By Afshan Zehra
Geeta, a speech and hearing impaired, Indian girl, was stranded in Pakistan for more than a decade but could not confirm her identity due to her disabilities.
She had arrived in Pakistan, when she was just a child, but the details of how she arrived 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.
Now 22 years of age, she had been in Pakistan for as long as 11 years, living in a Karachi shelter run by the Edhi Foundation, founded by philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi. Not knowing her true name, the workers at the shelter rechristened her Geeta.
According to Edhi foundation, she was handed to the shelter by local police and the Pakistan Rangers.
At the shelter, she was under the care of Bilquis Edhi, wife of the founder of the shelter. Bilquis had given full liberty to the girl to practice her own religion and faith and never enforced Muslim beliefs on her.
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, 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 had called her home for the past decade. From one set of the images, she recognized her parents.
Geeta landed in India on October 26.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted a photo of the woman saying, “Welcome Geeta. It is truly wonderful to have you back home. Was truly a delight to spend time with you today.”
Modi and Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj had thanked the Edhi family for sheltering her all these years.
Modi had also announced a donation of 10,000,000 Indian rupees (about $154,000) to the Edhi Foundation which it refused to accept.
In a sad turn of events, Geeta’s DNA did not match any of the families claiming to be hers and she is still at a shelter home in India.
So the deaf and mute girl has returned home but her journey is not yet over.
This story is part of our ‘most discussed persons in 2015’ list.
Read no 6 here: Chand Nawab and his rise to fame