PHOTO: Mansi Thapliyal VIA BBC
The Pakistan-India conflict has not been kind on the families torn apart after the partition in 1947. Over the decades, many tragic love stories have come to the fore with several having ended in sorrow.
One such tale of love and loss is recounted by Mohammad Javed, an Indian man who fell in love with a Pakistani girl, and suffered torture at the hands of Indian authorities along with spending eleven and a half years in jail branded as a terrorist.
It was love at first sight for both Javed and Mobina when they met in Karachi in 1999. Javed, who is from Rampur in northern India, had taken his mother to Pakistan to visit her family who had migrated to the country after the partition in 1947.
“Within a month of our meeting, we expressed our love for each other,” Javed told BBC two years after he was cleared of all charges.
Javed fell in love with Mobina (second from right) at first sight PHOTO: Mansi Thapliyal VIA BBC
Javed spent three-and a half months in Karachi during which the couple confessed their love for each other. “We were at a family wedding where there were other young women and I think she felt insecure. She took me aside and told me that I was not to look at any other girl since she was in love with me. I told her I felt the same way,” Javed shared.
Javed, now 33, recalls how they would meet each other clandestinely in Karachi’s Safari Park. “She would leave home in the morning telling her family that she was going to college. I would meet her outside the college gate, and we would go and hang out in Sipari Park.”
He returned to India and spent all his salary working as a television mechanic on speaking with Mobina, or Gudiya (doll), spending INR62 a minute to speak to her via a telephone booth.
He returned to Pakistan a year later and stayed for two months. The couple’s family was now aware of their feelings for each other and they had no objections to their marriage. However, there was one problem. Mobina’s family wanted Javed to move to Pakistan, whereas Javed’s wanted the opposite.
Javed still carries one of Mobina’s letters with him PHOTO: Mansi Thapliyal VIA BBC
This time when he left for India, he was not to know that he would never be coming back. “This time as I prepared to leave, she said, ‘You go, I will convince my family and then you come back and take me with you.’ I didn’t know that when I left, I would never return. That I would never see her again,” he said, wistfully.
The two kept writing to each other over the next two years, with Javed enlisting the help of his friends as his Urdu was not up to par.
And then one day, something happened that changed the course of their lives forever.
“I still remember the day very clearly,” said Javed. “It was August 10, 2002. It was a Saturday. I was in my shop when a man came and asked me to go with him and fix his television. I told him I didn’t do house calls, but he seemed quite distraught, so I agreed.”
One the way, a car pulled up and Javed was abducted. Although, he initially thought they were criminals, it soon dawned on him that they were members of Indian police. “Then I overheard them talking and I could understand that they were from the police”.
Javed spent eleven and a half years in prison PHOTO: Mansi Thapliyal VIA BBC
Hence began Javed’s ordeal. “They beat me black and blue, hung me upside-down and kept lowering my head into a tub of water. It was so painful. I couldn’t bear it any longer. I begged them to kill me,” he recalled how he was tortured for three days.
Javed was accused of being “an agent” for Pakistan’s ISI intelligence agency, and his tormenters claimed he had been passing on secrets about the ministry of external affairs and defence ministry to Islamabad.
His friends were also arrested and they were all charged under India’s controversial special anti-terror law, The Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) for being “dreaded terrorists” who were “waging war against India”.
“This meant we couldn’t get bail. We were so demoralised. We were told if we were convicted, we could get the death penalty,” Javed said.
Javed says he has no idea why he was singled out. “But in jail, people said it was because of the Kargil conflict and that any Muslim who had travelled to Pakistan soon after the fighting was a suspect.”
A spokesperson for the campaign group Rihai Manch told the BBC that there are dozens of young Muslim men like Javed who have been held in prisons across India on trumped-up charges.
It was the memory of his love that kept him sane during the long years in jail, shares Javed, when even his friends turned away from him. They accused him of giving their names to the police.
“I used to tell my fellow prisoners about Mobina, how we fell in love, her habits, how she would tease me when I visited her. This made my time in prison more bearable and helped me keep her memory alive.”
His long stay in jail also took a toll on his parents. His mother blamed herself for his wrongful confinement and his father sold his land and family jewelry, accumulating debts on his way to fight his case.
Today, he’s trying to rebuild his life PHOTO: Mansi Thapliyal VIA BBC
Javed was finally released from jail on January 19, 2014 when a court threw all charges against him after eleven and a half years. “When I walked out of jail, for a while it was difficult to believe that I was really free,” he says, adding, “but one-third of my life, which was the most important time of my life, my entire 20s, was taken away from me.”
Javed has since been trying to rebuild his life. He’s taken a shop close to his house where he repairs old TV sets. He’s not in touch with Mobina because he fears she may be married now.
“I have managed to expel her from my head, but not from my heart. I still love her, but I’m afraid to call her. What happens if they go after me or my family again?”
This article originally appeared on BBC