Stranded Indian back but can't recognise 'her family'

Ms Geeta at the airport yesterday after arriving in New Delhi from Karachi. She strayed into Pakistan more than a decade ago as a child and was unable to identify herself or say where she came from.
Ms Geeta at the airport yesterday after arriving in New Delhi from Karachi. She strayed into Pakistan more than a decade ago as a child and was unable to identify herself or say where she came from.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW DELHI • A mute and deaf Indian woman who strayed into Pakistan more than a decade ago finally returned to her home country yesterday, but soon said she could not recognise the family she thought was hers.

In a tragic twist just hours after arriving in Delhi, the young woman, known only as Geeta, told officials she did not know the Mahato family from India's eastern state of Bihar. "She recognised one family after we showed her their pictures. But after meeting the Mahato family today, she could not recognise them," Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said at a press conference alongside Ms Geeta.

Ms Geeta remained upbeat despite the disappointment, with a sign language interpreter saying: "She used to be sad in Pakistan but after coming here, she is happy."

Ms Swaraj said Ms Geeta would be placed in an institution if DNA test results confirmed that the family was not hers and would keep searching for her real one.

"The family has submitted their blood samples and Geeta has also given her samples. We will have scientific proof before handing her to any family," she said.

"It doesn't matter if we find her parents or not, she is a daughter of India and we will take care of her," Ms Swaraj said.

Ms Geeta was about 11 when she crossed from India into Pakistan. Exactly how is not clear but she mimes an explosion and shows how she ducked and ran before being caught by armed men.

She became stuck in Pakistan because she was unable to identify herself or say where she came from. Now believed to be in her early 20s, Ms Geeta remained under the care of Pakistan's largest welfare organisation, the Edhi Foundation, living in a shelter in the port city of Karachi.

She would point at maps of India, especially to an area in the south of Jharkhand state, until she was able to finally communicate she was from India, not Pakistan.

Early yesterday, she left the charity in Karachi and flew to New Delhi to meet the family whom she said she recognised from photos sent by the Indian High Commission in Pakistan. However, she could not recognise them when they came face to face.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2015, with the headline 'Stranded Indian back but can't recognise 'her family''. Print Edition | Subscribe