A 20-year-old girl has been attacked with acid by her own father in India after she reported him for allegedly working in the sex trade industry and regularly selling young girls.
Khushboo Devi was sleeping with her husband Vinod Kumar, 26, and three-year-old daughter Trisha in their tiny one room house in Mathura, in Uttar Pradesh, northern India, on April 30, when she heard a knock on the door.
She opened it to see her father Manik Chandra, 40, standing in front of her before he suddenly threw a bottle of acid over her.
The acid also splashed on Vinod and Trisha as they slept and all three were rushed to hospital with burns to their faces, shoulders, arms and hands.
Kushboo has vowed to make sure her father spends the rest of his life in jail for a life time of crimes against women.
She said: ‘My father threw acid on me because I know everything about him. He knows he’ll get locked up for life with the secrets I know; the number of marriages, the buying and selling of girls over and over again.
‘He bought nice girls and then sold them at a higher price for many years. He used to share everything with me thinking I’d keep his secrets.’
‘He thought that if he killed me his secrets would be safe. He is a very cruel man.’
Khushboo, and her four younger siblings, claimed she grew up watching her father trade young girls, after her mother, Sarita Devi, 35, left in 2007 unable to cope.
Khushboo said: ‘My mother lived a very hard life with my father. What she had to tolerate was unbearable. I was too young to understand as a child, but he used to mentally and physically abuse her for years, once he hit her so hard he permanently ruptured her ear drum and she lost her hearing in that ear.’
But with Sarita gone, and unable to take her children with her, Kushboo was forced to became her father’s main support system. At only ten-years-old she said she was forced to witness unbearable crimes.
‘During those years in the house I saw him marry three girls without even divorcing my mother,’ she said. ‘Then he sold them. He used to charm these girls and marry them before getting a good rate and selling them to other men.’
At the time Kushboo thought these girls were distant relatives, unaware of her father’s true crimes.
She added: ‘He introduced one 22-year-old girl as his niece but later he married her. Sometimes he said our mother didn’t him cook food or wash his clothes and this was why he brought girls to the house. He thought I was not mature enough to understand things but as the years passed I realised what was happening.’
Kushboo remembered when she was 12-years-old her father sent her to a Brick kiln to work but other workers told her to run away because her father was going to sell her.
‘When I was about 12-years-old my father sent me to work in a Brick kiln; everyone there knew about him. I saw lots of young girls going into a room and one person told me girls were being raped and sold. My father was in there. These workers told me to run but I had no money, so I decided to just hide. But after an hour my father found me.’
‘He tried so many times to sell me but by God’s grace I got saved.’
Kushboo believes her father was involved in many deals selling girls for Rs 60,000 (£720) to places like Aligarh, Delhi and Agra.
In 2012 when Khushboo was aged just 14 he eventually forced her to marry Vinod, an honest plumber. Her father owed Vinod Rs 40,000 (£480) so instead he offered his daughter.
‘I initially opposed the marriage,’ Kushboo said. ‘I begged him to stop but I knew I couldn’t do much. My mother said Vinod was a good man so it was a good arrangement. And thankfully after all these years I am happily married to Vinod. It was not a lavish wedding as my father didn’t have any money but Vinod arranged what he could.’
Over the years Kushboo said she and her mother tried to report Manik to the police but she claimed he used to always bribe local officers.
‘We tried to collect evidence but he used to destroy it all,’ Kushboo added. ‘No matter how many times we tried to get him arrested he was always released by giving a bribe.
‘The police didn’t do anything.’
But in January this year Manik tried selling Kushboo’s little sister Anjali, 16, to a 50-year-old man. Kushboo and her mother managed to quickly get the help of villagers to intervene and eventually the marriage was stopped.
They quickly reported Manik to officers at Sasni Police Station and got him arrested but within two days he was released.
A few weeks later, on February 6, he again secretly arranged for Anjali to marry a 30-year-old man, from Agra, and succeeded.
Kushboo said: ‘When I heard the news I immediately reported him again at Sasni Police Station telling them to charge him for child marriage and sex trade crimes. I submitted a First Information Report (FIR) but the police didn’t arrest him.
‘He turned up on my door step instead and threatened me to withdraw the complaint against him. But I refused.’
A few days later Manik turned up at Kushboo’s house and attacked her with acid.
‘He just said my name and then threw the acid on me,’ she said. ‘As soon as the acid hit my face I started screaming. The pain was unbearable.’
‘The liquid hit my eyes and it was a burning sensation; I couldn’t see a thing.’
‘My husband and daughter were sleeping beside me on the ground as it was a hot night. I fell on my husband and we were both screaming. Neighbours in our colony heard our screams and came out. But my father had fled. I told my husband to call the police.’
The police arrived within 30 minutes and quickly escorted the family to a local hospital. But as it was a Sunday there was limited staff so they were taken to Sarojini Naidu Medical Hospital, in Agra, 50 kilometers away.
Doctors confirmed Khushboo had suffered 6pc burns to her face, her right arm and right leg. Vinod also sustained injuries to his face, neck, shoulder, stomach and right thigh. Little Trisha suffered minor burns on her right forearm and leg.
Kushboo remained in hospital for four days but Vinod had to ask family for a loan to pay for the medical bills.
Back at home Kushboo is being looked after by her mother and little sister. But she’s still in immense pain and Vinod’s salary of Rs 250 (£3) a day is just about covering the cost of her medicine.
Vinod said: ‘I’ve promised her that I’ll get her treatment at a private hospital so that she suffers no long term scarring. I will do all I can for her.’
Kushboo is now slowly coming to terms with the fact her father tried to kill her.
‘I can’t believe he hates me so much that he’d try to kill me,’ she said. ‘I’m still in shock. It gives me chills whenever I think about it. But my mother gives me strength. My father is a b*****d. I hope God gives him a harsh punishment.’
‘It’d be better if he died, only then will we have peace.’
Police arrested Manik Chand on the day of the attack and is currently in police custody.
Sub-Inspector Rajveer Singh, from the Highway Police Station, in Mathura, said: ‘We have arrested Manik Chandra on the basis of the statement given by Khushboo and Vinod. We have imposed Section 326 A (punishment for acid attack) and 452 (House-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restrain). We are investigating the case and taking into account his earlier crimes and criminal record too.’
The police have a period of 90 days to charge Manik and present him in front of the court. Khushboo fears he will be granted bail but she is determined to fight for justice.
She said: ‘I will make sure he doesn’t get out of prison this time. I fear he will send someone to finish me but I will fight till my last breath.’