Me, The Change: Anshu Rajput, the Voice Against Acid Attacks

Producer: Tridip K Mandal

Cameraperson: Abhishek Ranjan

Video Editor: Prashant Chauhan

Me, The Changeis The Quint’s campaign for the first-time women voter who has an achievement to her name, however big or small. As part of the campaign, The Quint is accepting nominations for these young women achievers and showcasing their stories. If you know someone who fits the bill, let us know by emailing to methechange@thequint.com.

Anshu Rajput was all of 15 years when her life took a drastic turn. As the unsuspecting teenager was sleeping outdoors, right outside her house in Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh, her 55-year-old neighbour, a man whose advances she had earlier refused, jumped over the low wall between their respective houses and poured acid over her face.

Now 21, Anshu recalls the incident from six years ago.

"“I spent a month in hospital after that. But I wasn’t receiving the right treatment, so my parents brought me home and provided me private treatment that was available near our house.”" - Anshu Rajput, Acid Attack Survivor

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Initially blinded by the acid, she slowly started regaining her sight, only to see her face changed unrecognisably.

She also was witness to how people had started avoiding her, especially her neighbours, who had stopped talking to her. Even her friends left her. But the worst was yet to come.

Fighting to Go to School "“My name was struck off the school register. When I went to ask them the reason, they said I could not come to school anymore because my face would scare the other children.”" - Anshu Rajput, Acid Attack Survivor

But Anshu did not take that lying down. Speaking to The Quint, Anshu said, “How can somebody snatch away my right just like that? Studying is my right. I went and fought with the school administration, with the principal. Eventually, I was able to take admission in that school again and I completed my 12th grade from there.”

But one of the consequences of the brutal attack on her was she that she was unable to attend college due to her bad eyesight. On the other hand, treatment cost money, which Anshu’s family wasn’t able to afford immediately.

How did her family undertake the expenditure that was incurred for her treatment? “My father is a farmer and my mother is a housewife. It was obviously very expensive. But they managed everything. They supported and helped me throughout,” says Anshu.

It was support from her parents that enabled her to make a life of her own, says Anshu Rajput. When she wanted to start working at ‘Sheroes Hangout’ in Lucknow, a cafe run by survivors of acid attacks, her parents came to see it. They liked the atmosphere and told her to take up the opportunity.

“How long will you sit at home and bear the pain? Do this and prove yourself. Move ahead in life,” her father told Anshu. And so she did.

Need Support From UP Government

Today, Anshu Rajput is a Library Manager at the Sheroes Hangout cafe in Lucknow. She’s independent and earning a salary which she is happy with. “I’m very, very happy here. I can earn my own money, I can even send some home, and that makes not just me but also my parents very happy,” she says proudly.

But her life at present isn’t without its difficulties.

The cafe she works at is facing difficulties, with the UP government demanding the land – on which the cafe is built – back. Letters and pleas to the chief minister have gone unanswered, and the only thing holding the place together is a Supreme Court order that allowed an extension to Sheroes to hold the land that had been loaned by the government.

File image of Anshu Rajput at the TEDx event at IIM Lucknow.

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“This cafe is my home, it is our home. Acid attack victims can’t get jobs anywhere, even if they have the qualifications. They always look at the face,” she states bluntly.

Anshu says acid attack victims have the support of the public, but not from the government. Even people who had shunned her after the attack treat her well today. And her newfound motivation has empowered her to inspire others. Anshu’s motivational speech at a TedX event at IIM Lucknow earlier in 2018 is popular online.

Guitar and a School for Others in the Future

What are her plans for the future? “I haven’t even thought of marriage,” giggles the young woman. “My parents don’t pressurise me, they have just asked me to tell them when I find a man I like. It is up to me. It is my life and my future, after all,” she says.

Instead, Anshu wants to make life easier for others with the thing she loves the most – education. She wants to build a school, while pursuing her desire of being a guitarist and enjoying dancing.

After all, Anshu Rajput is not just an acid attack survivor. She’s a fighter, who wants to give back to the society which shunned her once upon a time.

Do you know an achiever like Anshu Rajput? Nominate her for The Quint’s “Me, the Change” campaign below!

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