India

Pakistan returns Indian girl who strayed across border

Pooja Meghwal
Image caption Pooja Meghwal returned wearing new clothes and carrying toffees

Residents of a remote village in India's Rajasthan state are celebrating the return of a seven-year-old girl who had accidently strayed into Pakistan.

Pooja Meghwal went missing on 29 March while grazing cattle near the border.

She was returned to her family on Monday after Indian security forces got in touch with Pakistani officials.

Every year, hundreds are arrested for straying across the border and securing their release is difficult because of the hostility between the two nations.

Pooja's family lives in a small village in Bikaner district, just 2km (1.2 miles) from the India-Pakistan border fence.

'Emotional moment'

"After she went missing, we were worried, but we were hopeful because we believed that no one would harm an innocent child," village head Ravindra Kasva told the BBC.

On Monday night, Pooja returned wearing new clothes and shoes and she had also been given toffees by Pakistani Rangers, police said.

"It was an emotional moment for her family when the girl returned and was reunited with them. Her mother hugged and blessed her," a police officer said.

The happy villagers distributed sweets to celebrate her safe return.

Police said Pooja had crossed over into Pakistan from a breach in the fence. They said they found her footprints going across the border while searching for her.

The police informed the paramilitary Border Security Force officials who raised the issue with the Pakistani Rangers.

On her return, Pooja said she had walked a long way before she came across a hut where she fell asleep, Mr Kasva said.

"She said later some people came and took her away. The girl said she had been well cared for on the other side," he added.

Hundreds of Indians and Pakistanis accidentally go across the border ever year and negotiations for their release are usually lengthy and difficult because of the hostile relations between the neighbours.

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