A hearing and speech impaired Indian girl stuck in Pakistan for 15 years could belong to a vulnerable tribe of Jharkhand, experts said on Tuesday, raising hopes of reunion with her family in a saga with shades of a Bollywood hit.
The story of 23-year-old Geeta has hogged the limelight after a Pakistani activist launched a fresh campaign to reunite her with her family, prompting external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj to offer official help in the cross-border search.
Tribal language experts in Jharkhand who studied samples of writings by the woman – shared on social media by the activist – said that they bear strong resemblance to the Malto dialect of the Pahariya tribal community that lives in small pockets in the state’s Santhal Pargana region.
They have zeroed in on two words – ‘Malto’ and ‘badogadi’ – from among the words scribbled in her diary entries by Geeta, a name given by her Pakistani guardian.
While ‘Malto’ is the language of the Pahariya tribe, ‘badogadi’ means a big car, they pointed out. The tribe has less than 20,000 members left and is officially listed as vulnerable.
“The words she has used are generally used in Malto, which is a rare dialect,” said Giridhari Ganjhu, former head of the tribal language department in Ranchi University.
By writing these words she probably wanted to convey the message that she came to Pakistan in a big car, may be a bus, he added.
Hari Oraon, a tribal language researcher too said that Geeta’s writings “looks similar to Malto”.
“It also has a Bangla touch to it, which is common in dialects of Jharkhand due to the state’s proximity to West Bengal,” Oraon added.
Ansar Burney , the Pakistani human rights activist who is leading the search for Geeta’s family, had earlier said that she had pointed to Jharkhand and Telangana when showed a map of India.
The experts, however, warned that the writings were not conclusive proof of her Jharkhand ancestry.
The woman is now under the care of Edhi Foundation, Pakistan’s largest and best-known charity.
The Indian high commissioner TCA Raghavan, who reached Karachi on Tuesday, is scheduled to meet the woman in the government’s efforts to bring her back to India.
The real-life efforts of Burney, who had visited India in 2012, mirrors the Bollywood blockbuster Bajrangi Bhaijaan starring Salman Khan, who visits the neighbouring country to reunite a deaf and mute girl, named Munni, with her family in Pakistan.
Geeta, according to Burney, was handed over to his NGO by the Pakistan police, who found her at the Lahore railway station.