the Indian Army.
“I have lodged a complaint but the Army has not contacted me so far. If they are really working on this then they should at least try to get in touch with me or my lawyer,” she says.
Sabra’s lawyer Ravinder Gariha says, “Army has not initiated proceedings to do justice to Sabra. Army has initiated proceedings to see that discipline can be maintained.”
Major Pant's alleged indiscretion is not an isolated case. And because shame and sorrow usually follow such allegations, there is no doubt that the Army loses quite a bit of its goodwill.
When asked about Sabra, Army Chief Deepak Kapoor said that if found guilty, Army would not hesitate to take action against Major Pant.
“She said that her so-called marriage took place sometime during December. However, as per our records and as per the details of the Officer of the Mission to Afghanistan, he (Major Pant) was there between January and November. If any of my Army men are found to be at fault, we have not hesitated at any point to take an action,” Kapoor said.
The fact that this case happened in a foreign country and involves foreign nationals makes the processes involved much more tedious and time consuming, but Major Pant would never have imagined that Sabra would follow him from Afghanistan to India, looking for justice.
Born in regimented Afghanistan, Sabha has been a refugee in Pakistan. And now she has lost her home again being deserted by the man she thought was legally her husband.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Army probe on against doctor for deserting Afghan woman
14 Jan 2009, 2345 hrs IST, TNN
NEW DELHI: The Army is conducting a full-fledged inquiry into the case of young Afghan translator Sabra Khan, who has alleged that she was deceived
by an Indian Army doctor who first married her in Afghanistan and then abandoned her.
Army chief General Deepak Kapoor on Wednesday said an inquiry was in progress to get to the bottom of the case. "The Army does not believe in shielding any perpetrator for any act of corruption, indiscipline or wrongdoing,'' he said.
But, at the same time, Gen Kapoor said there was "a bit of dichotomy'' in Sabra Khan's FIR and Army records. For instance, Sabra has stated in her FIR that the Army doctor, Major Chandrasekhar Pant, married her in December 2006 when he was posted at the Indira Gandhi Hospital in Kabul, which is run by the Indian mission there.
"But our records show the officer was in Afghanistan from January to November only,'' said General Kapoor. A thorough investigation would also require the presence of witnesses from Afghanistan, a matter which will have to be worked out through diplomatic channels between the two countries.
Nevertheless, Gen Kapoor said, "Our inquiry is in progress. We have never hesitated in taking appropriate disciplinary action against any Army man who is at fault.''
As reported by TOI earlier, 21-year-old Sabra recently arrived in India to hunt for Major Pant, who is now posted at the Army hospital in Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand.
Rejected by Major Pant, who is married with two children, Sabra has met home minister P Chidambaram and registered a complaint with the National Commission for Women in her search for justice.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Afghan girl jilted by Indian army officer closes in on justice
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
RAHUL BEDI in New Delhi
A 20-YEAR OLD semi-literate Afghan girl has taken on the Indian army after being ditched by one of its officers, who married her under false pretences during a posting in Kabul three years ago.
Sabra Khan seems to be winning as her persistence has resulted in a preliminary military court ruling that Maj Chandrasekhar Pant of the Army Medical Corps be charged with bigamy and converting to Islam without prior official permission.
“I don’t want him back in my life,” Sabra said. “He tried to buy me out of the marriage. I threw the offer back at him telling him that money cannot buy my love or my forgiveness. Now I want him punished.”
Sabra learnt Hindi by watching Bollywood films, which earned her a job at Kabul’s Indian Mission Hospital in Kabul in 2006.
It was there she ended up working closely with Maj Pant, who was posted there for nine months.
The 40-year-old Indian officer was so smitten by Sabra that he approached her family three times for permission to marry her; but he was turned down each time for being an Indian and a Hindu.
But when he offered to change his religion and become Muslim, changing his name to Himmat Khan, they agreed, believing he loved Sabra enough to convert.
After a lavish wedding the couple moved into a rented house in Kabul, but the honeymoon lasted barely a fortnight as Maj Pant returned home, claiming to have been recalled by the army.
Six months later he called Sabra and suggested she remarry as he already had a wife and two children. All communication thereafter ceased and Sabra’s humiliation in a highly conservative society began. “Strangers would taunt my mother for marrying me to an Indian instead of an Afghan,” Sabra recalled.
Eventually fed up with playing the abandoned wife, Sabra arrived in Delhi last month armed with her nikamnamah or Muslim marriage certificate, a picture album and a video of the wedding. From there she embarked on a two-day bus journey to the small hill town of Pithoragarh in the Himalayas, where Maj Pant worked.
“Courage comes only when you fight your pain,” she said. “I had lost everything a person can possibly lose and there was nothing to be scared of now.”
She presented the major with three options: to let her live with his family in India; to move to Afghanistan with them; or to return to Kabul to secure a divorce from the same qazi or priest who had solemnised their union.
He turned them all down and offered her money instead, which she rebuffed.
Finally, with the help of local women’s groups and journalists in Pithoragarh, Sabra registered a complaint with the police and lobbied the army for justice, which appears imminent.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Betrayed Afghan girl takes on Indian Army Major
Rupashree Nanda / CNN-IBN
Published on Sun, Jan 11, 2009 at 10:18, Updated on Sun, Jan 11, 2009 at 11:02 in Nation section
New Delhi: The story of Sabra, a 20-year-old Afghan interpreter, is all about extraordinary willpower.
Sabra hasn’t studied beyond class XII, but she is in India taking on her estranged Major Chandrasekhar Pant, who, she alleges, deceived and deserted her three weeks after marrying her in Kabul.
The Afghan girl was barely 18 when she married Major Pant. She says they met at the Indian Medical Mission hospital in Kabul, where she was working as an interpreter, and he, as a doctor.
Sabra claims that he even changed his religion to convince her parents. However, Major Pant left for India three weeks after the marriage and in six months the frequent phone rings went silent.
“People in my country taunt me that I have been deceived by a doctor. He married me and went away. The local boys tease they don’t mind marrying me for 20 days,” Sabra says.
Two years later, Sabra set out for Pithorgarh in Uttarakhand looking for her husband, only to discover that he is already married and has two children.
All that he could offer by way of compensation was money, but Sabra wanted justice and therefore she lodged an FIR in the Pithorgarh police station.
“God will punish him for the wrong he has done to my life,” she says.
Sabra is now lodged in Delhi with the Jawaharlal Nehru University students union and has approached Home Minister P Chidambaram and the National Commission for Women.
“I want to meet Defence Minister AK Antony,” Sabra adds.
Sources at the Army Medical Corps say, “Army Court of inquiry has found a prima facie case against Major Chandrasekhar Pant. A summary of evidence was conducted and the report has been submitted to the Central Army Commander. He is likely to be charged on two counts — bigamy and changing his religion without taking prior permission.”
Sabra means patience and resilience. It also means one who is without a blemish but the young Afghan girl is willing to fight it out for as long as necessary.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Jilted Afghan seeks justice in India
Shaikh Azizur Rahman, Foreign Correspondent
Last Updated: January 05. 2009 9:30AM UAE / January 5. 2009 5:30AM GMT
KOLKATA: When Sabra Ahmedzai, a young Afghan woman, married an Indian army doctor in Kabul two years ago, the last thing she expected was to discover her new husband not only had a wife and children but would later deny he and Ms Ahmedzai had ever got married.
Only two weeks after their wedding, Ms Ahmedzai’s husband, Dr Chadrasekhar Pant, abruptly left Afghanistan for India on what he said was an “official order”, only to phone her six months later saying he had a wife and two children and the two could never see each other again.
In November, 18 months later, the 21-year-old Afghan arrived in India and has vowed to remain until she gets justice, garnering significant publicity in the process, galvanising the support of women’s rights activists and the public and embarrassing the army.
“The man has cheated two women – his Indian wife and then his Afghan wife. It is shocking to find an army officer caught in this irresponsible behaviour and act of deceit,” said Shabnam Hashmi, a human rights activist.
“But, we, as responsible Indians, must join [Ms Ahmedzai] in her fight and see that she is not denied justice.”
Indian television last week broadcast clips from the video of the couple’s traditional Afghan wedding, showing them signing marriage documents, holding hands, embracing and posing for cameras.
The footage has added weight to the complaint Ms Ahmedzai has filed with police in northern Uttarakhand state’s Pithoragarh town, who have charged Dr Pant with “bigamy, hiding crucial facts before marrying the complainant and misleading her”.
Dr Pant is working at an army hospital in the area.
Ms Ahmedzai said she was overwhelmed with the support she has received in India.
New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union has taken the lead role in offering support to Ms Ahmedzai, including providing her with accommodation.
Mohammad Mobeen Alam, the joint secretary of JNUSU, said the incident raised questions about the conduct of the Indian army.
“It surprises us that an Indian army official on a sensitive assignment in Kabul married a foreign girl and Indian military intelligence did not know about it. [Dr Pant] has dented the image of the armed forces and our nation. We shall not rest until we see [him] punished.”
The story began in 2006 when Ms Ahmedzai, who had just finished high school and spoke fluent Hindi, became Dr Pant’s translator at the Indian Medical Mission in Kabul. The 38-year-old Hindu doctor fell in love with Ms Ahmedzai, a Muslim, then 19, and proposed to her.
Dr Pant approached the girl’s family three times asking for her hand in marriage but was refused because he was not Muslim, before offering to convert to Islam, which they eventually accepted.
At the wedding, however, no one from Dr Pant’s family was present because, according to him, his parents could not accept their son changing religion.
“Now I know that simply because he had a wife and children in India, he was keeping [his family] in the dark from our marriage,” Ms Ahmedzai said.
She said after getting married the couple lived together in Kabul for two weeks before Dr Pant suddenly returned to India.
He “said he would be back on assignment in Kabul again after one year. I loved him and I eagerly waited to be with him.
“But six months after he had left Afghanistan, he shocked us with a phone call saying that he had a wife and two children from before he met me and could no longer accept me as his wife.”
Since arriving in India in November with her mother, who has in the meantime returned to Afghanistan because of an illness, Ms Ahmedzai has worked tirelessly for a settlement with her husband.
The situation, she said, was causing her and her family problems back in Kabul, where conservative social customs can lead to the ostracisation or worse of women who are deemed to conduct shameful relationships.
Ms Ahmedzai shocked her husband last month when she tracked him down in Pithoragarh. There she offered him several proposals to resolve the situation, including the possibility of her moving in with his family as his second wife, or his bringing the family back to Kabul where they could all live together.
Otherwise, she asked that he come to Kabul to divorce her in front of the marriage register, “to save the face of our family in Afghanistan”.
“But he just offered me money and asked me to go back to Afghanistan,” she said.
“I told him that neither my love nor my forgiveness could be bought with money. He is a cheat. I want to see him punished.”
Legal experts said Dr Pant was not willing to sign divorce documents because it would prove that he entered bigamy and changed his religion without informing the Indian army authority, both of which were illegal in the army.
The Indian army’s director general of medical services, Lt Gen N K Parmar, said if the allegations against Dr Pant were found to be true, the army will take action against the doctor in addition to whatever the police do.
But Ms Ahmedzai said no punishment could compensate for her heartache.
“I hate him now because he has told his office and the media that he never married me. I don’t want him as my husband any more – I just want a divorce.”
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Army officer accused of duping Afghan woman
Tuesday, Dec 30, 2008
Sabra claims to have married Major Chandrasekhar Pant in Kabul two years ago
She is being supported by the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union
NEW DELHI: Accusing a Major in the Indian Army’s Medical Corps of marrying and then deserting her, Afghan national Sabra on Monday met Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram to put forth her complaint and seek justice.
Sabra, who claims to have married Major (Dr.) Chandrasekhar Pant in Kabul two years ago, after he converted to Islam, alleges that she was unaware that Major Pant had a wife and two children back home.
Speaking to media persons on Monday, Sabra recalled that she met Major Pant during his stint as a doctor at the Indira Gandhi Hospital run by the Indian diplomatic mission in Kabul where she worked as a translator.
“I was initially attached as a translator to another doctor, but Major Pant asked for my services as he seemed unhappy with his translator. During the course of time he asked for my hand in marriage, but my parents refused on the ground that we were from different religions and he was much older than me,” she said.
Turned down by her parents, Sabra claims the doctor went on to change his religion and took on the name Himmat Khan. “When he changed his religion for the sake of getting married to me, my parents were led into believing that he was truly committed. And since he was a doctor, they felt by marrying us off they could secure my future,” said Sabra who is being supported by the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union.
According to Sabra, the marriage was solemnised in November 2006. “After 15 days of living together, he told me that he has to go to India on work and that he will return in a year’s time with his parents,” she said.
The wait stretched to two years and Sabra decided to come to India to seek out her husband. On landing in India, Sabra went to the Army Hospital in Pithoragarh where the Major is currently posted. “I told him that he should either come with me to Afghanistan and I will have no qualms if his family accompanies him there or he should let me stay here with him or grant me divorce in front of the people who got us married. Since he is unwilling to agree to any of these, I have decided to seek justice from the Government of this country,” said Sabra. Having made several representations, including one for an extension of her visa, Sabra’s hopes now rest on the Home Ministry.
Army probing allegation of Afghan woman against doctor
New Delhi, Dec 30
The Army on Tuesday said it was probing the claim of a young Afghan woman who alleged that a married Indian Army doctor duped her into wedlock during his stint in the Indian Mission in Kabul.
Army's Director General of Medical Services Lt Gen N K Parmar said the allegations against Major Dr Chandrashekhar Pant were being investigated and if found guilty action will be taken against the doctor.
Action will be taken based on the report of the investigation," Parmar told reporters here.
A resident of Kabul, Sabra Khan, yesterday met Home Minister P Chidambaram seeking his permission to prosecute the doctor.
Noting that the case is a complex one as a foreign national is involved in it, Parmer said the Army was not denying. "We will have to find out the truth and if he is found guilty, action will be taken against him."
He, however, said the doctor has denied all the allegations.
According to Sabra, she worked with the Indian Mission in Kabul, when she married Major Dr Chandrashekhar Pant for whom she had worked as a translator in 2006.
The doctor had converted to Islam to marry her and changed his name to Himmat Khan but did not reveal his actual marital status, claimed Sabra, who is in India for the past one month to seek justice.
'Khuda gawah, he duped me'
By: MiD DAY CorrespondentDate: 2008-12-30
Afghan woman, allegedly tricked into wedlock, seeks permission to prosecute Indian Army 'husband'
Delhi: A young Afghan woman has arrived in India looking for her lost love. Sabra Khan has been here for the past one month seeking permission from the Indian government to persecute her husband, who she alleges, abandoned her in Afghanistan.
If Sabra is to be believed, her husband is a doctor with the Indian Army, who converted to Islam to marry her but did not reveal that he had been married earlier to an Indian woman.
Sabra even met Home Minister P Chidambaram on Monday.
Her lawyer Raveendra Singh Garhia said, "We have been assured by the Home Ministry that a proper investigation will be carried out and appropriate action will be taken against the person if found guilty."
According to Sabra, she was working with the Indira Gandhi Hospital run by the Indian mission in Kabul, when she married Major Dr Chandrashekhar Pant, for whom she had worked as a translator in 2006. She claimed that 15 days after staying with her, the doctor left for India on a posting.
Sabra's world turned upside down when after a few months, he called her up to say that he couldn't get her to India as he was already married and had two kids.
Sabra said that last month she arrived in India and went to meet the major at the Army hospital at Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand, but did not get a favourable response from him.
She has also registered a complaint with the National Commission for Women, which is yet to respond to her plea. The police have expressed inability to take any action in the matter without the permission of the Central government as the offence was committed outside India's territory.
She says Major Chandrashekhar Pant, currently posted as a doctor at Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand, married her in Afghanistan. She claims Pant didn't reveal he was a married man.