Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj has appealed to the people of her country to help authorities find the family of Geeta, a hearing and speech impaired woman.
Geeta, who had been stranded in Pakistan for years after wandering across the border as an 11-year-old, returned to India in October, 2015 with the help of Edhi Foundation, which had adopted and raised the girl since until she was 23.
Since her return, several Indian couples had claimed that Geeta was their daughter, but she failed to recognise them. She is currently staying with a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in Indore.
On Sunday, Swaraj offered a reward of Indian Rs100,000 for anyone who helps locate Geeta’s parents, Times of India reported.
She urged the girl’s parents to come forward and own their daughter, promising that Geeta’s expenses, from studies to marriage, will be borne by the government.
“Your daughter is restless to meet you,” she said, addressing the parents.
The minister once again thanked the Edhi Foundation for keeping Geeta secure and bringing her up.
Geeta was found wandering near the India border in Lahore in 2002 and was taken by soldiers of Pakistan Rangers. They handed the child over to the Lahore branch of Edhi Foundation — Pakistan’s largest social welfare organisation, founded by late philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi. Later, she was shifted to Karachi.
After identifying a family as her own through a picture sent by Indian officials, Geeta finally returned to India on October 26, 2015 with the head of Edhi Foundation, Abdul Sattar Edhi’s wife. She was received by senior diplomats from the Pakistan High Commission.
Among those waiting to meet her at the airport was Janardhan Mahato from Bihar, who she had earlier identified as her father from one of many photographs sent to her by the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.
But in a tragic twist, just hours after arriving in Delhi, she told officials she did not know the family. Sushma Swaraj then vowed to find her parents after a DNA test. However, the girl’s DNA did not match the Mahato family when results came out a month later.
Geeta’s case had come into limelight after the release of Salman Khan blockbuster hit Bajrangi Bhaijaan earlier in 2015. The movie is based on a fictional story of a speech-impaired, six-year-old girl Munni who stumbled across the Pak-India border and greatly resembled the real-life story of Geeta.