On August 19, around 124 celebrities will flag off the India International Jewellery Week with a fashion show for a cause. An initiative of the Mumbai-based NGO BETI and Gitanjali group, it seeks to raise Rs10 lakh needed for eight reconstructive surgeries for acid attack victim Sonali Mukherjee.
“After nine years, we’d almost forgotten Sonali and the brutal attack that left her with a scarred face. Her petition for euthanasia struck a chord. I contacted several surgeons who gave me an estimate of Rs 30 lakh needed to give her a new face, which we negotiated to Rs 22.5 lakh,” says Anu Ranjan, president of the Indian Television Academy and founder of BETI.
In association with Headlines Today, Project Hope managed to raise Rs 12.5 lakh, with contributions from Mehul Choksi of Gitanjali group, actor Juhi Chawla, producer Ramesh Taurani and Anu’s filmmaker husband, Shashi Ranjan. She’s hoping to raise the remaining amount, that’ll take care of all of Sonali’s expenses and her rehab, through the show.
“Many top designers like Vikram Phadnis, Madhurima Niigaam, Neeta Lulla, Pria Kataria Puri and Babita Malkhani will donate their outfits to the cause. Mudhurima’s giving all the 16 male outfits she’s designing, Neeta around five and even singer Alka Yagnik will contribute a couple she’s worn at concerts.
Clothes that normally cost between Rs 30-Rs 50,000 will be sold for Rs 5,000-Rs 10,000. We want to raise all the money before Sonali, who was admitted to Delhi’s BL Kapur Super Speciality Hospital on August 15, goes in for her corrective surgeries,” says Anu, who has roped in 90-odd TV stars, including Mahi Vij, Rohit Roy, Mouli Ganguly, Pratyusha Banerjee, Jai Kalra and Eijaz Khan; and singers Sonu Niigaam, Sonali and Roop Kumar Rathod, for the ramp walk. “Bipasha Basu has also confirmed, along with Vivek Oberoi who’ll be walking with his mother. There will be around 60 entries.”
BETI was launched in February 2006 and has been campaigning against female feoticide. Says Anu, “Now my daughter, Anushka Ranjan, the face of BETI, will be traveling to Punjab and Haryana, to reach out to others like Sonali.”
Sonali’s story In April 2003, three men broke into the house of the 17-year-old sociology student, Sonali Mukherjee, in Dhanbad, Jharkhand, and poured acid on her face. The trio had been harassing her and Sonali had threatened them with police action. The attack left her with 70 per cent facial burns that included melted eyelids, peeled skin, one ear and both eyes damaged.
In the last nine years, Sonali has undergone 22 reconstructive surgeries and fought a long-drawn-out legal battle that has drained her family of its saving. Desperately short of money and disillusioned to see her attackers walking free after serving three years of a nine-year sentence, she appealed to the government to let her die and caught the eye of BETI.