After massive rapes in Kashmir, Indian soldiers open a new front in Afghanistan with this case of a married Indian army major with two children who claimed to have converted to Islam, who married an 18-year-old Afghan girl in Kabul and then dumped her. Now the girl is in New Delhi seeking justice. The case highlights Indian army’s violations against women in occupied Kashmir and Afghanistan. It also opens a little known secret: India’s controversial military presence in Afghanistan.
GULPARI NAZISH MEHSUD
NEW DELHI, India-This story reveals not only how an Indian Army major deceived an unsuspecting Afghan girl, but it also reveals how India is covertly expanding its military presence in Afghanistan under the guise of development work, with American blessings, hurting the legitimate interests of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Major Chandrasekhar Pant was working at an Indian-funded civilian hospital in Kabul when he met an 18-year-old Afghan interpreter employed by the hospital management. Pant had an Indian wife and two children back in India but he lied to Sabera Ahmedzai that he was single. He met her parents and claimed to have converted to Islam to marry the girl, which he did. But three weeks later he left Afghanistan without informing his young wife.
It turned out he was redeployed by the Indian Army from Kabul to the border with China, adjoining the Chinese province of Tibet. He never contacted Sabera again.
In short, the Indian major entered into a fake marriage and lied about changing his religion just to have sex with the Afghan girl, who was 18 at the time.
But what Maj. Pant never expected is that the Afghan woman he deceived would reach New Delhi and take her case to Indian courts and to the Indian military.
“People in my country taunt me that I have been deceived by a doctor. He married me and went away. The local boys tease they don’t mind marrying me for 20 days,” Sabera told India’s IBN television.
Sabera Ahmedzai was born and brought up in Pakistan. When she finally managed to reach New Delhi and set out to find Major Pant, she discovered the Indian was not only married he also had two children. Not only this, Pant refused to recognize her as his wife and offered money and asked her to leave.
But instead she filed a petition in the Delhi high Court, asking Major Pant be tried under civilian and military rules and demanding compensation for destroying her life.
“When Sabera came to India on her own, she was surprised to find that Major Pant was already married and he refused to recognize her. Now a days, he is posted at 69th Mount Brigade Pithoragarh, Uttarakhand,” she says in her petition filed through an Indian lawyer, according to accounts in the Indian media.
The case has put Major Pant in a fix. He not only faces the charges brought by Ms. Ahmedzai, he also faces Indian Army’s own charges, including the serious offense of converting to another religion on a foreign soil while serving in the military without receiving a written permission.
The Delhi high court on Friday, 21 January, sought a response from the Indian government on Ms. Ahmedzai’s plea seeking sanction to prosecute for the alleged offence of bigamy by an Indian Army doctor who married her during his stay in Kabul and deserted her after coming back.
“Issue notice to the Centre (through Defense Secretary),” Justice S N Dhingra said and fixed the matter for March 8 for hearing on the plea of Sabera Ahmedzai, a resident of Kabul.
IBNLive has quoted sources at the Indian Army Medical Corps as saying, “Army Court of inquiry has found a prima facie case against Major Chandrasekhar Pant. A summary of evidence was conducted and the report has been submitted to the Central Army Commander. He is likely to be charged on two counts – bigamy and changing his religion without taking prior permission.”
“God will punish him for the wrong he has done to my life,” Sabera says. She is receiving help from Indian Muslims and from Kashmiris in the Indian capital.
The case is deeply embarrassing for the Indian army. Before relinquishing charge, former army chief general Deepak Kapoor told reporters Major Pant will be punished if found guilty.
The Indian army is also worried about its track record. Indian soldiers have been convicted of committing massive rapes across Indian occupied Kashmir. They are also at the top of a UN list for raping underage girls during peacekeeping missions in Africa. The cases are documented by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Indian rights groups. The last thing Indian army needs is a new record of wrongdoings committed by Indian soldiers in Afghanistan.
The case also draws attention to Indian military presence in Afghanistan. India is not part of the international military force in Afghanistan called ISAF. India is also not one of Afghanistan’s immediate neighbors. And yet it has the largest number of diplomats and diplomatic outposts in Afghanistan after the United States. Pakistan accuses India of using these diplomatic missions for espionage against China and Pakistan. The two nations share the longest border with Afghanistan of any country.
India has claimed its presence in Afghanistan is humanitarian. But it is interesting to note the Indian government chooses Indian military officers to work at Indian development projects in Afghanistan. It’s a disguised military presence at its best.