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Citizens of nowhere: Caught in India-Pak tangle

It’s traumatic for any woman to learn that her husband is gay. And when the husband in question is from Pakistan and the wife from India, it’s a story that goes beyond personal anguish to get enmeshed in the complicated tangle that the two countries are forever caught in.

Ask Salma*, whose marriage lasted just a year and who has been fighting a lone battle for her 11-year-old daughter’s nationality. The resident from Mumbra was married to Karachi-based Salman* in 2005. She was from a lower middle class family who had managed to complete her masters in economics, and he a rich brat who claimed to be an engineer but was actually a school dropout.

“There was no means to cross-check. And we believed them as they were related to us distantly,” says 40-year-old Salma, regretting every day that her daughter was born in Pakistan. “If only if she was not born there… I got her here when she was 2.5 months old and applied for her nationality within the first year of moving back. Eleven years later, she is still a Pakistani.” With that comes worries about her school, college and other admissions.

Salma is not alone. Given the fractious, yet symbiotic, relationship between the two countries and the large number of divided families, there are many such Salmas across India. “In Maharashtra alone, there are hundreds of pending cases,” says an official on the condition of anonymity.

The Home department’s foreign section is flooded with such cases – Indian women married to Pakistanis, divorced and back in India with ‘Pakistani’ children. Officials who deal with these cases claim that one of every 10 cases that comes for citizenship is of children born of such marriages.

In some cases, like that of 29-year-old Saira*, a resident of Sewri Cross Road, divorce resulted in the children being divided. She managed to bring three children back but her eldest, a boy, remained with the father.

“She would come to us every second month to seek a visa to go to Pakistan to meet her eldest son. We understand a mother’s plight but we can’t move her file seeking a Pakistan visa so frequently. We have so many such cases,” says a Home department official.

“I have no means to raise these three kids. It’s not easy for me to leave behind my son. I want to go back and seek alimony from my in-laws. I will fight for my children’s rights,” Saira says determinedly.

Officials believe there are several reasons behind the failure of these marriages. “It’s like any NRI marriage where you only know the truth after you get married,” says an official.

Salma’s is a classic such case. That he was gay was known in Pakistan but she realized it only much later. “He left within two days of our wedding without establishing any physical relations with me… It was only a month later when I reached Pakistan that I learnt about his sexual preference.”

She says she was tortured by her in-laws and came back to India after three months. Told the full story, her parents supported her decision to stay back but relatives persuaded them to give him one more chance. Her father-in-law himself came over to India with the boy.

“It was during this encounter that I conceived my daughter. We believed that everything would be fine now and I went back to stay with him,” says Salma.

When Salma gave birth to a girl child, the family lost interest in her and she was sent back to India. “Since that day, they have never looked back at me or my daughter. For how many more years will I have to continue to run from pillar to post to get her an Indian nationality?”

Salma, who supports a family of four with the Rs 25,000 she gets as an executive in a private firm, got married again but lost her second husband in a road accident.

Officials claim her case is now in the final stages. But the process can only be completed after she surrender her daughter’s Pakistani passport to the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi.

She doesn’t have the money to travel to Delhi and stay in a hotel. “The department officials did request them to consider my case as an exemption… but on December 16, 2016 my file came back with a rejection,” Salma says.

And the wait continues.


  • These children live in India on long-term visas (LTV) and need to stay in touch with the local police about their whereabouts and travelling plans
  • They become eligible for citizenship on completion of seven years’ stay in India
  • LTV visa needs to be revised from time to time
  • LTV visa allows them to take admission in Indian schools and universities