Sushma Swaraj plays matchmaker, seeks groom for Pakistan-returned Geeta
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj is playing matchmaker for Geeta, the hearing- and speech- impaired woman who was brought to India in 2015 after having stayed in Pakistan for almost 15 years.
Geeta had drifted to Pakistan when she was a child and was under the care of the Edhi Foundation, a Pakistani charity. Since her return to India, efforts to reunite her with her family have proved futile. Several families had come to claim Geeta as their own, but she did not recognise any of them.
“Sushma Swaraj, after a meeting with Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in October 2017, had announced plans for Geeta’s marriage. On April 8, civil society members took a prospective speech- and hearing impaired groom with them to meet Sushma Swaraj and Geeta, at Swaraj’s residence in Delhi,” an official at Swaraj’s office, who is not authorised to talk to the media, said.
“Geeta rejected the proposal. Swaraj maam then asked them to widen their search and bring more prospective grooms to choose from, assuring her total support for the cause.”
Geeta, who is known by only one name, apparently entered the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on a train from India. She was found by the police and sent to a state-run shelter, then moved from one shelter to another — because she often tried to escape and quarrelled with staff — before she arrived at the Karachi-based Edhi Foundation.
“In a recent meeting with civil society members who helped Geeta to come back to India, Swaraj had invited applications through Facebook and also announced Geeta’s biodata in the Parichay Sammelan (introductory meeting) for speech- and hearing-impaired people,” said Gyanendra Purohit, convener of non-governmental organisation Anand Service Society, who is coordinating the match-making efforts.
So far they have received 25 biodatas of potential grooms , and they include an army officer, an astrologer, novelist, engineers and farmers, among others.
“We have shortlisted 15 suitable matches by asking them in detail why they were interested in marrying Geeta. These matches are going to be screened by Swaraj’s PA (personal assistant) and then Geeta will see whether she likes the chosen guy or not and then Swaraj will have the final say,” said Purohit.
A spokesperson for the ministry of external affairs, who is in London for the Commonwealth meetings, said he was not aware of developments.
The groom is being promised a house and a government job, according to Purohit, who added: “Some of the prospective grooms were rejected when they said they wanted to marry Geeta in the hope of getting a government job.”
Geeta’s tutor Monica Punjabi said, “The purpose of this process is to give her a family, to give a space to her to live her life in her own way and to make her feel happy. We are doing our best to get the best man for the marriage.”