As Geeta, the deaf-mute woman being looked after in Pakistan for 15 years returns home, activists appeal to governments to look into other cases and to continue the dialogue
Geeta, the Indian woman living in Pakistan after accidentally crossing the border over a decade ago, returns to India today with both governments completing all formalities.
Deaf and mute Geeta, 23, was reportedly around 8 years old when Pakistan Rangers found her near the Lahore border 15 years ago and handed her over to the charitable Edhi Foundation rather than to authorities as is the usual practice. Edhi Foundation’s Bilquees Edhi has been looking after Geeta like a daughter at their orphanage in Karachi.
Bilquees Edhi is one of the four Pakistanis accompanying Geeta to India, including Bilquees and Edhi’s son Faisal Edhi, his wife, and their son Fahad. India has said they will be treated as state guests.
Fahad Edhi told TOI that they had been assured that they would remain in New Delhi until Indian authorities completed DNA tests to confirm Geeta’s parentage.
Indian authorities have said that Geeta would be handed over to her family only if their DNA test matched.
“We are going with her because she recognised the family in the photograph sent to us by the Indian High Commission as her family. But the DNA tests will confirm this,” Fahad said.
He said Indian authorities had assured them that if the DNA tests came negative Geeta would be placed in safe custody. “She has been with us for so many years, she is like a family member and we would like her to stay with us. But obviously she wants to be in her country and with her real family,” he said.
Geeta has identified her father, step-mother and siblings from a photograph sent to her by the Indian High Commission in Islamabad. The family reportedly lives in Bihar.
Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, T. C. A. Raghavan, and his wife visited Geeta in August after external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj directed him to meet her and try to locate her family.
Welcoming Geeta’s return to India, the Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD) notes that earlier Bhanudas Karale from Ahmednagar and Bhavesh Parmar from Mumbai who also strayed into Pakistan were returned to India in 2012 after being kept in Pakistan’s prisons for a few years.
“We take this opportunity to remind that Hamid Ansari, a young Indian from Mumbai, is missing from Pakistan since November 2012. We sincerely appeal to the Indian and Pakistani governments to expedite their efforts in locating him and sending him back to India to be with his family,” says PIPFPD in a press release.
“We also appeal to governments of both countries to continue dialogue.”