Published: 07th April 2021
Meet Kavita Bisht, an acid attack survivor from Uttarakhand who is trying to make the world a better place
Kavita Bisht has seen more tragedies in 31 years than you can think of. But she never stooped. She tells us her story of resilience
Kavita Bisht is a jovial young woman who wants to help people in need any way she can. Kavita has also experienced so much tragedy in her life that it borders on unbelievable — the 31-year-old is an acid attack survivor, she lost her eyesight in the attack, lost her siblings and her father very early in life and had to build a respectable life in a society that considered her nothing but a victim of ill fate. She is a teacher at The Janet Sheed Roberts Residential School for Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities in Uttarakhand's Ramnagar where she helps specially-abled children learn their lessons and basic etiquette. Kavita has also started a home for specially-abled elderly women during the lockdown called Kavita's Women Support Home.
What do they do here?
The school, run by Lotus Flower Trust and the Umed Singh Rawat Indu Samiti, has 82 kids with special needs at present. "We have kids with visual impairment, hearing impairment and even mentally-challenged kids. We not only teach them regular lessons but also train them in handicrafts and give them vocational training. We keep a track of the kids' improvement on a daily basis and teach them basic manners and life skills," said Kavita. "We are not only teaching them but also employ them at our school. This way, they have a motivation," she added. The school has seen some international success as well. Jitendra Pawal, a student of the school, brought home a gold from the Special Olympics World Games 2019 in the 200m race category.
Kavita's Women Support Home was started on July 18, 2020, to help women who are above 18 and need a place to stay. "We made masks with the help of local women. We have extended our scope to other handicrafts as well — cushions, artefacts, etc. We have four young women who stay here at present. Our aim is to let divyang women stay here, get trained and find employment," she said.
The journey that was
After she graduated Class 10, Kavita shifted from Ranikhet to Noida to work in a private firm and support her family. Her elder sister had died in 2007. Her father was traumatised and that affected his work. Kavita wanted to support her family. "The boy (attacker) lived a few lanes away from where I lived in Noida. He wanted to be friends and even sent a Christmas present. My roommate was the messenger. He had told her that he wanted to marry me but that was not a decision for me to make on my own. I am not an orphan, so he should've spoken to my parents if he wanted to marry me. I returned the gifts," Kavita recounted.
"On February 2, 2008, I was waiting at the bus stop when, around 5:15 am, two men, with their faces covered, stopped in front of me and threw some liquid on my face. In those days, there was a trend of throwing water on a girl's face and covering her in a blanket to kidnap her. At first, I thought I was being kidnapped. But then, my face started burning, flesh and skin peeled off as I touched my face. I couldn't see anything. I screamed for help but no one came till 6 am. An uncle came and told me someone has poured acid on my face. He helped me get back to the hostel. The people there tried to get me admitted but the hospital wanted an FIR, the police wanted my parents to be present. Finally, I got admitted around 2:30 pm when people from my office intervened," she said.
Kavita was blinded by the attack. She also lost the will to live. "I was depressed. I did not want to live. It took a lot of effort but I tried looking at the positive side of things. I eventually took this as a new life. I came back home to a very negative environment. The rural society had never seen an acid attack survivor. They demoralised my parents as well," she said. In 2010, she got a call from a blind training school run by the Rashtriya Drishtiheen Sangh in Almora. This was the first time she stepped out of her room.
She continued, "The training helped me gain perspective and I got myself admitted to the National Institute of Visually Handicapped in Dehradun in 2011 and learnt how to use a computer, write short-hand and some handicrafts too. I had come to Haldwani for a medical camp and my relatives asked me to stay here, away from the negativity at home. I came to Haldwani with my younger sister and brother. While my sister got a job, I was making envelopes and knitting and sewing to support us." Things were starting to look up, but it didn't last too long. "My sister passed away at the end of 2012. I somehow supported the family. My father had lost his job in 2014. After a series of attempts, I was able to help him get his job back in 2015 but within a year, he passed away from a heart attack while on duty," she added.
Rising above the hardship
Kavita has had way more than one person's share of tragedy but that has never weighed down on her. "I always wanted to help people. I had received some donation when I was undergoing my surgeries. I had this in mind to help people if ever I am in a position to help," she said. She got a job in the Nirbhaya cell in 2014. Kavita's social work was also recognised — she was awarded the Uttarakhand Rajya Mahila Puraskar. She was announced as Uttarakhand’s ambassador for women empowerment in 2015 and then, during the 2016 Assembly Election, she was made the state icon for Uttarakhand. She was awarded under the aegis of the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao programme in Gujarat as well.
Kavita met Sandeep Rawat (confirm the name) of JSR Residential School for Children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities in 2017 and then, became associated with the school and later, built the support home with Rawat's help. "Bygones are bygones. I am who I am on my own merit. I support my family with a monthly salary of `7,500. No one has supported me. I feel we need to take the first step and show the world that we can do something with our lives too, only then will people help," Kavita said.
Reach Out: usrindusamiti.org