Bollywood blockbuster Bajrangi Bhaijaan has given momentum to a campaign to reunite with her family a hearing and speech impaired Indian woman, Geeta alias Guddi, 22, stuck in Pakistan for over a decade.
On Monday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj asked the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Dr TCA Raghavan, and his wife to visit the woman.
Responding to a tweet by Ansar Burney, a human rights activist in Pakistan, Sushma tweeted: “I have asked Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan TCA Raghavan to go to Karachi with Mrs Raghavan and meet this girl.”
In 2003, the woman — then 11 years old — was spotted by the Pakistan Rangers in Lahore after she strayed across the border. She was handed over to the Edhi Foundation, a well-known social welfare organisation in Pakistan run by Abdul Sattar Edhi and his wife, Bilquis Edhi. Named Geeta by Bilquis Edhi, the woman lived in different shelter homes run by the foundation. She stayed in Lahore for the first two years, and was later brought to Karachi.
Dr Raghavan later told The Indian Express in a text message: “There is an Indian girl in Karachi. We are in touch with Mrs Edhi.”
Meanwhile, Burney thanked the minister for her response through the tweet, “Sushma jee, thank you so much for your efforts on Ansar Burney Trust’s request to start a search for the missing family.”
Both Burney and the Edhis claimed that the success of Bajrangi Bhaijaan had rekindled their hopes for Geeta’s return.
Faisal Edhi (35), who is helping his parents Bilquis and Abdul Sattar Edhi in their philanthrophy, said Geeta’s life “inspired Bollywood to shoot a flick clearly based on her story”.
“The Pak rangers did not take her to the jail. They got in touch with my father and asked us to take care of her stating she that appeared to have lost her way. She indicated to us that she was lost during a fair of Goddess ‘Sheran Wali’. She even drew a ‘Shivlingam’ on a paper, asking us to take her there. She continues to be a Hindu, eats vegetarian food. We have set up a small temple in our shelter home for her to pray. I went to Kathmandu recently and got her an idol of Lord Ganesha. She herself started offering namaaz with us and observing fasts during Ramzan. She looks forward to going back home,” he said.
“We took up the matter with the Indian High Commission in Pakistan several times. But no help came our way. She can’t speak or hear anything. But she writes in Hindi. She repeats the number 193 whenever she writes her address,” he added, adding that no one tried to convert her to Islam.
Burney, who got in touch with the girl three years ago, brought her pictures and videos to India but failed to make any progress. “It was after my campaign in India that the script was written for the movie. But I am saddened that the producer did not even mention Geeta or gave her any credit. Had he given her picture at the end of the movie with a message, she would have been home by now,” he said.
Burney, who is scheduled to visit India on September 2, added: “Salman Khan can help us if he campaigns for her.”
(WITH ENS INPUTS FROM DELHI)
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