Deaf-mute Indian girl returns home to meet long-lost family

Deaf-mute Indian girl, stranded for 13 years in Pakistan, returns home to meet her long-lost family

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Geeta holds her palms together as she looks out of a van while leaving for an airport to depart for New Delhi, outside the Edhi Foundation in Karachi, Pakistan, October 26, 2015.

A deaf-mute Indian girl stranded in Pakistan for 13 years after wandering over one of the world's most militarised borders arrived home on Monday to be reunited with the family she has identified from photographs.

The story of Geeta, a Hindu woman in her early 20s, has captivated people on both sides of the border at a time of heightened tension between the nuclear-armed rivals.

"A daughter returns home. Geeta arrives in New Delhi accompanied by members of Edhi Foundation," Indian foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said on Twitter, referring to the Pakistani charity group that has looked after her.

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

At first, she was kept at a children's home in the city of Lahore, where she was given the Muslim name Fatima.

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 on Monday, Geeta left the charity bound for the airport in the city of Karachi for a flight to New Delhi.

Wearing a traditional red outfit with her head covered by a loose scarf, she smiled, waved to television cameras, and joined her hands in a traditional Indian greeting before climbing into a van to the airport.

"Geeta stayed with us for 13 years. Now it's time for her to go home," said Faisal Edhi, son of the founder of the Edhi Foundation that looked after the girl

She was headed to meet a family from India's Bihar state whom she says she recognised from photos sent by the Indian High Commission in Pakistan.

Edhi said investigations will be done to be certain the family is actually hers.

"If the DNA doesn't match, the Indian authorities will continue the search for her family."

Edhi thanked India and Pakistan for their role in Geeta's repatriation.

Hostilities have kept apart many families since majority-Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan became separate countries in 1947.

Geeta's story attracted much attention following a film with a similar plot that was released this year.

In the movie "Bajrangi Bhaijaan," actor Salman Khan plays an Indian man who finds a mute Pakistani girl and tries to reunite her with her family.