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Mute Indian stranded in Pakistan desperate for home

Published Aug 11, 2012 06:02am


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Geeta, a deaf and mute Indian girl, browsing through a book on Hindu faith during an interview at a charity in Karachi on August 8, 2012. - Photo by AFP

KARACHI: When the South Asian neighbours celebrate 65 years of independence next week, a deaf and mute Indian woman stranded in Pakistan will be thinking of only one thing: how to get home to see her family.

Geeta, now 21, was found by police 13 years ago, sitting alone and disorientated on a train that had come across the border into Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore.

As no one claimed her, officers took Geeta to the Edhi Foundation, Pakistan's largest and best-known charity, in whose care she has remained ever since.

Geeta, desperate to get back to India, has tried to run away several times but, defenceless and unable to explain where her family live, has failed.

However, activists are now making a renewed push in the hope that Indian and Pakistani authorities can intervene to find her parents.

“It is simple for her,” Bilqees Edhi told AFP at the tiny apartment where she cares personally for Geeta in the same building as an orphanage and a hospital.

“She thinks she'll be in India as soon as she leaves us. She desperately wants to meet her family but she only knows she lives in India, nothing else.” At first, Geeta lived in a shelter in Lahore as the charity tried to track down her family, but years went by without success.

After she tried to escape several times and quarrelled with staff, Bilqees, who always had an easy relationship with her, brought her to Karachi six months ago and welcomed her into her own home.

Short and thin with a pale complexion, Geeta has her own form of sign language and can write in Hindi: “India, seven brothers, three sisters”.

She adopts the Hindi custom of greeting elders by touching their feet and pressing her two palms together close to her heart in the gesture of Namaste.

Speaking through sign language, she said one day she became annoyed after being told off by her parents, left the house and kept walking for hours.

“Then,” she swings her hands back and forth in a loop, a sign for a moving train, “I boarded the train and slept.” Geeta writes that her mother used to call her “Guddi”, which means doll in Urdu and Punjabi.

Through sign language, she says her home is next to a river, set in fields with the house behind a hospital and a restaurant.

“You know, it could be any village or town. We have so many places like this,” sighs Bilqees in quiet frustration.

An official in the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, when contacted by AFP, said he would inquire into the case, but was unable to comment for the moment.

Zohra Yusuf, chairwoman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, has offered to help by taking up the case with the High Commission, and calling on the Indian media to help find her family.

Geeta is not the first Indian child to stray into Pakistan. Other cases of children straying across the border have previously been resolved with them handed back to their home country.

One runaway teenager, who crossed over to Lahore then took the train to Karachi, was handed back in 2009 after police found him wandering around and he said he was from Kanpur city in the state of Uttar Pradesh, police official Afzal Khan said.

Three years ago, Bilqees says she managed to repatriate another Indian girl, who had also strayed across the border after a row with her parents.

“But, fortunately she could speak and tell us her whereabouts, which enabled us to arrange for her safe return.” For now, Geeta watches Indian soap operas on a small TV, and observes the dawn to dusk fast of the Muslim holy month of Ramazan, although she also prays at a small Hindu shrine in a corner of Bilqees' veranda.

“She worships there and fasts as well with us,” explains Bilqees.

Geeta touches her lips and ears to indicate that her siblings can hear and speak. Then her smile tinges with sadness. She looks at the sky and moves her arm slowly upwards, mimicking a plane.

“She says she wants to go home as soon as possible,” interjects Ismat, a teenager who lives in the orphanage upstairs.


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Comments (50) Closed

beg Aug 12, 2012 09:19pm
On the other hand you know how many Pakistan who cross border unknowingly are held in jails in in India and how badly they are treated.Indians should learn from a pakistani miss bilquis how to help and treat.this is what Islam make a muslim
razi Aug 11, 2012 12:22pm
why dont you guys put her childhood pic as well so that may be through some coincidence the parents might recognize her
@piercefanatic Aug 11, 2012 11:35am
Really that's all you have to say? What are you a Ravan sena follower?Thank God for the Pakistani humanitarians who took care of this little girl and now a young lady.Humanity survives all boundaries.
Abdullah Hussain Aug 11, 2012 11:24am
It seems some peoples are inclined to move one step forward & two steps backward. Instead of praising the efforts & humanitarian gesture of felicitating this unfortunate girl to stay & practice her religion in peace, peoples are hurling nonsense. The book in her hand clearly shows the freedom she has in practicing her religion yet some nonsense comments are made.
Mohammadazeez Aug 11, 2012 11:16am
Thank you Madam Bilqees for your tolerance and allowing the girl to worship in her own religion right in your house. You are greater then any Mullah in Pakistan. Geeta fasting during Ramadan is nothing unique in my country Viti Hindus (including some Brahim pandits) fast during the Ramadan with muslims and cook sewai on Eid.. Some Hindus particularly from UP do fast during Ramadan wherever in the world they may be living, so Geeta fasting is not a suprise. Thank you Madan Mohan Joshi for your beautiful comment . You are a truthful person.
Syed Husain Aug 11, 2012 11:14am
Very sad to read that a helpless mute person is getting bounced around while the two neighboring countries refuse to cooperate. My hear felt sympathies for this young girl and her family. All I can do is hope and pray for her safe return.
Peter Aug 12, 2012 07:30pm
When DAWN will do a story about hundreds of innocent Pakistanis stranded in Indian jails!
Rizwan Aug 12, 2012 06:58pm
I fear her parents will never be found because they may simply not want her. Isn't it odd that there are not police reports to easily track down a missing child? Did the parents even report her missing? Because after all, she is a girl, and she is deaf - and in South Asia (especially East Punjab which has the world's highest imbalance of males to females due to female abortions), that means she is a "burden" to her family.
Waheed Aug 12, 2012 11:13am
How many miles a child can travel on foot? Areas around the train's departure station and stations en route (if any) should be contacted to locate her family. Could have been done the day she was found.
To all who opposes Aug 12, 2012 07:53am
Reality bites . He is saying keeping the recent happenings in Pakistan . Those who replied negatively to Anil have closed their eyes to these happenings .
victor Aug 12, 2012 06:04am
God bless you Madam Bilquees.If there are many more like you this would be a wonderful world
Madan Mohan Joshi Aug 11, 2012 07:20am
She is neither an Indian nor a Pakistani but she is an 'Insaan' and well kept under the shelter of another 'insaan' living in Pakistan. This was the 'Insaan' which every religion dreamt of. This is the 'Insaan' who always suffers by the queer boundary laws framed by us on this free and open space of God.
M. Ali Aug 12, 2012 04:43pm
It is a shame it took so many years to even print this article. I wish India and Pakistan have relations like USA and Canada where a missing person or a criminal or a potential natural desaster (etc. etc.) is shared instantly among the neighbors and action is taken instanly.
anil Aug 11, 2012 08:40am
Indian gov should bring her back before she got converted
anil tiwari Aug 11, 2012 06:08am
A sad story, hope she soon finds her home and dear ones.
Vikas Aug 11, 2012 07:58am
What a tragedy....two very same countries divided by a border!
Zalim singh Aug 11, 2012 08:35am
God bless you Madam Pakistan.
faisal Aug 11, 2012 09:27am
well said anil, so when r u converting?
Ali Aug 12, 2012 10:24pm
It's really sad to know, Once you realize that you are away from your country & the saddest thing you haven't seen your paretns since long, drags you to die.I pray & hope that she'll meet her parents & go back to her country soon Inshallah Government should take some steps with interest to help her out.
ujmalik Aug 11, 2012 12:42pm
you narrow mindedness is astounding. Did you not notice that even Bilqis Edhi has a Hindu temple for her in corner of her veranda INSIDE HER HOME!
ideologyspeaks Aug 11, 2012 12:44pm
At this time when Dawn is reporting of girl stranded across the border, IBNLive is reporting of Hindu families fleeing Pakistan. What a contrast of stories in journalism!!
Afzal Khan Aug 11, 2012 12:59pm
Indian and Pakitani media can resolve this matter. Her pictures on Indian tv, news papers and and Indian high embassy direct involvement with sincerity can do it.
Tariq Aug 11, 2012 01:39pm
A very touching real life story. Geeta should only be repatriated if her family/home can be found otherwise she will end up in a orphanage in India. The Indian authorities should do everything humanly possible to unite her with her family.
Suman Aug 11, 2012 01:40pm
Anil, What a shameful comment. If you can't appreciate the generosity of others in helping this poor girl, at least don't insult them. I will bet you have never even thought of helping strangers in distress. I hope one day you will appreciate what kindness and porosity means.
Sheeraz Nizamani Aug 11, 2012 02:07pm
we should realize human being around the world.
balachandran Aug 12, 2012 01:06pm
will the indian embassy officials sitting in pakistan take quick action. they should visit her, arrange quick repatriation and at India govt should trace the family with the help of Media and social organisations.. No time should be wasted.
Zafar Malik Aug 11, 2012 02:17pm
She in Bilqees and Abdul Sattar Edhi's protection. Perhaps you don't know Edhis. Learn about them first before saying something like this. If you want to see Angels in human form, come and see them.
sree Aug 11, 2012 02:47pm
When for the last 13 years she has had the freedom to practise her religion, it is mischievous to drag in a supposed threat of religious conversion to the issue.
Rahib Ali Aug 11, 2012 03:36pm
We are Pakistani, Geeta is our sister, no some convert her Muslims. india brother should help us to find her parents.
Ahmed Aug 11, 2012 03:48pm
History is painful. Hopefully one day we move forward and accept this is God's land and we are temporary care takers. Living peacefully and loving eachother is the key.
javed Aug 11, 2012 04:21pm
yes she should be repatriated to the country where she can learn to hate and discriminate against the very people that gave her shelter/food and even a shrine to worship.
aviratam Aug 11, 2012 05:07pm
Thank you, Madam Bilquees. Your compassion re-defines the humanity that should be present in all of us. Bless you.
Pankaj Aug 11, 2012 07:42pm
Its pity..god please help her
Ixion Aug 11, 2012 08:07pm
Disseminating more despair in an already despondent environment - typical DAWN approach. Good news is NO news!
kulak124 Aug 11, 2012 10:57pm
Anil then you better take care of her before she converts.Shame on you saying this uncalled for bigotry , instead of saying thanks for taking care of your sister.
Venky Aug 12, 2012 02:27am
Thanks for the generosity shown to Geeta by Edhi Foundation. Can't Indian High Commission on humanitarian considerations publish her photo and details in all news papers across the border states close to Pakistan? It is also possible to check all police stations if any one has made an FIR asking for her search in India?
Azhar Aug 12, 2012 02:36am
ghani baloch Aug 12, 2012 03:14am
inshallah she will find their parents soon by the grace of allah
Madan Aug 12, 2012 04:08am
I knew that such a decent human beig like Bilquees exists in Pakistan because I am in contact with this kind of people there.God bless both Bilquees and Gita.
DarshanSuri Aug 12, 2012 04:21am
I feel sorry for you Anil. What a thankless person you are.
Girish Aug 12, 2012 04:47am
Hope the Indian Govt does put in effort , at least into this ! This Indian Govt is the worst !!!
Aqdas Aug 12, 2012 05:31am
Shame on you for making the plight of a helpless girl seem frivolous.If you cant make a positive comment or show sympathy then be quiet!
Afzal Naqash JK Aug 12, 2012 06:51am
EAST OR WEST HOME IS THE BEST. Like this those Hindu families who crossed over to India during last few days will definitely go back. Those passing some sense less comments in regard to these Hindus in India must come to senses by coming to know about such type of gesture. Why she did not convert to Muslim religion when she has been living in a Muslim Culture/family altogether? Almighty bless such people who take care of these helpless.
Akil Akhtar Aug 12, 2012 11:41pm
Once you move beyond the partition we may have a more peaceful future.
EQ8Rhomes Aug 13, 2012 02:27am
Pakistan and Bangladesh are infamous for forced conversions to Islam, in spite of Prophet Muhammad's injunction that there be "No compulsion in religion'. I know. But , it seems no one really wants Geeta because she is hearing impaired and mute and may become a burden rather than an economic engine. That's India and Pakistan on street level for you. Geeta fasts because she knows that Muslims will be offended to see her eat while they fast. It's a curtesy. Anil is not out of line. But thank, the Edhi Foundation in Karachi.
Bhu_kh Aug 13, 2012 03:44am
May Allah help Geeta, the lost child and bless the noble karma yogis at Bilqees Edhi ,who are selflessly helping the helpless person.My best wishes for all concerned.
mullah akbar shah Aug 13, 2012 08:21am
indian officers are on ISI payroll they wont move a muscle dont worry! lol
Goutham Aug 13, 2012 09:36pm
TV (Doordarshan) would be a Good bet to trace her whereabouts by splashing her photo onscreen since even remote villages seem to have access to TV and Doordarshan being a free channel would be the best medium to initiate the search.
Goutham Aug 13, 2012 09:38pm
Thanks to the Good people in Pakistan who are treating her like a daughter and taking good care of her. My heart goes out to her especially since she is handicapped.
World Peace Aug 15, 2012 08:55am
good work done by pakistani citizens.Such acts should be done more and more between people of both countries.Help each other