iconimg Wednesday, June 03, 2015

HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
Patna, May 06, 2013
A campaign on social networking site Facebook has come to the rescue of two teenager sisters, who fell victim to a brutal acid attack after the elder one had resisted persistent harassment from local hoods.

The attack, in October 2012, left the elder one with a disfigured face and the younger one with non-functional right arm. For months thereafter, nobody came to the aid of the devastated family.

Thanks to the Facebook campaign, deliverance appears to be finally on its way for the sisters, daughters of a dalit daily wage earner of Chitnawan village under Maner police station, about 22 km west of the state capital.

Offers of help have poured in and a Ranchi-based plastic surgeon, who examined the girls last week, has promised reconstructive surgery on them without charging his surgeon fees and hospitalization charges.

"This is divine intervention considering, even the local mukhia and MLA avoided visiting us, leave alone help us, as the culprits are from a dominant community," Shailesh Paswan, the victims' father, told HT on Monday.

Despite his meagre financial resources, Paswan was doing the seemingly impossible: putting his elder daughter Chanchal, 19, through college and getting her coached at Danapur, near Patna, to be a computer engineer.

Their world came crashing down late night on October 21, 2012, when four youths climbed on the roof of their humble Indira Awaas Yojana dwelling and poured almost a litre of acid on sleeping Chanchal.

"Hearing her cry, we rushed to the roof and found while two of the intruders held Chanchal's hands, the other two poured acid on her face. Acid fell on her younger sister's hand as she tried to save Chanchal," Paswan said.

The girls' mother, Sunaina, said the assailants remained there even after they reached the roof, as if they were enjoying the moment.

"One of them said: Now you see we do whatever we say", she recalled.

Paswan said the boys were harassing Chanchal for months. "They used to pass vulgar remarks, pull her chunni and chased her on their mobikes when she went to Danapur for her Plus two classes and coaching", he stated.

When the acid attack was reported in the media, the SC commission stepped in to secure a compensation of Rs. 2.42 lakh, which is long gone. "An NGO activist took us to New Delhi on the promise of free treatment. But we ended up paying for everything", Paswan claimed.

Then, moved by the girls' plight, Nikhil Anand, a Maner-based social activist and journalist, created, late last February, a facebook page titled: 'Help acid attack victims', detailing their case.

Among those who accessed the page and offered to help was Upemdra Kushwaha, a former JD (U) Rajya Sabha MP.

"I went to meet the girls. I was so shocked at Chanchal's condition that words failed me", he told HT.

Their networking brought on board plastic surgeon Anant Sinha. Anand and Kushwaha took the girls to Ranchi last week and timeline has been set for their reconstructive surgery.

"Beginning June first week, I will perform about 15 surgical procedures on Chanchal, spread over the next 15 months. By the time it's done with I am confident I will make her presentable", Sinha said on Monday.

The younger one, he said, would require simpler procedure to restore the movement of her acid-damaged right arm.

Sinha's services and facilities of his private hospital in Ranchi will come free. "Still, about Rs. 8 lakh will be required in items such as OT consumables, splints and expanders, used for expanding normal skin. They can raise whatever they can but I have said the treatment will not stop, come what may", he declared.

The treatment issue may appear settled but the Paswan family has worries on the police front, as well.

After a case was registered, the accused in the attack were either arrested or surrendered in court. But till date, even after a lapse of over five months, the girls' statement under section 164 of the CrPC has still not been recorded, though this is essential for the case to proceed further.

Asked about this inexplicable delay, Maner PS SHO Aditya Kumar blamed it on Chanchal's "inability to speak" owing to facial injury. The girl's father dismissed this as a lame excuse.

"I had taken up this matter with IG (CID - weaker sections) on December 31, 2012. I am stunned Chanchal's statement has not been recorded even though four months have elapsed since then and she is fully conversant", Paswan said.

Amid all the gloom, Paswan is proud Chanchal still wants to prove her mettle and become a computer engineer. "She's brave girl, full of fight, just like me, a dalit daily wager, who dreamt big for his girl child", he said.