Geeta, the deaf-mute Indian woman living in Pakistan after crossing the border accidentally more than a decade ago, will be back home soon.
“We have located her family. She will be handed over to them only after the DNA test,” external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said on Thursday in New Delhi. Geeta, 23, was adopted by Bilquees Edhi of Pakistani charity Edhi Foundation and lives with her in Karachi. The Indian woman stranded in Pakistan for more than 10 years is poised to be reunited with her family, Edhi Foundation spokesman Anwar Kazmi has also confirmed. “The Indian government had already given us probable dates of October 19 or 26. Documentation is being prepared for the departure dates,” he said.
Geeta is reported to have identified her father, step-mother and siblings from a photograph that the Indian high commission in Islamabad sent to her. The family is reported to be living in Bihar. Her mother is in Punjab, while her father is in Saharsa (Bihar).
Janardan Mahto of Bihar’s Saharsa district had claimed two months ago after seeing her on the TV that Geeta was actually her daughter, Hira. It was treated as yet another claim on the woman who is said to have strayed into Pakistan as a child. But the family was convinced. Mahto, who has five sons and two daughters, went about town telling everyone about her identification marks – broken teeth, mole on the back, and a thigh fracture as a child.
He kept trying, and one of his grandsons – Arjun Mahto, a doctor based in Delhi’s Mangalpuri area – went to the ministry of external affairs twice to submit the photographs and documents for identification. Though the family is yet to get any official information about Geeta’s likely arrival from Pakistan, they are convinced it would happen soon. “The day we met Sushmaji and she said it seemed Geeta was Hira, that was enough of an indication for us,” Arjun Mahto said. He added: “With Geeta identifying her family from one of the many photographs sent to her, it (homecoming) may be just a matter of days.”
Geeta was just 7 or 8 when Pakistan Rangers found her sitting alone on the cross-border Samjhauta Express train 15 years ago at the Lahore railway station. Police took her to Edhi Foundation in Lahore and, later, she was shifted to Karachi. Her long search for family captivated the public after a hit Bollywood film, ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’, with a similar plot was released this year with Salman Khan in the lead role.
In August, Indian high commissioner to Pakistan TCA Raghavan and his wife had visited Geeta after Swaraj directed him to meet her and try to locate her family. A foreign office spokesman said Pakistan would cooperate for the return of Geeta. In Saharsa, Janardan Mahto said his daughter had gone to a Baisakhi fair in 2004 in Jalandhar and strayed, never to be found again.
Madhepura MP Pappu Yadav said he had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and submitted him a memorandum, “as I was convinced after meeting Mahto that Geeta was Hira”. He said he had also raised the issue in the Lok Sabha, and was happy to know that she would be heading home. “The PM had said he would ensure Geeta’s return,” said Yadav.
With inputs from agencies