Online love story of Indian-Pakistani couple ends in jail

Mulayam Singh Yadav (21) from India and Iqra Jeewani (19) from Pakistan met and fell in love online three years ago, while playing the board game Ludo. But they knew it would be hard for them to be together.–File photos

An Indian man was arrested in January this year for helping a Pakistani woman enter the country illegally and get a fake ID card, and the woman he helped was his wife, says a BBC report.

Mulayam Singh Yadav (21) from India and Iqra Jeewani (19) from Pakistan met and fell in love online three years ago, while playing the board game Ludo. But they knew it would be hard for them to be together.

India and Pakistan share a fraught relationship – the neighbours have fought three wars since 1947, when India was partitioned on independence and Pakistan created. This can make it hard for people to get visas to travel to see each other.

So last September, Mulayam and Iqra travelled to Nepal, where they got married. They then travelled to the Indian city of Bangalore (Bengaluru) – the capital of Karnataka state – and lived together.

But their happy life turned tragic in January – Ms Jeewani was detained for entering India illegally while Mr Yadav was arrested and charged with fraud, forgery and providing shelter to a foreign national without proper documents.

She was deported to Pakistan last week, while Mr Yadav remains in jail in Bangalore.

Mr Yadav’s family members, who live in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, are devastated by the arrests. They say the couple’s story is simply one of love.

“We want them home,” says his brother Jeetlal. “We understand the situation between India and Pakistan. But all they did was fall in love.”

Even the police seem to agree. “Besides the illegal entry and forgery, it seems to be a love story,” a senior Bangalore police official said on condition of anonymity

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That love story began in 2020, during the Covid lockdown.

Mr Yadav worked as a security guard for an IT company in Bangalore while Ms Jeewani was a student in Pakistan’s Hyderabad city.

The two began a long-distance relationship after meeting online. But Ms Jeewani was under increasing pressure from her family to get married.

On Mr Yadav’s suggestion, she left Pakistan and travelled to Nepal via Dubai to meet him. Police say the two got married in a Hindu ceremony in a temple there and came to India.

But Ms Jeewani did not have the documents required to stay in India, so police say Mr Yadav arranged a fake Aadhaar card – an Indian identity document – for her.

According to the police, Mr Yadav would go out every day to work while Ms Jeewani stayed at home.

But she frequently made WhatsApp calls to her mother back home in Pakistan, which led the police to her.

Bangalore police officials say they were on high alert last month because two major international events were due to take place in the city in February: the Aero India air show and a G20 finance ministers’ meeting.

After further investigation, Ms Jeewani was detained for illegal entry and handed over to the Foreigners Regional Registration Office on 20 January. She was deported to Pakistan in February.

“As of now, there is no offence made out against her other than just coming into the country illegally,” S Girish, deputy police commissioner in Bangalore’s Whitefield district, told the BBC. “But the investigation is ongoing.”

The BBC could not reach Ms Jeewani or her family in Pakistan for comment. Earlier this week, PTI news agency reported that her father had confirmed that she had reached home, and that they did not want to “speak on this issue”.

Mr Yadav’s mother Shanti Devi says she hopes the governments of both countries can help reunite them.

“We don’t care if she’s Muslim or Pakistani, she’s our daughter-in-law. We’ll take good care of her.”

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