They met in a video game… and with their love, now they challenge the rivalry between India and Pakistan

Sachin is a Hindu, Seema was a Muslim. He is from India, she from Pakistan. PBut the love between them caught on so strong that they clandestinely crossed the border to be together., overcoming national rivalries and fear of religious reprisals. In the midst of a pandemic in 2020, a video game connected Sachin Meena, a 22-year-old single Indian who works as a clerk in a store, with Seema Haider, a 27-year-old Pakistani, married and mother of four children.

“We became friends, our friendship turned into love, and our conversations got longer and longer, morning and night, until we finally decided to meet,” Seema explains from the narrow courtyard of the Sachin family home, where she now lives.

In May, Seema left her husband in Pakistan and smuggled her four children into India via Nepal, which is why the couple was arrested and released last month. Since then, Seema explains that she married Sachin and took her last name.

“I have converted to Hinduism,” she explains, sitting with her husband in the village of Rabupura, some 55 kilometers from New Delhi. “I would rather die than go back or leave Sachin.”

The couple have faced refusal by the Indian authorities to recognize them as a couple.  (AFP)

However, nothing is easy. indian police ensures that it is impossible for Seema to stay long term. “I ask the Indian government to give me citizenship,” Seema begs, a red scarf covering her hair and her four children playing around her.

The love of this couple contrasts with the bitter historical relationship between their two countries. India and Pakistan, two nuclear powers, they have fought three wars since the partition following independence from the British Empire in 1947. Diplomatic, cultural, business or sports relations are very limited.

Apostasy, that is, denying or abjuring the faith, is punishable by death according to some interpretations of Islam. Seema says that she has already received some threats on the internet and insists that the couple wants to “live and die together”. This week they participated in a televised debate in India where Seema proclaimed her “undying love” for Sachin and vowed that she would only return to Pakistan “as a dead woman”.

Seema was first attracted to Sachin’s abilities in the PUBG fighting game. Three years later, the couple met in person in Nepal this past March. After that first meeting, she was already sure that she wanted to leave her “violent” husband., an accusation that the interested party denies. The couple spent months planning with the help of YouTube videos how to enter India through Nepal. And in May she got it.

“It was very difficult to travel from Pakistan to India,” he said. “I believe that with the love of God, we were destined to meet.”

Sachin’s family he only learned of its existence when the man rented a nearby apartment with her. “There was some resistance, although my father and everyone accepted us. They were happy for us,” explains Sachin. But the Indian police discovered them when they tried to get married in a local court.

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The husband abandoned by Seema, Ghulam Haider, quit his job as a laborer and rickshaw driver (rickshaw) to earn more money for his family in Saudi Arabia. He now wants his family back.

“I seriously call on the Indian and Pakistani authorities to return my wife and children to me,” he said by phone from Saudi Arabia.

Seema

Haider says that he and Seema, who come from different Baloch tribes, also have a groundbreaking love story.. Their families forbade them to marry, but they ran away to get married, a taboo subject in Pakistan that can lead to so-called honor killings. A council of elders later settled the matter with a fine of one million Pakistani rupees (about $3,640 / 61,600 Mexican pesos) for Haider.

“I am far from home, from my family, it is very distressing for me because we married for love.”

In India, the couple formed by Seema and Sachin received a popular welcome. People from nearby villages have been visiting them since their arrest was reported in the media.

“We took selfies,” says Rakesh Chand, a 37-year-old man who drove an hour to congratulate the couple. “Sachin is very happy, even her family has accepted them, so the government has to make sure they don’t force her to leave,” he says.

In his former village of Dhani Bakhsh in Pakistan, few want to talk about the story openly, though many gossip about it. Seema has no regrets, describing Sachin as “the love of her life”. “My children are going to receive all the love, care and attention here.”

“Forget about her. She’s gone and she’s an adult,” says Zafarullah Bugti, Haider’s cousin.

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