My story is not any different from the scores of victims of acid attack and gender based violence. A young pretty ambitious girl who rejected the advances of a man.
I come from Delhi’s middle-class Muslim family.“Despite my conservative background I was a free-spirited girl with dreams and ambitions of my own and always fought for it. I was pursuing my course at Punjab Technical University, Panipat Haryana. I was working part-time at an office and my boss was making unwanted advances at me. I even left the job once but my need for money and also the fact that my mark sheet was in his possession made me join back. One unfortunate evening he stalled me at work for no reason, spoke to someone over the phone, and then asked me to leave suddenly. When I got to the road, a masked man was standing there and suddenly threw something on my face.
I was attacked with acid in a public place and in broad daylight. All I remember was not the pain, but fear. And my owndeafening screams. A crowd gathered and stared at me not knowing how to help.Had someone helped me by splashing water on my face then, perhaps my eye would have been saved. This lack of awareness amongst the public and the delay by the medical institutions for admitting her and treating me on time cost me the loss of an eye.Predictably, I was sent running from one hospital to another as they all refused to treat a “police case”.
I have a partial vision and I need help around at times. It’s been 11 years now but I still refuse to fill the disability form because I am in constant denial that I am disabled. I can’t bring myself to accept the fact that I come under the disabled group even though I know I will receive benefits under it.
The physical pain is so intense that you forget about the mental trauma. When they first threw water on me, each drop felt like a thousand needles on my skin. I still get goosebumps thinking of it.At every point of my treatment, I felt that my life was slipping away from my hands.
Trauma, PTSD, depression, low self-esteem, disappointment, anxiety, lack of confidence, acceptance are just some adjectives that can be used to describe the mental turmoil an acid attack victim faces. “It is like being robbed of your identity, I just wanted the old me back. The other part of the physical pain is when the skin starts contracting after 2 months. For 8 years I tried to look for my eye treatment around the world. The financial strain on the family is not something I can even explain.
But I want to change the narrative because the Shaheen that was and is now, is definitely not the same.
Once a hapless victim of Acid attack, present day I identify myself as a brave soul, a fighter to rescue the many victims of Acid attack and gender based violence that look upto me for support.
I have been closely involved with many prominent NGOs for fundraising and rehabilitation and have a strong network with the media persons. I have helped survivors get the deserved compensation, best surgeries, medical treatments, rehabilitation and aftercare over these years. I have been able to achieve several milestones including the surgery of over 200 survivors, getting the compensation for over 150 victims while also getting the outdated victim compensation scheme of 4 different states changed. Nowadays, I monitor cases of acid attacks in 13 different states. I have worked tirelessly to get the perpetrator of every victim I have worked for convicted. In Delhi, I ensure all the survivors get quality treatment in the best private hospitals. Besides that I also perform the same role for survivors in Bihar, Haryana, Punjab and Uttarakhand. My helping hands aren't just for Indians, I have also lent support to victims from other countries in their effort to get proper treatment. I have even filed a PIL in the Delhi High Court to ban the illegal sale of acid in an effort to address the root cause of acid attacks.
My experience since my attack and my years of work experience in different initiatives has taught me a lot. It has given me confidence and support. I have handled the Acid Attacks cases nationally. My work involves getting in touch with survivors, ensuring their treatment and counseling, get their FIRs registered and statements taken. I also work to get them employed to make them self-dependent. Becoming an activist for acid attack victims exposed me to the suffering of others and made me more empathetic. I see worse cases than mine, I still have a partial vision in one eye. Helping them gives me the feeling that I have made a positive contribution to society in my own small way.
Now I want to take this dream further but for that I need your contribution. I wish to put years of my experience and valuable contacts in the legal, medical and governmental spheres to constructive use and create a centralised support system for the survivors.
With the funds raised I will dedicate myself to provide the vast network of survivors with :
1. Medical Treatments and sophisticated reconstructive surgeries to the survivors in India's best private and public hospitals.
2. Legal Support with the help of experiences lawyers and state as well as central government bodies to help them seek criminal justice and compensation.
3. Psychological support through trained therapists, psychiatrists and counsellors.
4. Economic and Employment Opportunities to give dignified employment and reservations for the victims of acid attack.
Please support our cause and help me and all the victims who are waiting for you to help them out. I have all the grit and strength but just like any resolve, I cannot do it alone.
The Acid may melt the flesh, the bones but it could never melt the resolve for justice that burns within.