Geeta, the Indian woman who had accidentally crossed over to Pakistan as a child, has now returned to India, almost 15 years later.
Geeta landed in Delhi on Monday morning where she was received by officials from the Ministry of External Affairs and the Pakistan High Commission. Geeta will reunite with her family only after a DNA test proves their blood relation. Until then, she will be taken care of in a shelter in Indore.
Geeta, who is deaf and mute, had crossed over to Pakistan when she was 7 or 8 years old. She was found by Pakistani Rangers sitting alone in a Samjahuta Express coach at the Lahore Railway station 15 years ago.
Since then, Geeta has been away from home. She was adopted by the Edhi Foundation in Karachi where she lived with the Edhi family.
On Monday morning, dressed in white and red salwar suit, Geeta stepped out of the Pakistan International Airlines flight PK 272 which landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport.
5 members of the Edhi family have accompanied Geeta to her homeland.
“She is not really separating from us,” Faisal Edhi, the Director of Edhi Foundation told reporters in Karachi before they left.
“Today, I thank Sushma Swaraj, the foreign minister of India and Pakistan’s foreign ministry and all Pakistani and Indian media, whether print or electronic, for all their help in finding her family,” added Edhi.
The family said that they would stay in touch with Geeta through social media and even visit her at times.
An overwhelmed Geeta thanked the people of Pakistan for taking care of her, before boarding her flight in Karachi.
At the airport in Delhi, Geeta received a warm welcome from the people and the media who had gathered around to catch a glimpse of her.
After she landed, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted, “Geeta – Welcome home our daughter.”
“My heart has always been in India,” the 23-year-old reportedly told Sushma Swaraj, whom she met after arriving in Delhi.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan High Commission is hosting a reception to honour Geeta, said Manzoor Ali Memon, the spokesperson of the Pakistan High Commission.
Memon also took the opportunity to talk about release of Pakistani prisoners allegedly held by India.
“It’s a good moment for both the countries and send out a good message. We have handed her over and we hope that 459 Pakistani prisoners will be kept with equal love and affection and be released as soon as possible so that they can lead their lives with honour,” said Memon.
The Indian authorities had got in touch with Geeta in August. The Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, TCA Raghavan, and his wife had visited Geeta two months ago after Sushma Swaraj had directed him to meet her and help locate her family.
In her press meet in Delhi, Sushma Swaraj revealed that Geeta had refused to identify her family members, so the Ministry will continue the search for her family. In the meantime, they will wait for the DNA test results. Until Geeta’s DNA test results match with any family, she will be taken care of at a shelter in Indore, said the Swaraj.
Geeta’s story is strikingly similar to the plot of Salman Khan’s hugely popular film ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’. In the film, the hero reunites a deaf and mute girl with her family in Pakistan who was accidentally left behind in India.
Geeta’s real-life story of returning back home after 15 years, has managed to strike a chord with people on both sides of the fence.