KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) - A Pakistani charity has declined a $150,000 donation from the Indian prime minister in recompense for 13 years of caring for a lost deaf-mute Indian girl whose quest to return home captivated the subcontinent, a charity spokesman said on Tuesday.
Geeta, a slim young Hindu woman now in her 20s, was a child when she mistakenly wandered across one of the world’s most heavily militarised borders to find herself stranded in Pakistan.
During her time there, she was cared for by the Edhi Foundation, a Pakistani charity, but since Geeta was mute and illiterate, it took years for her to explain her origins by pointing at maps.
Diplomats finally stepped in to help after the release this year of a hit Bollywood film with a plot similar to Geeta’s life story sparked a belated blaze of publicity.
Her odyssey home to her family has engrossed millions in Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan, where many families were sundered when the two became separate countries at independence from colonial ruler Britain in 1947.
The two nations have fought three wars since the partition.
Geeta flew to India on Monday, after identifying photographs of a family based in the northern Indian state of Bihar as being hers. She was greeted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also paid tribute to the Edhi Foundation.
“What the Edhi family has done is too priceless to be measured but I am happy to announce a contribution of one crore rupees to their foundation,” Modi said in a tweet, referring to a figure of 10 million rupees, or just under $154,000.
But the charity, which has a reputation for integrity and independence amid the murky world of Pakistani politics, declined the cash.
“We have declined with thanks to accept the donation by Indian Prime Minister Modi as taking donations from heads of states is not the policy,” Edhi official Anwar Kazmi said.
On Tuesday, India’s foreign minister said that if DNA tests showed Geeta’s identification to have been mistaken, she would live in a temporary home run by a charity until her parents were discovered.
Writing by Mehreen Zahra-Malik; Editing by Katharine Houreld and Clarence Fernandez