Women have made progress, but they are still far away from realising the dreams of the republic’s founding mothers.
A young deaf and mute Indian woman who strayed into Pakistan more than twelve years ago flew to Delhi to be reunited with the people she believes are her family, the charity caring for her said, in a case made famous by Bollywood.
Known only as Geeta, she was unable to identify herself or say where she came from when she wandered over one of the world’s most militarised borders from neighbouring India.
Now believed to be in her early 20’s, she has remained in Pakistan under the care of the country’s largest welfare organisation, the Edhi Foundation, living in a shelter in the port city of Karachi.
A daughter returns home. Geeta arrives in New Delhi accompanied by members of Edhi Foundation pic.twitter.com/v0CIu7RWmc
— Anurag Srivastava (@MEAIndia) October 26, 2015
“We are happy that finally she is going home,” Faisal Edhi, son of the foundation’s founder Abdul Sattar Edhi, told media outside the charity’s office in downtown Karachi.
Even the name “Geeta” was given to her by Edhi staff.
After repeated false leads in the effort to find her family, Geeta’s story received a publicity boost in August when a Bollywood film with a similar plot became a smash hit.
“Bajrangi Bhaijaan”, featuring Indian superstars Salman Khan and Kareena Kapoor, told the story of a young Pakistani woman trapped in India.
The Indian government vowed to bring her home, and authorities turned up many families saying that Geeta could be their daughter.
She claimed to recognise one unnamed family from Bihar state, and has kept their framed picture in a steel case ever since.
But questions remain, with the family saying that the daughter they lost was married and had a baby when she disappeared, though Geeta is believed to have only been aged 11 or 12 when she was found in the eastern city of Lahore by Pakistani police.
Geeta is being escorted to Delhi by Bilqees Edhi, the wife of the organisation’s founder, and Saba Edhi, her daughter-in-law.
She will undergo DNA testing in India before being handed over to the family, Bilqees Edhi said.
Indian authorities have said even if the DNA testing proves Geeta is not related to the family from Bihar, they will place her in a “suitable institution”.
The Edhi family said they planned to remain in touch with Geeta.
“We are not parting, we could go there to see her and she could come here,” Faisal Edhi said, adding that the foundation had also arranged to communicate with Geeta through Skype.