Jan 03 2015 : The Times of India (Mumbai)
14-Year-Old Writes To Acid Attacker In Jail

Fourteen-year-old Dolly survived an acid attack a yearand-a-half ago. Since the attack, she had refused to step out of the house. Now, however, after Sheroes Hangout, a group of fellow acid attack survivors has taken up her cause, the girl has won back her confidence and is looking forward to resuming her studies. She has now written a letter to her 25year-old attacker, Pradeep, a neighbour and a carpenter, now lodged in jail.“You and your family say you want to marry me. You keep on giving false statements in court… Since the day of attack, I imprisoned myself. You don’t have a clue how I coped.My elder sisters stopped going to school, got married early .I stopped studying. I kept thinking it was all my fault. I forgive you. In the past, sometimes, I have wondered how it would be to empty a full bottle of acid on you. My hands would tremble… You burnt my face, but not my will to live. You can’t throw acid on that. I will fight this case in court, not only for myself but for other girls, so they do not lose their courage before people like you,“ the girl wrote.Sheroes Hangout, the group of acid attack survivors, who recently launched a café in the city, has now taken up the legal case, and is also supporting her education.After the attack, the 14-yearold had withdrawn into a shell, keeping her face covered all the time. She had imprisoned herself within her home. Dolly was a student of Class IV when she was attacked on July 5, 2013.Her attacker, 25-year-old Pradeep, had been pressuring her to enter into a sexual relation ship with him. The girl, her parents and four siblings live in a rented home. Her mother works as a domestic help, and her father is a house painter.

Dolly is yet to receive relief from the administration, with all expenses for her treatment since the attack having been borne by her family . Dolly suffers from a breathing problem as her nostrils were disfigured; one of them is now closed.“Sometimes it becomes very suffocating. I wake up suddenly from sleep. Not a day passes when I do not think of that incident,“ she told TOI. Her mother, Manju Singh, said, “Dolly locked herself in her house ever since the attack. She only emerges from the house to at tend court hearings or to see her doctor. She was so scared after that, she would not even go to the shop opposite the house.“

Recalling the attack, Dolly said, “He used to work in the neighbourhood as a carpenter, and would pass lewd comments when I passed by . I told my parents about it, and they tried to reason with him. I was just half his age. He got into an argument with me and my mother that day . He threw acid on my face from out of nowhere. I used to feel ashamed of my face, and the strange stares.“

Ketan Dixit, a `Stop Acid Attacks’ campaigner, said, “Dolly wants to become a doctor. The NGO will ensure that she fulfils her dream.Members of the Agra Book Club have shown interest in her case, and have extended help with her education. Moreover, we are studying her case, and will provide all legal support. We will also write to the district magistrate to provide her the government compen sation of Rs 3 lakh meant for such survivors.“

“After I interacted with Ritu didi (an acid attack survivor who is part of Sheroes Hangout) and others, and they told me that the attack was not our fault, I have gained courage,“ Dolly said, adding that she looked forward to returning to school.