"I started considering myself an Indian."
A Pakistani man faces deportation from India, 12 years after he illegally entered the country and married his lover.
Gulzar Khan and Daulat Bi’s relationship started with a wrong number.
Gulzar is originally from Pakistan’s Sialkot region while Daulat is from Andhra Pradesh.
The Pakistani man had been working as a painter in Saudi Arabia when he tried to call an ex-colleague in India in 2009.
When he did not get through, he tried changing certain digits, thinking he might have written the wrong number.
Daulat said: “One of those random numbers connected him with me.”
She was initially apprehensive about talking to a stranger but Gulzar persisted.
Gulzar said he told Daulat on the first call that he was from Punjab but he did not clarify that he meant the one in Pakistan.
Over the next two years, they spoke regularly on the phone.
Daulat revealed that her relatives and neighbours would taunt her for talking to Gulzar.
She said: “I used to tell him that it’s better that I die.”
But the Pakistani man promised to come and marry her.
Gulzar claimed he made several unsuccessful attempts to get a valid visa from the Indian embassy in Saudi Arabia.
He then decided to impersonate an Indian national.
Gulzar explained: “I told [authorities] that I lost my passport, that I was an Indian and wanted to return to India.”
He showed them an identity card which had a black-and-white photo of an Indian man who resembled him.
Gulzar was detained and issued an emergency certificate before being deported to India.
In January 2011, Gulzar arrived in Hyderabad and a few weeks later, he married Daulat and the couple moved to her village in Nandyal district.
Upon his arrival, the local police questioned him but no case was registered.
For the next eight years, the couple had four children, with Gulzar making a living as a painter. He also obtained an Aadhaar biometric card and other identity documents.
During this time, he cut ties with his family.
“As I lived with my new family, I started considering myself an Indian.”
But memories of home soon returned and he decided to visit Pakistan.
In 2019, Gulzar was arrested at a railway station in Telangana while trying to leave India with his wife and their children.
The Pakistani man was charged with illegal entry and procuring forged documents.
Reportedly, intelligence agencies had tracked calls made by Gulzar to Pakistan.
It was when he was arrested that Daulat finally discovered that her husband was from Pakistan.
She said: “I fought with the police, saying that he is from Punjab.
“Then they told me that there is a Punjab in Pakistan too, and he is from there.”
She was initially shocked to hear the truth but she has now made peace with it.
After his arrest, Daulat sought help from villagers and collected money for his legal expenses. In 2020, he was granted bail and a case on whether he should be deported is being heard.
In February 2022, Gulzar was arrested again after the Telangana government issued an order to detain “illegal migrants” in the state.
The state’s high court then ordered his release until his deportation case was concluded.
Gulzar acknowledges that he is a Pakistani citizen who pretended to be Indian.
He added: “I got what I deserved. I have no complaints.”
The couple are now waiting for the court’s verdict to find out if they can stay together, either in India or Pakistan.
Daulat said: “I just hope it all works out.”