(Sonali before and after her acid attack)
“I want justice, or allow me to end my life," says Sonali Mukherjee.
It has been 9 years since Sonali was victimized by an acid attack by people she knew because of an altercation...her neighbours. The attack left her blind in both eyes, partially deaf and melted away the skin on the skull, neck, chest and back. She was still lucky the acid didn’t enter her brain.
Sonali is now 27 years old, penniless and begging for help from the government or to let her end her life. She continues to get death threats from her attackers who to this day remain scot-free. They have now threatened to harm her family as well so Sonali’s family is running from them like fugitives.
Two of the three men (Tapas Mitra, Sanjay Paswan, and Bhrahmadev Hajra) responsible for the attack were convicted and sentenced to 9 years in jail. The youngest was released for being a juvenile. But I can’t find the words to describe my feelings at how the two men convicted were still granted bail by the higher court. Maybe it’s just my poor understanding of Indian Law, but I can understand how deeply disappointed and frustrated the victims feel about the kind of justice system we have in our societies when justice is denied.
Sonali has approached the chief minister of Jharkhand, all the legislators, and MPs, the union women and child development ministry for help and has been assured of help. So far, none have materialized and Sonali and her family continue to run in fear of their safety from people already convicted for their crime.
Though I don’t agree to Sonali asking that she be allowed to kill herself if she is not extended any help, I can understand the desperation and helplessness she feels. The trauma that her situation has brought so much pain not only on herself but her family as well, caused them financial strain, and even endangered their lives, can drive her to the edge.
A petition to the prime leaders of India to help bring her attackers to justice was launched recently. Hopefully this can help lift Sonali’s spirit to give her hope that justice will prevail and life will always be worth living despite her misfortune.
Sonali is not alone in this fight and she should realize that. Her own struggle for justice can inspire others like her to also speak out and fight such abuses. Many women have been victimized by acid attacks. Whatever the reason, it does not justify the act and each perpetrator must be brought to justice.
Written by Lylin Aguas