Nine years ago, three men broke into Sonali Mukherjee's New Delhi home and poured acid over her face for rejecting their sexual advances.
Mukherjee was left disfigured and partially deaf and blind. Her family spent their savings on her medical treatments. Her attackers served just 3-and-a-half years in prison.
Now 27, the acid-attack victim is now a national celebrity — and rupee millionaire — thanks to her appearance on Kaun Banega Crorepati, the Indian version of the quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
She plans to use her 2.5 million-rupee fortune — $45,000 CAD — to help other victims of acid violence.
"I've had 22 operations and nine more are remaining, so that at least my eyes and ears are functional," Mukherjee told the Times of India. "If I recover, I want to help people like me. In my nine years of struggle, I have faced a lot. I know the kind of difficulties we have to face, with no help from any quarter."
Following her win, Mukherjee underwent her second reconstructive surgery at B.L. Kapoor Super Speciality Hospital in Delhi, India Today reported. Another surgery is scheduled in two months.
According to Acid Survivors Trust International, about 80 per cent of the 1,500 acid attacks reported each year are against women. More attacks likely go unreported.
"I appeal to the government to ensure that these cases are not repeated," said Mukherjee. "Make a separate law, which is not just on paper, but is followed."
"Thankfully, Sonali Mukerjee's world has gone from despair to hope, knowing that she is now in a position to make a difference by creating awareness about a horrible and vicious crime that goes largely unnoticed by the rest of the world," the Washington Times' Bob Taylor wrote.