New Delhi, Dec 24 : In a clear case of harassment of an Indian lady doctor by Saudi Arabian authorities on a false charge, Dr Shalini Chawla alongwith her newborn infant was put behind bars on the false charge of murdering her husband, reports Times of India. This incident also exposes how the human rights of Indians working abroad are brutally violated.
It was a 11-month ordeal that will haunt Dr Shalini Chawla for the rest of her life. To suddenly lose your spouse and then be accused of killing him without a shred of evidence is bad enough.
To be then put behind bars with an infant in a foreign land and then kept confined to a home for 11 months, with hostile people around you and the fear of death hanging over you, can break the strongest of people.But on Thursday, a day after she landed in the capital with the body of her husband, she was a picture of fortitude.
Tears welled up in her eyes as she stood with folded hands with relatives and friends consoling her at the Uthala ceremony.Dr Ashish Chawla’s body had finally been cremated at Nigambodh Ghat on Wednesday, bringing an end to a sordid tale of how the human rights of Indians working abroad are violated.
Nothing had prepared Shalini for her nightmare when she and her husband accepted job offers from King Khalid Hospital in Nazran in Saudi Arabia four years ago.Shalini’s world turned upside down when Ashish suddenly passed away in his sleep on January 31, 2010.The hospital stated the cause of his death as ‘myocardial infraction’ or a simple heart attack.
In an advanced stage of pregnancy, Shalini had to look after her two-year-old daughter. She had already resigned from her job in anticipation of her second child and now she had to expedite the process of taking her husband’s body back to India. On February 10, came her second child, Vedanta.
But worse news followed. “On March 1, Shalini was informed that, on the basis of new evidence, her husband had converted to Islam before his death. She was accused of poisoning him. She was sent into detention on March 16 with her 34-day-old baby.
"She stayed there for 25 days and learnt that some Pakistani colleagues and locals had conspired against her. After being released, she was confined to the hospital campus,” said her paternal uncle, H Nagpal. Her family was sending her money which kept her going.
The body, meanwhile, was preserved at the hospital and last rites disallowed. Ashish had never mentioned any intention of converting to Islam but the entire incident had assumed a communal colour and she was at her wits end. It took two more autopsies to clear Shalini. Finally, the file was closed, and on December 3, she was given permission to leave the country.
Nagpal was highly appreciative of the effort of the local Indian consulate to get Shalini back to India."They have been very helpful, especially the Indian consul general in Jeddah Syed Ahmed Baba who gave all support to Shalini," he said. Dr Shalini Chawla said, she had no idea who falsely informed the police that she poisoned her husband. “He never discussed his intention to embrace Islam,” she said.
However Saudi Gazette gives a different story. The newspaper reported Dr Shalini Chawla of having said: “My late husband died as a Muslim and his funeral will be held as per the Islamic rituals in New Delhi,” she told the Saudi Gazette.
“It was a nightmare, but thank God I’m going back home after a year of misery. I don’t know what I will do next. It was just my fate to go through all of these hardships. May no one see what I have gone through,” said Chawla, who was the prime suspect in her husband’s death after he changed his Hindu faith to Islam, according to Saudi Gazette.
According to Saudi Gazette, Ashish Chawla, 36, died in his sleep on Jan. 31. It was suspected he had been poisoned by his wife. An initial medical report from King Khaled Hospital in Najran stated that the cause of death was “myocardial infarction” (or heart attack).
The report also certified that there was “no sign of any injury, crime, or fight”, according to a statement released by the Indian Consulate in Jeddah. Authorities, however, swung into action after being tipped off that his Hindu wife poisoned him after his conversion to Islam, detaining the wife and conducting further investigations.
Chawla said that her husband never discussed his intention to embrace Islam. But after his death, his friends revealed that he had become a Muslim. “During my interrogation, I heard that my husband died the night before he was going to announce officially in the mosque his conversion to Islam. However, I did not find any proof of his conversion and his name is not registered in any Islamic center,” she said.
The woman was taken into custody on March 16 for over three weeks with her then 34-day-old baby boy Vedant. She had planned to have her baby in India after she resigned from her job at the internal medicine department at King Khaled Hospital in Najran before her husband’s death. Chawla’s 2-year-old daughter, Reona, was staying with her grandmother at the hospital’s housing complex. “Many families in the complex came to my help. And while I was in prison, they took care of my little girl and mom,” she added.
Authorities obtained a second medical report from the Center for Toxicology and Forensics in Makkah stating that the autopsy did not confirm that the husband was killed by poisoning.She said that she had no idea who falsely informed the police that she had poisoned her husband. “I heard that they were our colleagues but I don’t want to know about them,” she said.
Sources close to the family said that the deceased was suffering from a subtle cardiac ailment known as “sick sinus syndrome,” which could cause sudden cardiac arrest leading to death.
On April 11, the Consul General met with Prince Mish’al Bin Abdullah, Emir of Najran, and asked for permission to close the case and allow Chawla to leave the country. Three months later, the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution (BIP) in Najran, which was in charge of investigating the case, recommended its head office in Riyadh to close the case based on the new evidence from the toxic test results.
The BIP head office in Riyadh ordered a third and final autopsy by an independent team of Riyadh doctors. The team examined the body and found that the husband died of natural causes, confirming a heart attack.
On Dec. 3, Saudi authorities informed the Indian consul general that they closed the case with no charges against the wife and allowed her to leave the country with her children and the body of her husband.
“We at the embassy and the consulate, and the Indian community, feel immensely relieved by the decision of the Saudi government to finally close this case in favor of the widow Dr. Shalini Chawla,” said Sayeed Ahmed Baba, Consul General of India.
Baba said that both the Indian embassy and the consulate stood by the widow and supported her case.“We are also thankful to King Khaled Hospital in Najran for providing her the much-needed shelter in the complex and for looking after her,” Baba added.