Give me justice or let me die: Desperate plea of acid attack victim who was left blind and deaf by the three men who had 'sexually abused her'
- Sonali Mukherjee was permanently disfigured by the horrific attack at just 17
- Her three assailants had allegedly been sexually abusing her for years
- Her family have spent all their savings on treating her scarred skin
- Youths imprisoned have been released on bail
- The 27-year-old is begging ministers to help her
- Plastic surgeon in New Delhi has offered her free treatment
The victim of a sick acid attack that left her blind and deaf has pleaded with the Indian authorities to help her find justice, or else allow her to die.
Sonali Mukherjee's face was disfigured forever in 2003, when she was just 17 years old, by intruders who broke into her home in Dhanbad, Jharkhand.
Her assailants, who had allegedly been sexually abusing her for years, poured the acid over her while she was sleeping.
Horrific violence: Sonali Mukherjee as an NCC cadet at 17, left, and now, nine years after the acid attack, right
Nine years later, after having received no money or assistance from the state, the desperate woman says that if the government will not help her then she may decide to end her life.
She is blind in both eyes and has no right ear, her treatment is taking its toll on her family's limited finances - and her attackers are out on bail.
Describing the events of April 22, 2003, Miss Mukherjee said: 'I woke up feeling strange. Within a few seconds it felt like my whole body was on fire. I kept screaming in pain till I passed out.'
Happy youth: Miss Mukherjee at an awards ceremony before the attack
Unable to take much more, she recently approached the minister for women and child development Krishna Tirath while in New Delhi for treatment.
'All these years, I have been living only on assurances. If the government cannot help me then it should allow me to kill myself,' she said.
'I was an NCC cadet, but I had to quit after the attack. NCC had given me the courage to fight all odds and that's how I have survived till today. But I am tired now.'
Her treatment - 22 operations and several consultations - has already run into hundreds of thousands of rupees.
Her family was forced to sell ancestral land, her mother's jewellery and is practically penniless. The operations have only helped give her disfigured face some shape.
'I need at least 1 to 1.5million rupees (£11,600 to £17,400) to look even remotely human and have my eyesight restored,' she said.
She described approaching the government as a last resort. 'I have knocked on all doors. I have met three chief ministers [Shibu Soren, Arjun Munda and Madhu Koda] and three MLAs. Let alone justice, I haven't received any monetary help from the state.'
Although Ms Tirath has previously expressed her intention to help victims of acid attacks, nothing has happened for Miss Mukherjee yet.
The minister has roped in the ministries of law and of home affairs to amend the Indian Penal Code to either include a separate section on acid attacks or equate the gravity of the crime to rape.
Her ministry is also keen on curbing over-the-counter sale of concentrated acid in the market.
After Miss Mukherjee met Ms Tirath on July 9, the latter wrote to the prime minister seeking financial help from the Prime Minister's Relief Fund.
Until then, the 27-year-old and her father are condemned to shuttle back and forth between Jharkhand and the capital, where she is being treated at Safdarjung hospital.
We appealed in the high court... Nothing happened. They were sent to jail but were released soon after. Now they are busy enjoying their lives. The law against acid attackers needs to be made tougher. Otherwise we will have many more Sonalis.
- CHANDI DAS MUKHERJEE, FATHER
Her saviour may now have come in the form of plastic surgeon Anant Sinha, however, who stepped forward to offer free medical treatment at his hospital for Miss Mukherjee, according to India Today.
'I can understand the plight of the victim but she need not worry,' said Dr Sinha. 'I will treat her free of cost at my hospital and if needed even give her a job at my hospital for sustenance.'
Miss Mukherjee was allegedly sexually abused for years by three youths living nearby before the acid attack.
She was studying sociology honours in a Dhanbad women's college and also juggling a job with a private firm when the horrific incident occurred.
Miss Mukherjee and her family were then forced to abandon their home in Dhanbad, and her mother slipped into depression.
Her father Chandi Das Mukherjee said, 'We appealed in the high court... Nothing happened. They were sent to jail but were released soon after... Now they are busy enjoying their lives.'
'The law against acid attackers needs to be made tougher. Otherwise we will have many more Sonalis.'
Police sources said that the victim and her family members are afraid since two of her attackers, Tapas Mitra and Sanjay Paswan, were released on bail six years ago.
The third accused Brahmadev Hajra was let off as he was a juvenile at the time of crime.