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Canada ‘Runaway Groom’ Says Bride Hid Disability From Him

Jan 6, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
‘Runaway groom’ says bride hid disability from him

December 12, 2010
Raveena Aulakh - The Star Toronto


Brampton's Ashpreet Badwal, 35, and Manjit Shahi are shown
in one of their wedding photos.

Five months after Manjit Shahi arrived in Canada and allegedly abandoned his new bride, reigniting a maelstrom about fraudulent marriages, he has voluntarily returned to India.

“I am the victim, not her, but because she’s in a wheelchair, she got all the sympathy,” Shahi said by phone from Ludhiana, an industrial city in northern India.

“I was never given a chance to tell my side of the story,” he said.

The couple’s story, which has more twists and turns than a Bollywood tear-jerker, started in 2006 when Shahi, who then lived in England, met Brampton’s Ashpreet Badwal online. In late 2007, Badwal travelled to India; they married.

Badwal is 35, five years older than Shahi, has polio and needs a wheelchair.

Badwal returned to Canada and filed an application to sponsor her husband in March 2008. In December, the application was rejected because of the age difference and compatibility issues, Badwal told the Star. She hired a Bay Street law firm to fight her case and won on appeal.

On June 26, Shahi got his Canadian visa. Two days later, he was on a British Airways flight to Toronto. But Badwal says she never saw him and he fled from the airport.

Fraudulent marriages are not a new phenomenon in the South Asian community; dozens of cases are reported every year where people get married so they can immigrate to Canada, and once here abandon their spouses.

But this case hit a nerve because Badwal uses a wheelchair. She spent thousands of dollars appealing an earlier Citizenship and Immigration decision rejecting her application to sponsor Shahi.

In the ensuing furor in the community, Shahi says nobody cared for his side of the story.

“She never told me she had polio or that she was five years older,” said Shahi, adding that Badwal sent “glamorous photos of herself.”
He says he realized that she had polio on the day of the wedding. “I couldn’t have walked out on her . . . I quietly married her and we later had a chat,” he said.

Shahi, his voice choking, said Badwal told him they should stay married so he could come to Canada. “She said I could do anything once I got there,” he said. “We weren’t even supposed to meet at the airport that day.”

That’s all untrue, says Badwal.

“He always knew that I had polio . . . and there was no such pact,” she said angrily. “He used me to come to Canada and because it didn’t go the way he had expected, he’s now saying all these things.”

Shahi, meanwhile, says he opted not to stay in Canada after all this bitterness.

Initially, he hired an immigration lawyer to fight his case and even went for a half-dozen interviews with agents of Canadian Border Services Agency. To be deported, he would have had a hearing with the Immigration and Refugee Board. If ordered to leave the country, he would have had the right the appeal.

Shahi says he wasn’t up for all that, especially since he didn’t have much money to pay his lawyer and was couch-surfing or sleeping in a car.
He su
rrendered his Permanent Resident card and on early Wednesday morning boarded an Air India flight to New Delhi.

“I want to close this chapter in my life,” he said. “I don’t know what I am going to do, even where I’m going to live but anything will be better than what I went through.”

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