Acid attack survivor wins millions on 'Kaun Banega Crorepati'

Fri Nov 30, 2012 1:28pm IST

Sonali Mukherjee, 27, poses for a picture on the terrace of her room temporarily offered by a Sikh temple in New Delhi July 22, 2012. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

Sonali Mukherjee, 27, poses for a picture on the terrace of her room temporarily offered by a Sikh temple in New Delhi July 22, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Ahmad Masood

Related Topics

NEW DELHI (TrustLaw) - Four months ago, acid attack victim Sonali Mukherjee just wanted to die to escape her suffering.

Now, the 27-year-old is a rupee millionaire after appearing on "Kaun Banega Crorepati", the Indian version of popular quiz show "Who wants to be a Millionaire". She plans to use her experience to help combat the heinous crime of acid violence, which kills hundreds of people every year, most of them women.

"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."

Nine years ago, three men broke into Mukherjee's home in the middle of the night as she slept and poured acid over her face - burning her skin, melting away her eyelids, nose, mouth and ears and leaving her partly deaf and blind - simply because she spurned their sexual advances.

Left with 70 percent burns and severe disfigurement, Mukherjee, who was a 17-year-old college student in Jharkhand's Dhanbad town, endured years of suffering, confined to her home. Her family could not afford the expensive reconstructive surgery she needed to help her live a normal life.

Her three attackers were released after serving three years in prison.

Unable to continue what she said was "half a life with half a face", Mukherjee begged the government to allow her to kill herself. Euthanasia is illegal in India.


In the weeks that followed, Mukherjee's story made national headlines and there was an outpouring of public support for her. Local charities and private hospitals came forward offering to fund the surgery she needed.

The turning point came this weekend, when she was invited to appear as a contestant on "Kaun Banega Crorepati" hosted by Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan. "I could never imagine that I would meet big people. Meeting Big B was the best thing. He is such a big star, but is so humble and down-to-earth," she said.

Wearing sunglasses and with a red scarf wrapped round her head and partly covering her face, she was guided onto the stage by Bachchan and former Miss Universe Lara Dutta, and given a standing ovation by the audience.

Confidently answering questions on everything from botany and cooking to political history, the young woman scooped 2.5 million rupees with her celebrity partner Dutta.

Mukherjee plans to use her winnings to complete her surgery, but says this is not the end of her struggle. With her new-found celebrity status, she wants to speak out against acid violence, most common in countries such as Cambodia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, where social structures remain deeply patriarchal.

Around 1,500 acid attacks are reported globally each year, 80 percent of them on women, says the London-based charity Acid Survivors Trust International, though it also says this is a gross under-estimate as most victims are scared to speak out.

"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," she said.

(TrustLaw is a global hub for free legal assistance and news and information on good governance and women's rights run by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. For more stories, visit

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (1)
CommunalAward wrote:
India is 4th most dangerous place in the world for women.
It is only a little better than war-ravaged Afghanistan and Congo.

Dec 01, 2012 11:21pm IST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared



Segway in India

Segway in India

Segway’s India business pegs hope on tech-savvy Modi  Full Article 

Power Outage

Power Outage

Mumbai hit by power cuts  Full Article 



Gold imports, premiums to jump on festive demand - top refiner  Full Article 

Economic Worries

Economic Worries

Pakistan's promises to IMF in doubt as protests sap economy   Full Article 

Islamic Finance

Islamic Finance

Basel III deposit challenge looms over Islamic banks   Full Article 

Antitrust Probes

Antitrust Probes

U.S. business lobby says concerned China antitrust probes unfair.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage