NEW DELHI • A mute and deaf Indian woman who has been stuck in Pakistan for more than a decade because she could not remember where she came from will return home next Monday after apparently identifying her family.
India's Foreign Ministry yesterday said the young woman, known only as Geeta, would undergo DNA testing to establish whether she is related to the people claiming to be her family.
The prospect of a long-awaited reunion comes after Geeta indicated earlier this month that she recognised a photograph of a family from the eastern state of Bihar that was sent to her by Indian authorities.
"Geeta has already identified one family as possibly being that of her parents," foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said at a media briefing in New Delhi.
"We will be doing DNA tests to establish conclusive proof," he added.
Geeta, who is believed to be in her 20s, will be accompanied by members of Edhi Foundation, the charity that has been looking after her in Pakistan.
She was 11 or 12 years old when police found her, alone and disorientated with no identification papers, on a train that had crossed the border from India into the Pakistan city of Lahore. She was believed to have strayed into Pakistani territory by mistake, but could not remember or explain exactly where she was from.
Pakistani police handed her over to the Edhi Foundation, the largest charity in the country, and she now lives in one of their shelters in Karachi. Even the name "Geeta" was given to her by Edhi staff.
If her DNA does not match that of the family, who have travelled to Delhi specially to greet her, the authorities said they will find a home for Geeta in a "suitable institution".
India's government pledged in August to bring her home, after a hit Bollywood film returned the case to the media spotlight.
The movie Bajrangi Bhaijaan, featuring Indian superstars Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor, tells the story of a mute young Pakistani woman, in this case trapped in India.
Mr Swarup rejected media criticism that Geeta's return was hasty, given that her ties with the family were not yet established. "Everything we have done so far has been with the full knowledge and concurrence of Geeta and Edhi Foundation," he said.
Meanwhile, in Pakistan, a 20-year-old woman ended up with burns on 45 per cent to 50 per cent of her body after a man she had refused to marry set her on fire, police said yesterday. Ms Sonia Bibi told police from her hospital bed that her former lover Latif Ahmed sprinkled her with petrol and set her alight after she turned down his proposal.
The incident took place in a remote village in Multan district in central Punjab province, and police have arrested the 24-year-old suspect.