Mumbai: “I am not a victim, I am a survivor,” says Daulat BiKhan, 38-year-old resident of Bandra, who fought her way for 10 years after an acid attack in 2010, finally to start a supermarket to provide employment and raise money for acid attack victims during the Covid-19 pandemic.
BiKhan’s supermarket in Bandra has acid survivors working as employees. “We do not believe in charity and living at the mercy of anyone. We want to empower ourselves and be self-sustainable. Having a job and earning money is extremely important for us. This is my small effort to help those who have survived amidst the financial crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic,” BiKhan said.
Through this supermarket and her NGO, Acid Survivors Saahas Foundation, Daulat BiKhan is helping 52 other acid attack survivors. BiKhan said, “We need financial assistance for medical surgeries. We are forced to go to private hospitals as government and municipal hospitals are currently full of Covid-19 patients. The treatment in private hospitals is expensive. In addition, no one is ready to give us jobs post the attack.”
Daulat BiKhan, who worked as a makeup artist, faced an acid attack in 2010 by her own family members. BiKhan said, “I can never forget the day when my own elder sister and her husband threw acid on me. It still haunts me. I had to undergo 17 surgeries because my face was disfigured and many exposed parts of my body were burned.”
Through Saahas Foundation, BiKhan aims to empower acid survivors, help them find a job, and get medical treatment for their surgeries. BiKhan said, “Many acid attack survivors are treated as untouchables post the attack. They lose their self-esteem. I want to do my bit to help these survivors restart their life, and become financially independent. Even if we have faced an acid attack, our life does not and should not stop.”
BiKhan has appealed to the state government to provide medical and financial aid to acid attack survivors during the pandemic. BiKhan said, “First of all, acid should not be easily sold in the market. A miniscule quantity of cheap acid can disrupt the entire life of a person. The laws and police action should be stringent where acid survivors are taken care by the government and the accused are punished. NGOs should not be pretentious but literally work at the ground level to help victims. And survivors should not think of themselves as weak humans but stand up and start their life again. The state government should provide medical assistance and financial aid to survivors during such tough times.”