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Justice for Sonali, and a Stand for Women’s Rights in India

I became aware today of a very sad situation, which tragically happens to many young women across India.

Sonali before the attack

Sonali Mukherjee is a young woman who was verbally abused and harassed by a group of local men. When she dared to complain about their teasing, they retaliated by pouring acid on her while she slept. Although the assailants were taken into custody, they were later released on bail and still have not had justice served to them. They remain free, while Sonali has to live with the pain and suffering of their violent attack for the rest of her life. Not only that, her family has gone into huge debt to pay for both her treatment, and legal costs to pursue justice.

Below is Sonali’s account, in her own words. You can help by signing this petition to the prime leaders of India to help bring proper legal ramifications to her attackers. You can also make a donation to her cause. I did both — will you? Sonali is so in despair right now that she would rather end her life than continue without further treatment or justice. Where is the humanity in that?

On April 22, 2003, I, Sonali Mukherjee, was severely injured in an acid attack, that left me with a burnt face, burnt body, blind and partially deaf. I was just 17-years-old then. Three assailants – Tapas Mitra, Sanjay Paswan, and Bhrahmadev Hajra, our neighbors in Dhanbad, Jharkhand, poured acid on me while I slept. Before I could realize I felt as if my body was on fire and I collapsed.

Sonali after the attack

They punished me because I dared to complain against their eve teasing. When I warned them, they told me I was haughty and proud about my looks. They said they will ruin my face beyond recognition. And when that did not deter me, they carried through their threat and you can see the consequences.

The accused were immediately taken into custody, but were released on bail in 2006. My father and I approached the high court, the Chief Minister of Jharkhand, MPs and various other authorities for justice, but no one listened. Since then, they are roaming scot-free. For 9-years we have been fighting a case against them and requesting the authorites to cancel their bail, but no success has come our way yet.

I am in extreme pain since the incident and don’t have the capacity to withhold it anymore – neither the money nor the hope.

Therefore, I demand either justice and help in treatment or permission to end my life.

PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION and help me get justice and means to live the remaining part of my life without pain and agony.

You can also make a donation to Sonali’s medical and legal costs.

What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?

Have you ever thought about it? What you would do with your life if you weren’t afraid to do it? The grand dreams, the seemingly impossible adventures – always followed with that “but…” and then the reason why it can’t be done. There are always the practical reasons – time, money, obligations – but in the end, most of them come down to fear.

That one thing, that hidden little dream that could make your life big, that thing you would do if only you weren’t afraid – that is the exact thing you should be doing with your life.

I was thinking on this even more yesterday, the 40th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. Sometimes I wonder if Dr. King was ever afraid, and feel that surely he was. He had cause to be afraid, and in fact his life ended because of hatred, intolerance and violence. Yet, he lived the life he felt he must, voiced his passions and fought for his beliefs. What would the world be like today if Dr. King had decided he was too afraid to make a stand?

In the last pages of my book I quote Dr. King – not from any of his many eloquent speeches on civil rights, but from his famous 1967 address in a New York City church where he took a stand against the war in Vietnam. The title of my book, in fact, was inspired by a quote from this speech: “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”

His words are just as relevant today:

“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, ‘This is not just.’”

Dr. King went on to charge, “The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late.”

I hope the rest of us will not be too late in making our lives count for something, and will not be too afraid to live with the passion and grandness that our lives call for.

You can listen to Dr. King’s full speech against the Vietnam War here.