In a fairytale-like twist to her tale, Geeta, now an adult, is finally returning to her home country
Imagine the plight of an 11-year-old child who accidentally crosses the border from India into Pakistan, is unable to explain her origins and remains stranded in that country for 13 long years. This is what happened to Geeta, who was found wandering by the Punjab Rangers in Pakistan well over a decade ago. It appears she had unintentionally crossed over aboard the Samjhauta Express. She was eventually housed with the Edhi Foundation at its Karachi headquarters. In a fairytale-like twist to her tale, Geeta, now an adult, is finally returning to her home country and possibly to her family. Geeta’s story, buried over the years, was reflected in a recent blockbuster Indian film in which a deaf and mute Pakistani girl, stranded in India, was assisted in returning home by the main protagonist.
Geeta has recognised pictures of her family in Bihar, sent to the Edhi Foundation by the Indian High Commission. Her nationality has been confirmed; DNA tests will be carried out to ascertain her links to a couple and their four other children in Bihar, but Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has said that as an Indian national she will be returning home regardless of what the tests say. The persons who acted as her family for so many years, Bilquis Edhi and her son Faisal, will travel with her to India. In times such as these, when there is so much hostility between the two countries, stories like that of Geeta are heartwarming. They restore faith in humanity that we seem to be losing rapidly. The Edhi Foundation and other philanthropists deserve a great deal of credit for pursuing Geeta’s case so diligently. We see also how public attention to cases like these can alter lives. Geeta’s has certainly changed, hopefully for the better. We hope she rediscovers the family she lost as a child. The case also highlights the problem of accidental border-crossing along a long and sometimes poorly demarcated frontier, and should remind both countries to stand by agreements to swiftly restore people, especially juveniles, who wander across it by mistake.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2015.
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