'Daughter of India' Geeta calls Sushma Swaraj 'guardian' who cared for her 'like a mother'
Indore: Geeta, the hearing and speech-impaired woman who returned to India from Pakistan in 2015 following extensive efforts by Sushma Swaraj, on Wednesday said she has lost a "guardian" and "motherly figure" in the death of the former external affairs minister.
A tearful Geeta, through sign language, said Swaraj used to be concerned about her well-being "like a mother". Swaraj, who died in New Delhi on Tuesday night after a massive cardiac arrest at the age of 67, had a deep emotional attachment with Geeta.
In November last year, the then external affairs minister described Geeta as "Hindustan ki beti" (daughter of India), and said "even if she does not meet her family, she will never be sent back to Pakistan. The Indian government will foster her."
Following her return to India in October 2015, Geeta, who is believed to be in her late 20s, has been staying and studying at an institution for deaf and mute people run by an NGO at Indore in Madhya Pradesh, under the supervision of the social justice department.
Sandeep Pandit, the warden of the NGO's hostel where Geeta has been staying, told PTI that the news of Swaraj's death was given to her on Wednesday morning.
"Geeta has been very sad and in tears since then. We are consoling her," he said. According to Pandit, Geeta, through her sign language, said "she felt as if she had lost a guardian".
"Swaraj was always worried about her well-being like a mother," Pandit quoted Geeta as saying. "Geeta said Swaraj used to talk to her and discuss about all her problems and progress in studies," he added.
Geeta was found alone on board the Samjhauta Express at Lahore in Pakistan when she was about eight years' old. She was taken care of by the Edhi Foundation in Pakistan.
After her repatriation in 2015, she met Swaraj several times in Delhi and Indore. Following her return, more than 10 families from across India claimed Geeta was their missing daughter. However, none of the claims could be verified in the government's investigations and a search for her family was still on.