In September 2015, 25-year-old Sanchayita Yadav was shopping with her late mother in Kolkata’s Sethbagan area when she was attacked with acid by an ex-boyfriend. The man named Soumen Saha was riding a bike when he stopped ahead of Sachayita and threw liquid from a bottle at her face.
Immediately, she tried to turn her face away, but it was too late. Within minutes, the acid was eating into the skin, leaving her writhing in excruciating pain.
For the next few months, Sanchayita’s widowed mother took multiple loans and fought to save her daughter’s right eye, but in vain.
Meanwhile, even as Sanchayita was recovering, it was more than the physical pain that she had to endure.
“It is not only the physical attack, but the social stigma towards the victim which I had to endure. People would laugh at me and make fun of my distorted face. One day I realised that it was time to fight back and from the next day I stopped covering my face with a dupatta,” said Sanchayita.
Fighting for justice
Growing up, Sanchayita did not lead an easy life. A decade ago, she lost her father and her family struggled with no source of income. After she was attacked at the market, she recalls how they did not have money to afford fare for an autorickshaw.
Despite all the struggles, this gritty girl was not going to take the injustice done to her lying down. To punish her attacker, Sanchayita filed a case against him. However, the police investigation of the case mostly stalled. In 2017, with the help of an NGO that works with acid attack survivors, she filed a case in the Calcutta High Court alleging police inaction.
Pushed by all this, in March 2018, the police arrested the culprit. When Sanchayita saw him at the police station, she thought about how he was roaming freely while she went through immense pain for four years, and couldn’t resist slapping him.
But the battle is only half won. Sanchayita said that only after the judge pronounces the man guilty will it instil confidence in her and others who have faced similar situations.
Over time, Sanchayita realised that her biggest strength would be derived from helping others. So she went on to interact with others like her, and recalled, “When I spoke to them, their lives had stopped after the incident. But, I wanted to bring them out of that darkness. That gave me more power.”
Today, she works along with a human rights organisation to help bring justice to victims and punish their attackers.
Read her inspiring story here:
Image credits: Arindam Ray