Geeta, a speech and hearing impaired woman who made an emotional return to India after being stranded in Pakistan for nearly 15 years, did not recognise a family from Bihar that had claimed her, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said on Monday.
“Geeta, as of now, is refusing to recognise her family after meeting them. We will still do DNA tests (to identify her family),” Swaraj told a news conference she addressed along with the woman who accidentally strayed across the border as a child.
“We had decided that even if her parents are not traced, we will still get her back to India,” Swaraj said. She thanked Pakistan and the Edhi Foundation, the neighbouring country’s largest charity, for caring for and repatriating Geeta.
Four families from different states had claimed Geeta as their daughter after her story captivated people on both sides of the border following the recent success of Bajrangi Bhaijaan, a Bollywood film with a similar storyline.
Till the DNA tests are completed, Geeta will live at a home for speech and hearing impaired in Indore, said Swaraj, flanked by Geeta and Bilquees Edhi, the Pakistani woman who had cared for her and led a campaign for her return to India.
A team from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) collected Geeta’s DNA samples and the results will be known after 15 to 20 days.
“These samples will be sent to the AIIMS Forensic lab and Central Forensic Science Laboratory for carrying out necessary tests to determine her parentage,” said Sudhir Gupta, the head of AIIMS’ forensics division. Samples had also been collected from the family that claimed Geeta.
“We are fast-tracking this test and the results will be out in 15-20 days,” Gupta said.
Geeta, believed to be 23 now, was spotted by the Pakistan Rangers in Lahore after she apparently crossed the border in a train almost 15 years ago and sent to a state-run shelter. She was moved from one shelter to another – because she often tried to escape and quarrelled with staff – before she arrived at the Edhi Foundation. It was Bilqees Edhi who named her Geeta.
Geeta had earlier identified the family in Bihar from a photograph provided by the Indian high commission in Islamabad. Speaking through a sign language expert, Geeta, clad in a red and white slawar-kameez, said she was happy to be back in India.
Earlier, Geeta waved to scores of people who had gathered at the international airport in Delhi to greet her when she arrived on a Pakistan International Airlines flight from Karachi.
Swaraj greeted her with a tweet: “Geeta – welcome home our daughter.” As she emerged from the airport, Geeta shyly waved to TV camera crews and smiled before being driven away.
Geeta and representatives from the Edhi Foundation who accompanied her later met Swaraj.
The Pakistan high commission cancelled a planned reception for Geeta and those accompanying her because of the loss of lives in Monday’s massive earthquake that caused devastation in several Pakistani cities.
Geeta’s story evoked considerable media interest in India and Pakistan, especially after the film Bajrangi Bhaijan – which features Salman Khan as an Indian overcoming all odds to reunite a speech and hearing-impaired girl with her family in Pakistan – became a hit in August.
“We are happy that finally she is going home,” said Faisal Edhi, the son of Edhi Foundation chief Abdul Sattar Edhi. The foundation said it had got an assurance from Indian authorities that its representatives could remain in New Delhi till DNA tests to confirm Geeta’s parentage are completed.
(With inputs from agencies)