“She will be no less than a daughter for Indore,” said mayor Malini Gaud, as she welcomed Geeta at a programme held at an institute for deaf and mute in Indore on Tuesday.
Geeta, a deaf and mute girl, had accidently landed up in Lahore (Pakistan) while travelling on Samjhauta Express about 14 years back when she was just 7-8 years old. She was later spotted by Pakistan rangers.
She returned to India on Monday. However, she couldn’t recognize her long-lost family and will be staying at the Indore-based institute until her family is traced.
Iterating that all her needs would be taken care of and that she would be provided vocational training as well, Gaud said it was an honour for Indore that Geeta would be spending some time here.
“Sushma Didi (Sushma Swaraj) has given us the responsibility of taking care of her. We will ensure that we live up to her expectations,” she said.
Also at the function was school education minister Archana Chitnis, accompanied by MLA Usha Thakur and the staff of the institute. Chitnis said it was matter of immense pride that Geeta, who was for long stranded in Pakistan, expressed a desire to come back to India. “After spending a long time in Pakistan, Geeta still wanted to come to India — (this) speaks a lot about our culture and the principles we Indians stand for,” said Chitnis.
Giving Geeta a warm welcome, the 650 students at the institute were seen carrying ‘Welcome to India’ placards. “The students are very excited with her arrival and stay at the institute. They are curious to know about her experiences,” said Bharat Singh Gaud, nodal officer, department for social justice, who was also present at the function.
With sweet memories of Pakistan and her experience of staying in Edhi Foundation, Geeta, who arrived at the city on Tuesday, was accompanied by Monica Punjabi Verma, one of the managers of Indore Deaf Bilingual Academy (IBDA).
Having spent time two days with Geeta, Punjabi said she is very happy that she is finally in India. Expressing a desire to visit a temple in New Delhi, Punjabi said Geeta was very fond of her place in Pakistan and shared a lot of experiences about the foundation with me.
“Media always reports incidents of forced conversions, but Geeta told me that the foundation where she lived never treated her like an outsider. She was allowed to follow her religion and remained a vegetarian throughout. Infact, dal chawal are her favourite,” she said.
Commenting on whether Geeta was able to recognise her native place, Punjabi said currently she was unable to recall anything as she was very young when she accidentally crossed over to Pakistan, but efforts are own to trace her parents.
Stating that Geeta has very limited knowledge about language and lacks academic education, Punjabi said the first priority of the institute is to provide her basic primary education, so that she is able to communicate with other children residing there.
“At this age, we cannot set big goals for her, but here at IBDA we will impart her skill development knowledge along with basic primary education, so that she can stand on her own feet,” Punjabi said.
According to IBDA officials, Geeta will reside with 600 other deaf and mute children at the institute and that it will help her adapt speedily. It is said Geeta has also expressed a strong desire to meet Salman Khan.