Deaf-mute Indian woman stranded in Pak desperate to go home

Deaf-mute Indian woman stranded in Pak desperate to go home

A deaf and mute Indian woman, who inadvertently strayed into Pakistan at least 12 years ago, is desperate to return home to her parents.

The woman -- whom leading Pakistani rights activist Bilqees Edhi has christened Geeta as no one knows her real name -- apparently entered the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on a train from India.

She was found by police and sent to a state-run shelter. However, Geeta's inability to communicate caused a lot of frustration and she was moved from one welfare home to another as she often tried to escape and quarrelled with staff, Bilqees told PTI on phone from Karachi today.

"Efforts made by the authorities to trace her family in India produced no results and she was finally sent to Karachi. She must be about 21 or 22 years old but she looks much younger," said Bilqees, the wife of Abdul Sattar Edhi, founder of Pakistan's largest and best-known charity Edhi Foundation.

"As she was unable to fit into the various shelters, I brought her to the home run by the Edhi Foundation about two or three months ago," Bilqees said.

Geeta, who is short, thin and dark complexioned, has been spending the past few weeks observing 'roza', the fast during the Islamic holy month of Ramzan, with the other girls and women living in the Edhi Foundation home.

She also prays frequently at a small mandir that Bilqees helped set up in a corner of the home.

"She cries a lot whenever she worships, possibly because she remembers her parents and siblings," Bilqees said.

Geeta has developed her own form of sign language and, during recent interactions with reporters in Karachi, she has indicated that she has 12 siblings in India, including seven brothers and five sisters. 

Bilqees said Geeta had told her through sign language that she left home after becoming annoyed with her parents.

"She then walked a long distance, passing a river and a temple before she boarded a train and went to sleep," Bilqees said.

Geeta has had some education as she is able to read and write in Hindi. She has written in notes that her mother used to call her "Guddi," a common nickname for Indian girl children.

"She seems to be from a village, possibly in Indian Punjab. But it could be any village and that's why it's so difficult to trace her parents," Bilqees said.

Several media groups and organisations, including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, have now taken up Geeta's case and are making a concerted push to track down her relatives in India.

Three years ago, Bilqees repatriated another Indian girl who had strayed across the border after a quarrel with her parents.

The Edhi Foundation has also helped arrange the marriage of Muslim women from Bangladesh who were unable to trace their families after being trafficked to Pakistan.

"But Geeta has told me that she will marry only after she returns to India," said Bilqees. 

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