A mother and daughter in India – both acid attack survivors – have been forced to continue living with their attacker and forgive him due to public pressure in India.
Inderjeet Mahour, 60, attacked his wife Geeta Mahour, 40, and his two daughters Neetu, then three, and 18-month-old Krishna, with acid as they slept in Agra, in Uttar Pradesh, northern India, over 23 years ago.
Even though Geeta suffered horrendous injuries, and Neetu, now 26, was left blind, while Krishna tragically died from her injuries, she shockingly managed to forgive her husband.
They went on to have another daughter eight years later, and today she still shares his bed and cooks him dinner every night.
Geeta said: ‘After I recovered from my injuries I was worried how I’d raise my kids alone so I decided to forgive him and I returned to him. For some years he was nice to me. But eventually he started drinking and gambling again. Even today when he gets drunk he threatens to kill us. But nothing bothers me now.’
‘I cry every night for the misery we are forced to live but this is our life.’
And even though Neetu has lost almost all of her sight she refuses to dwell on what her father did to her.
Neetu said: ‘I can hardly remember anything about the day. But I have forgiven him. I’ve never asked my mother why are we with him? I never get angry.’
Geeta was living back with her mother due to cracks in their marriage, when Inderjeet attacked.
She said: ‘I was at my mother’s place with my two younger daughters when the incident happened. My eldest daughter Rekha was at my in-laws house. We were sleeping in the courtyard when he quietly got inside and poured acid on us.
‘Even though I didn’t see him pour the acid, I knew it was him because he often used to threaten me: ‘don’t mess with me or I’ll ruin your face’. I remember screaming and screaming, my girls screaming and my mother running out. She called the police and we were admitted to hospital for three to four months.’
Geeta reported her husband to the police and he was arrested the following day.
But once Geeta and her girls were discharged from hospital life quickly got a lot worse.
‘I returned to my mother’s house after we were discharged from hospital but my mother had no money,’ Geeta said. ‘My father had died when I was just eight and now my mother had to take care of my younger brother and younger sister as well as me and my daughters. We had no money. My mother and brother worked just to buy us our medicines.’
Tragically, Geeta’s youngest daughter, Krishna, who was just 18 months old at the time, died of infection within a month of leaving hospital.
Geeta added: ‘We were so poor we didn’t even have enough money to buy a shroud for her dead body. I had to take off my petticoat and wrap her in that before floating her body in the river Ganges.’
Three months after the attack, while Inderjeet was still in prison, he wrote Geeta a letter asking for forgiveness.
Geeta said: ‘I got scared, dropped the charges and he was released. For the next 14 months I stayed with my mother but he kept visiting, always apologising.
‘People hated us. They laughed at us and looked at us with disgust. Neighbours even asked me to leave the area . I faced a lot of pressure. I was worried about our future. How was I going to raise my kids? So once my injuries healed and I felt stronger I went back to him. For many years he was nice to me and I shared a bed with him again and we had another daughter.’
Inderjeet said he regrets doing what he did but Geeta claims he continues to drink too much alcohol and still gambles the family’s money.
Inderjeet said: ‘That night I was drunk. One of my friends got the bottle of acid for me. I asked for a light composition so not to harm them much. But they washed themselves with water which made the acid boil. If they had wiped the chemical with a cloth it wouldn’t have had such an affect.
‘I regret that day very much. More when I see my girl Neetu. It makes me sad to see her like this. Whenever I see Neetu my heart cries. I said sorry to my wife and daughter. I asked them to forgive me and they did.’
‘We had our third daughter Poonam after the attack and now, we are all living together.’
Neetu suffered acid burns to her arms, chest, face and the acid also seeped into both of her eyes. But she has forgiven her father for the attack.
She said: ‘I can hardly remember anything about the day. But I’ve never asked my mother why are we with him? Whatever happened has happened. I now live my life on my own terms.’
‘In our society people hate the victim more than the culprit. There’s so much pressure in society. My mother was totally dependent on him and she had no option but to return to him.’
Neetu respects her mother’s decision for staying with him. She said she’s never questioned her mother’s decision.
In 2014, Neetu started working at Sheroes Café, in Agra, founded by the non-profit organization Stop Acid Attacks. It’s a café for acid attack survivors to come together to work and find independence. She hopes to become a singer one day.
‘I never feel sad or low,’ she said. ‘I never think of myself weaker than anyone else. I never get angry. Everyone goes through ups and downs in life. Everyone has to struggle to survive, it’s just that people like me have to struggle a bit more.’
‘It was my face and eyes that were attacked not my dreams and courage.’
In May this year, Neetu had surgery on her right eye, with the help of the Stop Acid Attack foundation. But the surgery only improved her eye by three per cent. Her left eye is permanently damaged and cannot be cured.
Geeta is now worried about her daughter’s future when the time comes she will no longer be around.
‘I cry every night thinking about my daughter’s condition,’ Geeta added. ‘She is solely dependent on me. I worry what will happen to her when I’m gone. She’s a strong girl but her blindness stops her doing things on her own. I hope a miracle happens. My daughter has a beautiful heart and I am so very proud of her. She has accepted her father. She has never questioned him or the life we are living now.’