Geeta, who has been staying at an Indore hostel for the deaf and mute, was informed of Swaraj’s death on Wednesday morning, reports said. According to hostel warden Sandeep Pandit, she has been very upset since, and says “she has lost a guardian”.
Swaraj had indeed been a guardian to Geeta, playing an active role in getting her back from Pakistan, and then trying to locate her parents and find her a husband.
Geeta was found on the Lahore station around 18 years ago, and had been staying with a Pakistan charity. Efforts to get her back to India received a major boost once Swaraj, as the external affairs minister, started taking a personal interest in her case. In August 2015, she replied to a tweet by Pakistani activist Ansar Burney, saying she had asked the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan to meet Geeta.
The girl was brought back to India three months later, on October 23. As the search for her parents lingered on — with several couples turning up to claim her as their daughter but Geeta failing to recognise them or DNA tests not matching — Swaraj continued to take an interest in her.
In 2017, Swaraj had announced a reward of Rs 1 lakh for helping Geeta unite with her parents. She had also said she would get Geeta married soon, and then-Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan would do her kanyadan. Her office had monitored the search for Geeta’s prospective groom.
As recently as in November 2018, Swaraj had maintained: “Geeta is the daughter of India. Even if she does not meet her family, she will never be sent back to Pakistan. The Indian government will foster her.”
Like Geeta, another Indian national whose return to his country was facilitated by Swaraj is Hamid Ansari, a Mumbai techie.
Ansari was arrested in Pakistan in 2012 for entering the country illegally from Afghanistan, to meet a girl he had befriended online. After his mother Fauzia Ansari filed a habeas corpus petition, she was informed that Ansari was being tried by a military court. In 2015, he was sentenced to three years in jail.
While his prison term ended in December 2018, he was unable to come back to India as he did not have proper documents. This is when Swaraj’s ministry stepped in. According to reports, India issued 96 notes verbales to Pakistan for consular access to Ansari. With Swaraj’s involvement, Ansari was back to India in a matter of days. After he returned, his mother Fauzia had said: “Mera Bharat mahaan, meri madam mahaan, sab madam ne hi kiya hai (My India is great, my madam is great. Madam did everything).”