An Indian woman stranded in Pakistan for years has returned home
“Geeta” has speech and hearing difficulties and was unable to communicate her origins
A Bollywood movie with a similar story galvanized a campaign to find her family and bring her back to India
An Indian woman who was stranded in Pakistan for years but couldn’t confirm her name or identify her family has returned home, after a Bollywood movie galvanized a campaign to bring her back.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted a photo of the woman – known only as “Geeta” – Monday, saying, “Welcome Geeta. It is truly wonderful to have you back home. Was truly a delight to spend time with you today.”
The details of how Geeta arrived in Pakistan, when she was just a child, are sketchy. The Indian Express reported that she was found sitting alone on the Samjhauta Express train at a Lahore railway station by Pakistan Rangers.
Attempts to repatriate Geeta were stymied by her significant speech and hearing difficulties – she was unable to give her real name or identify her family or where she was from.
Now believed to be 22, she may have been in Pakistan for as long as 11 years, living in a Karachi shelter run by the Edhi Foundation. Not knowing her true name, the workers at the shelter rechristened her Geeta.
She was handed to the shelter by local police and the Pakistan Rangers, Faisal Edhi, trustee of the Edhi Foundation, told CNN earlier this month.
Geeta’s mystery first surfaced in 2012, when officials from the Indian Consulate in Islamabad met her in Karachi.
But the campaign to bring her home really gained momentum after the success of a blockbuster Bollywood movie, “Bajrangi Bhaijaan,” which deals with a similar subject – Shahida, a deaf-mute Pakistani girl trapped in India.
The movie, which stars Salman Khan, one of the subcontinent’s most popular actors, brought the case unprecedented prominence.
Use of the “#Geeta” hashtag skyrocketed.
Following the increased interest in the case, the government was contacted by several families who said that Geeta could be their daughter.
The Indian High Commission sent photos of the families to the shelter in Karachi that she has called her home for the past decade. From one set of the images, she recognized her parents.
Her purported family lives in Bihar province, in the east of India and over 1,000 miles from Pakistan. But several other families also claim she is their relative, so she will now undergo a DNA test.
“Geeta has just landed in Delhi,” Vikas Swarup, a spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, told CNN on Monday. “The DNA test will happen today. Results will take a few days.”
Earlier, Swarup said her nationality was not in question, and her repatriation was not dependent on finding her family.
“Geeta’s Indian nationality has already been verified. … Our bringing her back to India is not dependent on whether or not we discover her parents,” he said. “She is the daughter of India.”
Modi paid respect to the Edhi family on Twitter.
“I don’t think any amount of words are enough to thank the Edhi family for taking care of Geeta. They are apostles of kindness & compassion,” the Prime Minister tweeted. He announced a donation of 10,000,000 rupees (about $154,000) to the Edhi Foundation.
READ: From streets to center stage, music gives India’s slum children a voice