What will you say about a girl who is just 17 years old (9 year ago) having so many aspirations, studios; Just like any another college girl she also had dreams of brightening her parent’s name and today she is pleading for euthanasia.……
Well, I am talking about Sonali Mukherjee from Jharkhand who was pursing sociology honors in Dhanbad women’s college in 2003. Also juggling a job with a private firm and was part of the National Cadet Corps and was a senior sergeant. As I said she was very studious even she got scholarship from her college as well. She was very good looking at that time. She belongs to very a simple family. She has one younger brother and sister. Life was going so smooth for her. Her final year exams were approaching and she wants to concentrate more and more on studies. There were three men in her neighborhood one of who was in 40s and other two were 18 and 17 years old started trying to harass her; passing lewd comments and tails her; follows her. She got scared and frustrated and told about this incident to her father. Her father and brother complained to their families. But all in vain, instead of trying to make the things subtle, they blamed Sonali for everything saying today girls are like; there must be something wrong with your daughter. Passing comments, following, teasing continued for two and a half months; when it increased she decided to protest; she shouted at them in public and requested them to leave her alone. When she shouted at them; they got angry and thought of taking revenge. For the next 1 month or so there was no troublesome from their side. She thought now that three men will not trouble her again.
It was summer night of April, when whole family was asleep on the terrace of their house; she felt burning liquid splashed on her; melting away the flesh on her face, neck, the right part of her chest and lower torso. Yes, three men who were harassing her from past 2 months poured acid on Sonali’s face. That horrified acid attack on her also ended her dreams when she was hardly 17 years old. Her younger sister was also injured in the attack but she escaped with major injuries.
Her family took her to Dhanbad Hospital; she was continuously screaming in excruciating pain for next two days, there were no signs of improvement and deficiency of modern equipments for burnt cases Doctor’s referred her to Bokaro Hospital. Sonali was there for two months. Sonali’s father raised complaint against three of them. But no arrest had been taken place until Sonali’s Father approached Jharkhand Government. On the other side even after two months; when doctors not able to see any signs of improvement in Bokaro Hospital finally doctors suggested them Safdarjang Hospital New Delhi. Where, she underwent 22 surgeries. Doctors took skin from her thighs and grafted it on her nose and cheeks, to give it a modicum of shape.
Her father has spent Rs. 10-15 lakh in the court cases and on her treatment.. Her father, who had a menial job in a mill earning about Rs. 5,000 a month, has given up his job. Now, they need another 30 lakhs for further face reconstruction surgery.
Her younger sister, who also suffered acid burns on her hands and feet, was married off early; as they were getting threats and did not want it to ruin her life, so they got her married off. Her family was then forced to abandon their home in Dhanbad, and her mother slipped into depression. She also lost her grandfather who went into shock after the attack. They lost their ancestral land and jewels in her treatment, legal fee and innumerable hospital visits.
In the meanwhile, the youngest of the three men (one was 17 years old) was let off on account of being a juvenile, and after spending just 8 months he came out and leading a normal life; while the other two were convicted and sentenced by the district court in 2006 to nine year jail. However, they appealed in the high court, which granted them bail and they spend just 6 months behind bars and now they are both are on bail.
According to Sonali’s father, money was used at every stage of the case. “Justice was bought and sold. My own lawyer, who was my relative, took money from the accused and weakened our case.”
Recalling the days immediately after the attack, Sonali said all she remembers is waking up in excruciating pain. “I would scream in pain, and fall unconscious.. I was like that for six months…I would tell god to kill me.”
Ever since the tragedy, the father-daughter duo has spent most of the last nine years in either seeing doctors or visiting political leaders. “Both have given them hope, but it’s only the doctors who seem to have fulfilled their promise. The doctors are doing whatever they can, but no one else is helping me,” says Sonali.
Nine years after an acid attack left Sonali Mukherjee blind in both eyes, partially deaf and melted away the skin on the skull, neck, and chest and back, the 27-year-old is running penniless from pillar to post in Delhi for help from the government or permission for euthanasia.
“The sunglasses cover my eyes, while the duppata hides my burn scars and the ears,” she says.
At last, there are still some questions which left unanswered
- What was Sonali’s fault? Those who are responsible for her condition are enjoying a normal life. They just spent less than a year in prison before they were granted bail.
- A similar incident happened in UK, where one guy shoots a student just because of some ego issues and wanted to teach a lesson to him. After the hearing; the accused has been sentenced to thirty years jail and no more further hearing will be commenced in that case. As per their judiciary system, this human being is not normal to be in society; he should be behind the bars. Is our law too weak?
After 9 years, Jharkhand government offered a government job to Sonali. And a plastic surgeon offered free treatment to Sonali. All we can hope for better life for Sonali after her required treatments. And ‘The law against acid attackers needs to be made tougher. Otherwise we will have many more Sonalis.’