Like any other 18-year-old, I was bubbly and full of zest for life. Every morning, I used to look forward to seeing my friends at school and my boyfriend after the classes got over.
Love is a beautiful feeling, and it nourished my life. Maybe that’s why it hurt so badly when, on June 23 last year, his family disfigured me with acid while he did nothing to protect me. The liquid ate into my flesh, but his inaction — despite the avowed love — seared my soul.
Isha Mondal (26) and I had been in a relationship for the past three years. Isha is a second-year student at Fakir Chand College in Diamond Harbour and belongs to our neighbouring village Kamarpole Dighipara.
On the ill-fated day, like any other day, I met him after school. Suddenly, he was struck by this whimsicality to marry me right away. Initially, I was taken aback by his insistence but ultimately relented. Truth be told, I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him anyway.
Isha took me home around 9:30 pm to meet his parents. Right from the beginning, I could sense that his parents did not like me. They curtly asked me why I was visiting them so late at night. I plainly told them that their son had brought me to meet them to discuss our marriage.
READ: Laws against acid attacks
At this, Isha’s parents told me to get out of his life but I tried to reason with them that we loved each other and wanted to get married.
Isha’s infuriated parents and brothers, Insan and Iqbal, then started beating me up. I tried to fight back and save myself.
Hearing the commotion, some neighbours rushed to their house. They enquired from Isha’s family who I was and what an unknown girl like me was doing at their house so late at night.
A photo of Khatun with Isha Mondal, whose family forced a bottle of acid down her throat. (Ashok Nath Dey/Hindustan Times)
It was almost 10:00 pm by then. Isha’s father Iliyas told the neighbours that it was a family matter and they would settle it themselves.
The neighbours then left, telling Iliyas not to hit me and advising him to send me back to my parents. But Iliyas convinced them that there was no problem and that I would spend the night with Isha’s mother.
But the torture increased manifold after the neighbours went away. Isha’s mother was now openly exhorting her husband and sons to kill me.
I was already bleeding at the mouth from the beatings received at their hands.
READ: Finally, a ray of hope for acid attack survivors
Suddenly, Insan and Iqbal pinned me down to a chair and Iliyas fetched a bottle of acid. Insan was keeping my hands down and Iqbal held my cheeks, forcing me to open my mouth.
Iliyas then emptied the acid bottle in my throat and forced his hand inside my mouth, compelling me to swallow the burning liquid.
All this while, Isha just stood watching and did not utter a single word in my defence. I was left to fend for myself in the face of assault by the three men.
I started vomiting and soon fell unconscious.
Fearing that I might die, Isha’s family dumped me at the Diamond Harbour sub-divisional hospital.
The following morning, I was referred to the Chittaranjan Cancer Hospital at Hazra in Kolkata. I had suffered 20% burns on my face, arms, chest and other parts of the body.
My family and I registered an FIR against Iliyas, Insan and Iqbal. But police picked up only Insan and kept him in the lock-up for a couple of days, after which he was bailed out.
READ: Acid attacks: a look at India and other countries
The Alipore court repeatedly struck down the anticipatory bail applications of the other two accused, but they ultimately managed to secure anticipatory bail from a magistrate on a holiday.
My father filed a counter case in court, pleading for the cancellation of their bail. He also requested a speedy trial and punishment for the guilty. The case is still pending in court.
Throughout this trauma, the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights helped us with legal counselling and also took up the matter with the West Bengal women’s commission and police.
But our grievances have not been redressed to date.
In fact, Isha’s family started threatening us that they would pick me up on my way to school, pour acid into my eyes and burn me.
They even boasted that the police would not be able to do anything to them.
Iliyas, who runs a chit fund at Behala in Kolkata, is a powerful and influential figure in the locality since he is the supporter of a national political party. He is quite wealthy too.
Due to the clear and present danger, I had to quit the Mohanpur High School and my education. In fact, I am afraid to step out of my house even for errands.
Now, I only go out when it is absolutely necessary, and that too accompanied by my father. My family fears that my sisters might also be harmed by Isha’s family members.
READ: Crime and punishment: a new law at last
I have six siblings, including four sisters. Our family is mainly into agriculture, though my father Shahjahan Fakir is a well-known worker for the ruling party.
I am still unable to eat solid food due to the burns in my throat. I survive only on cold milk, Horlicks and over-boiled rice. Though my face has now partially recovered from the burns, I still have black patches on my arms, chest and belly.
During the past year, I have been sitting at home.
I spend my time reading books, watching daily soaps on television and doing household chores. Very rarely do I listen to music or watch movies. I also read the Quran regularly and perform other religious rituals at home.
It’s the Ramzan month and I am observing roza. I pray to God five times a day, asking him to punish the brutes who spoilt my life.
(As told to Orin Basu)
Are you an acid attack victim? Do you know an acid attack victim? Tell us your story