Indian woman stranded in Saudi Arabia after husband's death

Indian woman stranded in Saudi Arabia after husband's death

Now, the family is hoping that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's office will be take up the matter personally, so that Shalini is back in India soon in the embrace of her family.

Shalini Chawla's nightmare started after her 36-year-old cardiologist husband, Ashish Chawla, working at the King Khalid Hospital in Najran, in southwestern Saudi Arabia, died in his sleep on Jan 31 this year.

Based on complaints of his local and Pakistani colleagues, the Najran authorities started inquiries and detained her for interrogation in March this year. Kept in solitary confinement for 25 days, she was allowed to keep her newly-born son, but was separated from her two-year-old daughter.

The investigations did not find any iota of foul play, but a second inquiry was again restarted in August by another team.  But even this team did not find any whiff of criminal action.

In Delhi, Shalini's uncle, 72-year-old H.P. Nagpal, has been running pillar to post to get the case of his niece taken up at the highest quarters.

"Frankly, the Indian embassy has been trying a lot. But, they cannot do much as even senior Indian diplomats are unable to get access to even junior levels of Saudi government offices," Nagpal told IANS.

The family petitioned the prime minister in September to personally take up the matter. "The issue has to be taken up at the highest level. Either the prime minister should write personally or the external affairs minister should take it up with his counterpart. The government has to wake up," Nagpal said.

Meanwhile, Shalini is living in the Saudi hospital campus, looking after her two children, with only her elderly mother for company. "Even the mother's visit visa is coming to an end. We are hoping that it will be extended," he said.

According to Saudi diplomatic sources, the initial inquiry had to be started as colleagues had suspected that Ashish Chawla had been poisoned. Both governments are trying to speed up the mattes, Saudi officials said.

Also, the case had become complicated as it was alleged by his Pakistani colleagues that Chawla had converted to Islam. "It was sought to be turned into a Hindu versus Muslim case. There was no question of him converting. He had not changed his name on his passport or any other documents," said Nagpal.

While they want the body of Chawla, lying in a hospital mortuary, to be brought back to India for last rites, the family is now deeply concerned that Shalini is not been given permission to leave Saudi Arabia. "Her passport has not been returned and she has not been given an exit visa. She is very eager to return to India, with or without body first," said Nagpal.

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