On 23 June, a 24-year-old school teacher, Fiza Khan, from Madhya Pradesh's Rewa proceeded to the Attari-Wagah check post in Punjab, hoping she would soon be meeting her 26-year-old Pakistani boyfriend, Dilshad Khan, and marrying him.
Fiza is the eldest of her three siblings and teaches at a private school in Rewa, while Dilshad lives in Karachi and is engaged in denim export.
Fiza's relative, who did not want to be named, told The Quint that she was back home with her family, but added that they had no further comments on the matter.
'Not a Crime for Indian & Pakistani To Be in Love': Dilshad
Fiza and Dilshad's cross-border love story reportedly began in 2019, when they met on Facebook. Ironically, the couple got into a heated argument about the Balakot airstrike – and soon fell in love.
"If my country is a problem for her family, I am ready to shift to Dubai. I promise to bring her to India every year without fail. Please don't separate us. We won't be able to survive without each other," Dilshad told The Times of India from Karachi.
Speaking to The Quint over the phone, Dilshad said:
"I am trying to contact all her relatives, but no one is ready to talk. I just want to talk to her once, and to her family, and convince them, but I am not getting any response. I want to have a relationship with Fiza and her family, and prove my love to them."Dilshad
Missing Person's Report To Trace Fiza
A Rewa police officer told The Quint that Fiza's family filed a missing person's report on 13 June, when she did not return from school. On the insistence of her parents, a lookout notice was issued, as they suspected that she might have had plans to travel to Pakistan.
According to the police, she took a train to Bhopal, another to Delhi, then multiple buses and trains to reach the Attari border.
On 23 June, 10 days after she left home, Fiza reached Amritsar and proceeded to the Attari border, the land border crossing between India and Pakistan. Based on the lookout notice, the immigration officials informed the Punjab Police, who then handed her over to the Madhya Pradesh Police two days later.
"She called me after reaching Bhopal, on her way to Rewa. I was really worried about how she would manage the long trip. We spoke to each other on the phone after she was detained, but I could not reach her after that," Dilshad told The Quint.
No Law on Adult Women Requiring Permission To Travel Abroad
There is no legal requirement for an Indian adult woman to obtain the permission of her parents or husband to travel abroad. A No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the employer is required for travel, irrespective of the person's gender, only when other countries mandate it as a visa requirement.
The legal age for marriage in India is currently 18 for women and 21 for men. In December 2021, the Indian Cabinet cleared a proposal for the marriage age of women to be increased to 21, bringing it at par with that of men.
In India, the marriage of a Muslim girl is also governed by the personal laws of the religion, which recognise the right of those above 15 years of age to marry as per their free will.
"We were surprised how easily she managed to get a Pakistani visa. So far, we have not found anything suspicious. It is just a love story. Our work stops here," a senior police officer, who was involved with the investigation, told local media in Punjab.