11 years on, acid attack survivor still awaits justice

REUTERS
Published Sep 17, 2015, 1:07 am IST
Updated Mar 27, 2019, 7:38 pm IST
'My Life is Not Worth 1.5 Lakhs', says acid attack survivor in Delhi
Anu Mukherjee, acid attack survivor (Photo: Facebook)
 Anu Mukherjee, acid attack survivor (Photo: Facebook)

New Delhi: A survivor of acid violence in India can expect to wait between five and 10 years on average for justice to be done, according to research by legal experts.

The study, facilitated by TrustLaw, the pro bono legal service of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, analysed 55 cases of acid violence in India and found that only nine victims received compensation, ranging from Rs. 50,000 to 50 Lakhs.

 

Anu Mukherjee, now 32, was attacked 11 years ago and waited five years before the perpetrators were convicted and jailed.

Here is her story as told to the Thomson Reuters Foundation:

I was 21 years old and was working at a dancer at a hotel in Delhi when it happened.

All the customers who came to see the evening performances used to like my dancing the most. People used to give me a lot of attention. But one woman called Meena, who was also a dancer, didn't like me. She was very jealous.

She used to tell the other performers that I was showing off and would make horrible remarks about me all the time.

 

20 days before the attack, she threatened me and said that if I didn't leave the hotel, she was going to pour acid over me.

To be honest, I didn't really know what acid was. I knew that some people use acids to clean their bathrooms, but I never imagined that people would throw acid on others.

I was really shocked by it. I was so scared that I reported it to the police. They called her to the station and she was really regretful. She even got on her knees and held my feet begging for forgiveness, so I let it go.

Of course I remember that day. It was 19th December, 2004. It was a cold Sunday morning. I had just left my house and was walking along a small lane when I saw Meena and her brother wrapped in shawls standing a little ahead of me.

 

I approached them and said to her "What's up?" Before I could understand what was going on, they pulled open their shawls under which they were holding glass bottles with acid.

They threw the acid over my head, face, neck and chest. I felt as though I was burning alive. My eyes and cheeks were melting. I just kept screaming "Please help me! Please help me!"

People came running. Some boys poured water and milk over me to try and stop the burning. An auto-rickshaw driver took off his shirt to cover me as it burnt through my kameez.

I am now blind. I am disfigured. If you see behind my sunglasses, you will see my eyes are sewn shut. The bone in my nose has melted and it is sometimes difficult to breathe.

 

After five years of fighting in the fast track court, with around 40 witnesses, Meena and her brother got five years in jail, but they only served one year and are now out on parole.

They were also ordered to pay a fine of 2 Lakhs out of which I only got 1.5 Lakhs.

I have had 17 operations over the last 11 years and it has cost me around 30 Lakhs. I spend all the money I saved from my dancing job, sold all my jewellery and borrowed money to pay for my treatment. No one has helped me and I am still in debt.

The doctors say I require eight more surgeries for my eyes and nose and have told me that I will be able to see again, but I don't enough money for that.

 

They are wealthy people and are enjoying their lives now while my life and that of my younger brother has been ruined.

My brother quit school to look after me. He could have become educated and got a good job. I also wanted to be something in my life. I was beautiful and was a dancer and had plans to become an actress in the Hindi films.

So, tell me, how is this justice? My life is not worth 1.5 Lakhs and these people who did this to me have not truly paid for their crime.

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