Video Editor: Mohd Ibrahim
When Reshma Azeez, 40, landed in Bengaluru in late 2018, she had no idea that she would be forced to remain in India, long after she intended to.
She along with her husband Javeed Khan had been living in Quincy, Illinois, US along with their two school-going kids for the last 11 years. She says she was in for a rude shock when she learnt that her husband had travelled back to Quincy without her four days later.Reshma Azeez“After immigration check as usual, I handed over my passport to my husband. He and his family had hired bouncers to escort him inside the car. My husband convinced me saying that he will be coming to meet my family and me in 2-3 days time for resolving the issues we had in this marriage. But later, I came to know that my husband has already reached USA, without my knowledge. And he has also taken my passport and other travel documents.”
The Talaq Message
Before she could contact her husband after his return, she says she received a voice message as well as a text, proclaiming talaq.Reshma Azeez“I got a message on my phone for talaq. It was an audio message as well as a text message on my personal number. He had also made a family group where he had called my family members and his family members and he had sent a group message of talaq. So after receiving the message, immediately he exited from the group and he deactivated my number and blocked my number on his phone as well as my children’s phones and the home phone. And that’s when I came to know, he brought me to India to commit fraud.”
No Documents, No ID
Reshma soon realised that she had been left behind with no form of identification, except for her American driving licence that has no value here. Her passport and US visa documents were with her husband, who had taken it back to their home in Quincy, Illinois.
Her most pressing concern, she says, is contacting her kids. As international call is very expensive, she tried to access her joint bank account that she shared with her husband but found that she has been barred from accessing it. She also realised that all of her cards were being declined.
“Since he has left me penniless, now I am completely dependent on my family. Even for a simple phone call,” she says.
Now, she is struggling to get the necessary documents to travel back to Quincy to get custody of her kids again. Since she has absolutely no Indian identification, she had to start from scratch and first got a bank passbook that could serve as address proof. Using this, she was able to get an Aadhaar id and has now applied for a new passport. Once that is in place, she will be able to apply for a new visa to travel abroad.
Reshma’s cause has got attention from the Women and Child Development ministry and minister Maneka Gandhi has pledged her support and has promised to make this a priority. Reshma also received support from the External Affairs ministry and officials have reached out to guide her in the process of acquiring fresh identification to travel outside the country.
Can Only Speak to Kids Through School Authorities
Through a trusted friend, Reshma was able to contact the school where her kids studied and plead to allow her to talk to them while they were at school. Now, she does so every day in the presence of school representatives and Child Protection Services.Reshma Azeez“The Indian time is around 10:30 in the night. I have to call the head office in the school and ask for permission from the main office. They arrange for the counsellor, the principal and the teacher-in-charge, with all their presence, I am able to communicate with the children, this is the process I have to go through every day.”
Examining her Legal Options
Though she has not sought official legal counsel in India, she has been advised by those she is consulting that her case is stronger if she returns to fight in the US.Reshma Azeez“They advise me to fight this case in the US because the leverage of this case is more there compared to here. Seeing the laws in America, they advised me to take up the fight in America for the children’s custody. Once I get my passport, I want to go back to America and get the custody of my children.”
The Quint tried to reach out to Reshma’s husband Javeed Khan on WhatsApp for his response but received no reply.