Acid attack fighters in anxiety post demolition drive at Agra’s Sheroes Hangout

No parking space:  Front wall razed, acid attack survivors pin hopes on government for alternative space in Agra.

lucknow Updated: Jul 21, 2018 15:41 IST
Hemendra Chaturvedi
Hemendra Chaturvedi
Hindustan Times, Agra
Acid attack,Sheroes Hangout,Agra
Sheroes Hangout in Agra before demolition.(Raju Tomar/HT Photo)

Acid attack survivors running the Sheroes Hangout in Agra are living in anxiety after the local municipal body demolished the front portion of the café during an anti-encroachment drive on July 11.

“The red mark put by the demolition team at our doorstep would not leave any parking space and the open area we earlier had for visitors. We pin our hopes on the present government in the state and would meet the district magistrate with a request for alternative space,” stated Ashish Shukla, director of Chaanv Foundation, running the first-ever café by acid attack survivors.

“Sheroes Hangout is not just a café. It stands for the self reliance and self-confidence of acid attack survivors. Its closure is not that big an issue, but the government should spell out some other concrete plan for assuring a dignified livelihood for these acid attack survivors,” said Ashish.

“Former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav allotted space for the café run by acid attack fighters in Lucknow and also stood by us when we faced the demolition drive in Agra. He even came to us earlier this week and promised better space for us, if he comes to power. We are strengthened by such support,” he said.

The Sheroes Hangout on Fatehabad road in Agra is a well known place. Various social organisations hold meetings at this cafe that is located near the Taj Mahal.

It is a favourite destination for celebrities who laud the determination with which acid attack fighters are running this café. Visitors are charged on ‘pay as you wish’ basis for coffee and snacks served here.

All was well till July 11, when a joint team of nagar nigam and public works department reached the spot and brought down encroachments on the side of Fatehabad Road.

The wall made of bamboo sticks in the front portion of the café was also razed and a ‘red mark’ was put on the doorstep of the café, leaving the acid attack survivors anxious about the future of Sheroes Hangout.

“The exercise was undertaken to remove encroachments to facilitate road widening as part of the smart city project. Those from the café were allowed to remove their belongings and the bamboo wall was removed. The action was not just confined to Sheroes Hangout, similar treatment was given to encroachments by others,” stated Vijay Kumar, additional commissioner, nagar nigam, the body which undertook the demolition drive.

The action was limited to removal of encroachments and no further demolition would be undertaken against the remaining structure of Sheroes Hangout Café, clarified Vijay Kumar.

“The nagar nigam could have given prior notice, as a foreign group was at the Café when the demolition was done on July 11. We won’t give up our struggle for living a dignified life despite the odds that come in the way,” stated Roopa, one of the acid attack survivors at the café.

“The positive impact of our café is that the number of acid attacks in Agra has gone down and we are generating good support in this hour of crises. There have been more than thousand signatures for our online petition #MyPMforSheroes on change.org. Besides, people of Agra are already offering fund support in case we have to move from the present location,” added Ashish.

First Published: Jul 21, 2018 15:41 IST