Acid attack victim

By: Deepali Agrahari

Acid attack victim goes on to empower women prisoners

I am Meena, was married off at the tender age of 16 in a family of goldsmiths but before you start envying me let me tell you that my husband was a TB patient and didn’t contribute to family business in any way, he just refused to work even when he wasn’t too sick. Soon I became a mother to 3 children, increased expenditure with zero income attracted taunts from other family members which forced me to find work outside home. To say I was busy would be an understatement what with taking care of a sick husband, three small children and now my job! Not to be deterred by hardships I managed everything fine until…



Acid attack victim

Meena

My husband started casting aspersions on my character. A living proof of “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop,” he was all the more suspicious of my intentions behind working outside as I used to be very beautiful in those days. Then came the turning point in my life: It was the afternoon of 31 June 2004, being a holiday I was taking a nap when I felt the familiar smell of acid which is used for making gold ornaments, in a panic I realized I had been burned by my husband, nobody was there to save me, when I tried to  run, he grabbed my sari, I had no choice but to leave it in his hands and make a run for it! With great difficulty I managed to reach the hospital and then God at last  showed his mercy, as the doctor who examined me was the same one whom I had interviewed just a day before  for the newspaper I was working in. He recognized me and started my treatment immediately. Within 3 hours of attacking me with the acid, my husband committed suicide and died in the same hospital where I was being treated!

Rising from the Ashes

My work as a news reporter with the rural newspaper of Chitrakoot district Khabar leheriya had already given me some recognition by then. So, once discharged from the hospital, instead of closeting myself, I faced the world boldly and went on to meet the renowned social activist Madhavi Kukreja who motivated me to join her organization. Hence, I was once again self-sufficient and able to feed my kids.

Having experienced the darkness myself, I wanted to bring some light into the lives of those who were spending their entire lives in the dark, so I thought of working for the cause of women prisoners. These women secluded by the four walls of prison are heard by no one; their problems remain unaddressed. When I started interacting with them, I realized that they are totally unaware of their fundamental rights to decent food and clean habitat even inside the jail. I conduct counseling sessions not only with them but also with their family members, trying to pave the way for their rehabilitation.

We also organize literacy and computer training classes for the women prisoners besides observing all the festivals with them so that they don’t feel lonely and deserted.

Plans for Women’s Day 2017…

At present I am working at 3 levels: Nari bandi niketan, District jail and shelter home where mostly abandoned women or those in legal problems stay. This year on women’s day I will organize different programs for women prisoners including  awareness generation on legal issues.

My aim is to enable these women to live a well adjusted life in the society once they are released from the prison; I want them to think that ‘a new beginning IS possible.’

So far we have been able to rehabilitate 27 women prisoners who are today happy and productive citizens.