In 2014, Hajida was just another woman, who was trying to eke out a living by gold coating artificial jewellery to support her family. But her quiet life took a horrifying turn when a neighbour attacked her with acid for refusing to marry him. After five years and multiple surgeries, Hajida still requires further medical attention as well as funds to rebuild her life.
A crowdfunding campaign has been launched for the same, with Rs 5 lakh as the target. At the time of writing, Rs 3.41 lakh has been raised and Hajida's supporters are urging well-wishers to help them meet their target.
Hajida was raised in the town of Machilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh, where she lived with her parents. Her newly-married elder sister, Asma, lived just a few lanes away. Subhani, a neighbour who had a wife and kids, kept asking Hajida and Asmaâ€™s mother, Zareena, for Hajidaâ€™s hand in marriage. But Zareena repeatedly refused him.
Asma recalls, "He used to live on rent in a house nearby. He was a neighbour. He has a wife and kids. His mother used to keep coming and asking my mother saying that his wife's health is not good and that she would not live very long, they would keep telling us this. My mother refused, and said that they would not give their daughter."
This enraged Subhani, who had threatened the family that he would give them a bad name. In March 2014, when Hajida and Zareena were returning home, Subhani threw acid on them, changing their lives forever. They were taken to a hospital in Machilipatnam, and from there to a hospital in Vijayawada.
"We were in the hospital for 2 months. No one came to check in Vijayawada hospital. My mother and sister were both there, and almost two months later, my mother passed away," Asma adds.
Mounting medical expenses
Hajida was critical for almost a month after the attack, and sustained 60% burns. Asma says that as they didnâ€™t receive adequate care at the hospital in Vijayawada, they began tending to the wounds themselves. Hajida had lost 60% of her eyesight, and her nostrils, lips and eyelids had been scarred because of the acid. Her hands were also burned because of the attack.
Help then arrived in the form of a group from Hyderabad who reached out to them. Thanks to the chief ministerâ€™s relief cell and the NTR trust, Hajida could receive her first surgery at Apollo Hospital in Hyderabad in 2014.
Hajida has since had five surgeries at Apollo Hospital, and one in a hospital in Vijayawada. However, she requires more.
"She requires a nose surgery as right now it can't take any dust. Her nose became small because of the attack," says Asma.
Meanwhile, Hajida and Asma filed a case against Subhani. He was arrested and sentenced in life in July 2018. "It's been a full five years since we've been doing this. The group of people helping them were giving us support and courage. If her surgery happens I'll be very happy," Asma adds.
Asma is the only breadwinner in the family, and hopes that she can find a job once Hajida's surgeries are done. They used to work as gold coating for artificial jewellery, which Asma still does from home. â€śAt the moment, I do the gold-coating work from home, but that only gives us Rs 50 for a full day's work,â€ť Asma says.
"I stay at home, as I can't see in the distance well, so I'd like to work from home," says Hajida.
The money received following the attack as well as the government compensation received after their motherâ€™s death all went towards Hajidaâ€™s medical expenses. Hajida has been allotted a piece of land by the Andhra Pradesh government, but doesnâ€™t have enough funds to build a home on that land, or to help with her medical expense.
You can contribute to Hajida's crowdfunding campaign here.