It was a moment packed with emotions, drama and the humanitarian radiance, which promises to brighten the darkened landscape of the strained India-Pakistan relations. Geeta’s luminous smile, her face lit up with the joy of returning home after straying accidentally into Pakistan 15 years ago, said it all. She could neither speak nor hear, but communicated through signs and gestures, letting India and the world know how elated she was to be back in her country after living in Pakistan all these years.
India welcomed Geeta, the speech and hearing impaired 23-year-old Indian woman, on her arrival in India from Pakistan. She was greeted by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on her return. “Geeta – Welcome home our daughter,” tweeted Ms Swaraj.
Geeta was around seven or eight years old when she was found sitting alone by Pakistan Rangers on the Samjhauta Express in Lahore. She was unable to identify herself or say where she came from when she wandered over one of the world’s most militarised borders from the neighbouring India. Geeta had remained in Pakistan under the care of the country’s largest welfare organisation, the Edhi Foundation, living in a shelter in the port city of Karachi.
Geeta’s life story took a twist, like a Bollywood drama when she identified her father, step-mother and siblings from a photograph sent to her by India’s high commission in Islamabad. India’s high commissioner to Pakistan, T.C.A. Raghavan and his wife were quick to visit Geeta in August, after Sushma Swaraj directed him to meet her and to try locate her family.
Geeta’s case gained traction when a Bollywood movie titled ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ with a similar story line showing a Pakistani woman trapped in India became a hit. The Indian government promised to bring her back and after showing many families who turned up to claim Geeta as their daughter. Finally, she recognised the photo of a family from Bihar as her family. She will be handed over to her family once the DNA reports confirm her parents. Ms Swaraj said that the tests have been done on her as well as her putative parents, but the reports are yet to come in.
In the event of the DNA test failing to prove Geeta’s parents, she would be put up in a suitable institution. Pakistan’s High Commissioner Abdul Basit is set to host her at a reception on October 26 in Delhi. “Great, Geeta is returning to her native home tomorrow. We wish her healthy and prosperous life. Edhis are superb, a pride of Pakistan,” tweeted Mr Basit.
Geeta’s homecoming comes at a time when the relations between India and Pakistan remain mired in mutual suspicion and hostility. Hopefully, humanitarian gestures like these will encourage the two estranged neighbours to focus on doable issues like the speedy release of prisoners and inadvertent crossers into each other’s country.
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