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Acid attack victim to use winning money on reconstructive surgeries

In 2003, 18-year-old Indian Sonali Mukherjee lost her face, became partially blind and deaf because she spurned the advances of three men and they threw acid on her. Her story could have ended right there.

Except Mukherjee refused to go away.

She never received any help from the government and her family sold their ancestral land and her mother's jewelry to pay for her more than 22 surgeries she has undergone. But it wasn’t enough — she was still in too much pain. That’s when she made an emotional appeal for euthanasia.

But then something else happened: she was invited to participate in Kaun Banega Crorepati, India’s version of hit TV show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. She won $46,000 (U.S.) earlier this year. She plans to use the money to pay for plastic surgery, she has told Indian media.  

She said that letters appealing for help had failed but the sight of her injuries had a much more profound impact.

“Once everything else had failed, I decided to use my face,” she told the Hindustan Times. She said the winnings are welcome but they still will not be enough to cover all her medical bills.

“I won some money but I need much more for my treatment,” she said.

Meanwhile, a decade later her three alleged attackers remain free. They were arrested and spent some time in prison but were later freed on bail -- the case has been bogged down in India’s notoriously slow justice system.

Raveena Aulakh is the Star’s environment reporter. She is intrigued by climate change and its impact, now and long-term, and wildlife. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh


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