Monday, January 30, 2023

India working to bring back Gita, locate family: Sushma

New Delhi, Aug 8 (IANS) Gita, a 23-year-old hearing and speech-impaired Indian woman stranded in Pakistan for the past 15 years, will be brought back to India and efforts are on to locate her family, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Saturday.

In a series of tweets, Sushma Swaraj said the government was completing the “necessary formalities to bring Gita back to India”.

Sushma Swaraj tweeted that during the past few days, “four families from Punjab, Bihar, Jharkhand and UP have claimed Gita as their daughter” and that she has requested the chief ministers of the respective states to “verify and report”.

“Gita conveyed to the Indian High Commissioner by gestures that they are seven brothers and sisters. She also conveyed that she had visited a temple with her father. Then she wrote down ‘Vaishno Devi’.”

“With these details, please help locate Gita’s family,” the minister tweeted.

Gita’s story has the elements of recent Bollywood blockbuster ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ in which actor Salman Khan crosses the border to escort a six-year-old mute Pakistani girl back to her village.

Since her story hit the limelight earlier this week, four families have come forward to claim that Gita was their long-lost daughter.

A family from Uttar Pradesh and one from Jharkhand came forward on Friday.

Ramraj and Anara Devi, who hail from Dhamohan village in Uttar Pradesh’s Pratapgarh district, claimed Gita was their daughter Savita who went missing from an ashram in Bihar 11 years ago, according to media reports.

The couple approached the authorities after seeing TV news reports and pictures of Gita, who they say is one of their six children who went missing at the age of nine.

A couple from Bokaro in Jharkhand claimed Gita was their fourth child Kokia Kumari who went missing more than a decade ago.

Earlier, another couple from Amritsar claimed Gita was their daughter Pooja, who they used to call Guddi.

Rajesh Kumar and Ram Dulari are also hearing and speech-impaired. Ram Dulari bears a strong resemblance to Gita.

They said the girl went missing more than a decade ago while they were out begging at the Amritsar railway station.

But Gita denied the couple’s claim. When a private TV channel in Pakistan showed her a picture of the couple, the girl couldn’t recognise them. She said her mother used to wear sari, but the woman in the picture was wearing salwar kameez.

On Tuesday, Sushma Swaraj had announced that the government will bring Gita back to India after Indian High Commissioner T.C.A. Raghavan met the woman at the Edhi Foundation, a well known charity in Karachi where the woman has been staying for the past few years.

Sushma Swaraj had requested the envoy to go to Karachi to meet Gita.

Pakistani human rights activist Ansar Burney, who has been closely pursuing Gita’s case, had travelled to India in October 2012 with photographs of the woman but was unable to make progress.

In 2003, Gita — then 11 years old — was spotted by the Pakistan Rangers in Lahore, after she strayed across the border.

The girl was handed over to the Edhi Foundation, a social welfare organisation in Pakistan. Bilquis Edhi, who runs the Edhi Foundation, named her Gita.

According to reports, Gita is a vegetarian and has set up a small ‘mandir’ in her room at the Edhi Foundation where she prays to Indian gods and goddesses. She also observes fast during Ramadan.

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