Death is the only reality of life. Nobody has ever escaped it. But an untimely death is an agony that leaves behind an incurable heartache.
I am writing this piece today to narrate a tale of desolation of a woman who was forsaken in an umpteenth hour when nothing but darkness surrounded her. It’s the tale of the real and blunt face of our society where dignity and chastity of womanhood were torn apart every single day.
I Dr Afroza Iqbal entered into the bliss of marriage….years ago with Dr. Saleem Iqbal. It was an arrangement finalized by our families and little did I know that the euphoria I felt at that time would be so short-lived. My husband, Prof. Saleem Iqbal was H.O.D Veterinary Physiology SKUAST-Kashmir. We spent years together, & and life was good despite the fact that we could not have any children. However, we never let it make a toll on our marriage.
Dr Saleem Iqbal was well-versed in the Sciences, Literature and religion. He was very liberal & had an aura of sainthood around him. He was a man of principles, very humble, grateful, truthful & compassionate. He lived a sophisticated life and was fond of Sufism. People who knew Dr. Saleem Iqbal will agree with me, “if I call him a man who was one in a million!”
Alas! My world turned upside down the day my husband was groped down by a cardiac arrest immediately after which he was diagnosed with “Post cardiac hypoxia-anoxia encephalopathy”. The syndrome, according to medical sciences is factually incurable. He was very sick (unconscious) and thus admitted In the SICU (“Surgical ICU), SKIMS for 26 days. Unimaginable as it may seem but, from the very first day of his treatment, my in-laws turned a cold shoulder towards us by saying that there is no relation left. They denied me any moral support, & literally left me in lurch. They would visit in the evenings like the strangers and stay for an hour or so in the waiting hall of SICU SKIMS. They actually abandoned their son and it was quite a shock to bear.
During this long stay of 26 days at SKIMS; Dr. Saleem’s Colleagues, friends, my family, & the staff of SICU at SKIMS encouraged me & helped me in every possible way to fight against the ill-fate that lashed out untimely at me. Dr Saleem’s Colleagues then volunteered themselves for providing help to their ailing colleague and deputed one Professor for the day and two Professors from their faculty for the night services. I warmly thank them all.
On the doctor’s advice, on 06th of January 2016 we travelled to New Delhi to continue my husband’s treatment at Max hospital. He was not in a position to travel and was thus airlifted in an air ambulance. My younger brother was the only one to accompany us. My in-law also came to Delhi, but they decided to live separately at a place which was very far from the hospital. I believe, their only purpose of being there was to torture me by their inexplicable behavior. Doctors at Max hospital; advised nursing & physiotherapy as the only remedy of my husband’s ailment. Both I & the team of doctors were hopeful for his speedy recovery so, I returned home on 07 the April 2016. Unfortunately, I returned to the in-laws who would hurl abuses at me all the time while my husband had lost around 70% of his consciousness, but was following the commands likewise recognition, listening and reading etc. This attitude of his family would upset my husband and in frequent panic attacks he would scream at them. Needless to say, I tolerated every form of abuse & exploitation for the sake of my ailing husband. We’d promised each other to stay together through thick & thin. I couldn’t betray him. This vow made me stay by his side in spite of inhuman and brutal behavior of his family towards me.
I would work 21 hours a day and would sleep from 3:00 to 3:30 A.M every night if possible. This hardest phase of our lives cannot be expressed in words here but will take months together to narrate. On 30th June 2016, around 10:00 P.M, when I was alone with my husband, my In-laws scared me to death. I was frightened by their threats and called 100 and got some relief for few days.
Some major happenings:-
1. On my arrival from Delhi, I’d arranged for a male nurse & a 15 year old orphan boy to
help me out in taking care of my husband. My in-laws somehow managed to use the male nurse, Anooj Zakaria, whom I paid 60,000 per month as a household, against me. The guy would always be at loggerheads with me. However the 16 year Monis Khan was a hurdle in their way as he didn’t approve to any of their dubious plans. In order to get rid of him, my in-laws sullied my reputation by asserting that I was having an illicit affair with this 15 year old chap. But for the sake of my husband I resisted all that.
2. The situation turned worse on 13th of August 2016 when around 10:30 A.M,
Dr.Saleem Iqbal was flared up with fever from the previous evening and therefore I asked my father in law that why did not they let the new nurse to see the patient if he had arrived yesterday i.e. on 12 of August 2016. He started abusing me and slapped in reply. Then my sister-in-law Suriya Gul who lives next to us came in along with her husband Gulzar Ahmad Naqati and son Nabeel and Basit Naqati and started to argue. They began to hurl abuses. Dr. Saleem was crippled on a sofa chair. They kicked me and knocked me down on the floor. I regained my conscience after some time and found myself beaten to the pulp, blood bathed and blood was still oozing from my mouth. My mother-in-law was seeing all this peacefully in enjoyment while sitting on the chair. This all happened in front of Dr Saleem Iqbal who was crying in pain while seeing all this. I managed to reach SKIMS and got admitted in A&E ward under MRD No. 931759. I underwent a good number of tests which revealed a visceral injury. My mouth was swallowed and my tooth was broken into pieces. The same day they went in my room deleted the software of my mobile, stole my SD card and morphed my chaste into obscenity.
3. Another shade of tragedy that swallowed me was when my father-in-law off & on
persuaded me to sign the divorce papers & surrender myself to their filthy intentions. I kept on refusing and decided to bear the brunt of their wrath. Meanwhile I’d like to mention that my in-laws tortured me so gallantly only under the assistance of our Mohallas president, M. Ashraf wani. He has a pivotal role to play in ruining my marital status forcibly. I wonder why this man mauled me so much. In March 2016, When brutality did not stop I sought Chairperson of woman’s commission Mrs. Nayeema Mehjoor’s intervention for the legal custody of my ailing husband so that I’d leave that house. Alas! The worthy Nayeema Jee proved of no help & my hopes shattered further. The brutality continued my sister-in-law (Surya Gul) along with her mother announced and my husband’s monthly salary was stopped from January 2017 and form February 2017 disconnected electricity connection to the house which continued till the death of my husband i.e. up to 09th of Aug. 2017. During the period they also stopped Dr Saleem’s ATM Card. This period I was giving nutrition to the patient through Syringes under candle lights upto night hours 1:30 AM and then took my meals at 2:00 to 2:30 AM. The grief stricken story does not end here in April 2017 my in-laws brought their 2nd Son Khalid Masood along with his 2nd wife Sangeeta (jasmine) settled in Pune (Maharashtra) she was a maelstrom of terror she harassed both of us repeatedly and relentlessly told me that her brother-in-law namely Mahesh Sharma is a lawyer who has power to subdue you. I was chilled to the spine as she relentlessly told me that she has been invited by her in-laws to kill me and my husband. While his husband Khalid Masood was for forty days at her sister’s home and did not bother to come and see his ailing brother but were only waiting for his death so to grab the property. On 17 July 2017, My Sister-in-law along with her two sons Nabeel and Basit Naqati, her Sister-in-law Sangeeta (named now Jasmine) came into kitchen at about 8:30 P.M when I was mashing some fruits for my husband started abusing and threatened me by capturing from all sides to keep me no more, pulled my hair and yelled, “why don’t you leave this house ?“. Nabeel and Basit were video graphing the scene. I somehow escaped to my room upstairs. Next day I went straight to the police station Soura to lodge an FIR, then SHO assured me of an action against them. However no action has been taken till date.
4. As I stood against every form of abuse & exploitation, letting the dubious intentions of my in-laws go in vain, they were agitated. So, they phoned my brothers without
my acknowledgement & hurled them with abuses, categorically saying to take their unchaste sister back along with Mohalla president on the Eve of Shabe-e-Qadr. Therefore On 21st of Sept. 2016, a meeting was held which included my family, my in-laws & some respectable persons of the Mohalla. It was decided that I should accompany my ailing husband to some other place. However my in-laws didn’t let it happen. So, the meeting went awry but the tale of torment continued each and every day.
5. After a prolonged illness, Dr Saleem Iqbal breathed his last on 09th August 2017 at
SKIMS. He had contracted a contagious urine infection eleven days before his demise. Again I was lonesome these eleven days. I lost the battle of survival of my husband. The dead body of the deceased was taken home by some strangers. The inhumanity didn’t end here. On the 4rd day of my husband’s demise, my in-laws thrashed me and dragged me out of the house. They disowned me & my husband and funeral was made over at graveyard on his 3rd day of his demise.
My deceased husband’s only brother-in-law very boldly yelled at me that he has saved a sum of 2 crore to get me killed; to close me and my husband’s chapter. He would threaten me by saying that retired Justice of Hon’ble High Court namely Bashir Ahmad Khan falls in his relation. He would laugh at me at my misery. And he and his wife had made it talk of every time by saying that till Dr. Saleem is alive she is here and as soon as he will last she will remain no more.
I am the lone witness of the grief-stricken demise of my husband and the sole reasons behind his untimely misery that lashed out at him. His chances of survival were restrained by his family. On seeing my miserable state, he would often cry at seeing me, tried his best to console me while shedding tears. The doors for his friends and colleagues were closed so that no one will witness my and Dr. Saleem’s grief-stricken state where he was abandoned love and care. Nobody for his family accompany me to look after him take him to Hospital for his routine check-ups for that I was always requesting my in-laws to be with me while providing only moral support for the recovery of the Dr. Saleem Iqbal but they always denied while showing a cold attitude till his death. I would stumble alone looking after him, buying his medicines, taking his urine samples, making him eat as it was a mammoth task should take 2-3 hours. But I made sure that Dr Saleem was fine.
Also another person of Mohalla namely Aijaz Ahamd Makhdoomi kept on giving me the notion that he as well as my in-laws are quite influential and wealthy so they are not worried that anybody can harm them. Therefore there is no point of seeking the intervention of law. He implied me to wrap up my belongings and leave on the fourth day after the demise of my husband. If I did not follow him they would burn down my stuff to ashes. In chaos I was made to sign under their pressure /thumb a paper which I have not seen and read yet. My all portable belongings are forcibly kept there. A mammoth task and would take 2-3 hours. But I always made sure that Dr Saleem is fine and is getting better. The sole reason of this inhumane & reproachful attitude of my in-laws towards me was the nomination that my deceased husband had acclaimed in my name. Despite all the odd, I stood strong against all the brutalities of my in-laws who exploited & abused me in every possible way, & left no stone ne unturned to cripple my confidence. However I Survived thus Dr Saleem Iqbal’s death remained without an obituary
Death keeps no Calendar. In case, I die, I cherish a dream that a library-cum-museum under the chairmanship of vice chancellor SKUAST-K while framing a committee from his faculty colleagues shall be built in our name (Mr and Mrs Saleem Iqbal) from Dr Saleem Iqbal’s money which shall be inherited to none. Dr. Saleem’s books which are his only assets shall be kept there safe and sound as he was a full fledged literary personality and was fond of reading. He should read books everyday. I appeal through this paper to the Hon’ble Chief Justice of Supreme Court of India, Chief Justice of Hon’ble High Court of J&K State as well as to the worthy chairperson of women’s commission of India and to the venerable Chief Minister of J&K Mtr Mehbooba Mufti for legal security and help. As CM of our state herself is a woman and possesses a human heart with feeling for destitute women as I have suffered a lot during the days of my husband’s ailment and still facing the same situation as such type of unlawful brutality cannot be seen in the world. So, I request her personal intervention in the matter as I have a right to live a life of dignity and have no residence to live in as my prodigal in-laws left no stone unturned to damage my honor and chastity due to exploitation and kept doors locked for 24 hours so that nobody could see my grief and the miserable conditions of my husband whom they left all alone when he was in need of their care and love. All they did in the shade of their prodigal son-in-law and daughter Suraya Gul only to grab the property which they did while taking into confidence some innocent people of the Mohalla. Now they are behind me to kill me so as to avoid the hurdle for getting pensionary benefits and so on. I also inform the media agencies to take the serious notice of social evils and domestic violence increasing day by day. I wonder how people (criminals) like my in-laws are wandering without any hindrance and nobody cares & takes any serious action against them since a long time.
(The author Dr Afroza Iqbal can be contacted on the following cell numbers 8803039776 / 9419012527 / 7006169271)