How many students are in HIM Gurdaspur

Gurdaspur Acid Attack: To be feared from strained friendships - the girls fight on

Manpreet (with cap) with your sister and a friend on the way to school. She was the target of the attack but escaped with fewer injuries. Express photo by Gurmeet Singh

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At the Gurdaspur district court complex, a group of five young girls sit on the steps, tied around the lawn, their guards around them. The girls had arrived this morning from their Dharmabad village in Dera Baba Nanak tehsil, about 40 km away, to hear their lawyer make the closing arguments in their case. Almost two years ago, on March 16, 2016, Prabhjot Kaur, Manpreet Kaur, Arshdeep Kaur, Asha Masih, Sukhmandeep Kaur and Gagandeep Kaur - friends and classmates at the Government Senior Secondary School in Singhpura village, barely a kilometer from their home - became targeted in an acid attack like you came home from school.

The 19-year-old attacker, Sajan-Masih, was once her senior in school and had rusticated when he was in grade 11 two years before the incident. He had reportedly been mad with Manpreet for spurning out his progress. It was such an attempt to win you over that led to its rustication. According to police, on the day of the attack, Sajan-rode a pillion passenger on a motorcycle driven by his friend Lovepreet and the two were waiting for Manpreet to walk back from school. When Manpreet and the other girls, all grade 8 students, walked by, Sajan allegedly threw the acid at them. Manpreet, the target of the Sajan attack, was in the middle and it was her friend, Prabhjot, who took the hit.

Sayan, now 21 years old, is imprisoned in Gurdaspur Prison. Two other defendants — Sagan's friend Lovepreet and Santokh Singh, a dairy farmer who sells his acid — are on bail. Charges were not framed against Thomas, another friend of Sajan and the owner of the motorcycle.

The case is to be closed in the drawing and the judgment is expected soon. The five girls had come, all ready to hear their attorney's arguments. (The sixth, Arshdeep, isn't fighting the case.) The anticipation quickly turns into disappointment when the girls learn that they don't even have to step inside the court. The proceedings were adjourned to February 21 as the defense attorney wanted more time to prepare his arguments. The girls aren't sure if they can come that day - they are now in grade 10 and the Punjab State Board enrollment exams begin on March 12th.

In the months following the attack, Arshdeep says she took tailoring and crochet classes to keep herself busy. "I can now have a full salwar suit," she says. Express photo by Gurmeet Singh

“We should have come to court with that, many times. It's not a nice experience. Everyone stares, ”says 16-year-old Prabhjot.

On some of these occasions Manpreet and Prabhjot have come face to face with Sayan. “Once he was looking at Manpreet and smiling. I found fault with the judge who switched him badly. I also said some things in anger. I said I would give him such a tight slap in the face that he will regret spoiling life with a girl. His smile that day proved he had no regrets about what he had done, ”says Prabhjot, who is the most open of the group. “I hope he gets life. A death sentence would end his life immediately. I want him to suffer in prison forever, ”she adds.

The Government Senior Secondary School in Singhpura is located on Punjab State Highway 25. Cars and buses are speeding and on the highway, past tractors trundling between villages. The attack took place only from this highway, on the connecting road to Dharmabad village. Prabhjot remembers how the final exams had ended that day and they looked forward to the break. The group of girls walked, as usual, past a huge banyan tree that stands on the corner where the highway slips into village-link-street. Just then, two guys on a motorcycle passed them in the opposite direction, took a U-turn, and, as they drove past, Sajan, who was riding the pillion passenger and holding a steel container that supposedly threw its contents in the Group.

“We didn't know what it was then. But my face, neck and arms started to burn. My dupatta tore up immediately and I started screaming and running in the direction of my home, ”says Prabhjot.

At your home today, on the same day as the court hearing, the family wrap-up celebrations of your brother Satnam's wedding, instead of the previous day. Back from the hearing adjourned, Prabhjot is thrilled that the family has a new member and is dragging their bhabhi for introductions. "She is from Uttar Pradesh and she has a M. Ed degree," explains Prabhjot.

The girls at the Gurdaspur district court. Express photo by Gurmeet Singh

The fairy lights are still stretched, and the mehendi is a dark red on Prabhjot's hands. But she hides the right side of her face and neck with her dupatta, and wears a long-sleeved shirt. The acid fell on Manpreet and so did the others - it splatters on their faces, clothes and guns. Their dupattas and their blue and white uniforms had huge holes by the time they got home. But you were luckier than Prabhjot. After rushing to Dera Baba Nanak Civil Hospital, they were all able to return home a few days later.

For Prabhjot, she was first to Amritsar Government Hospital and from there to Fortis in Ludhiana. That's where you spent the next three months. For up to a year after that, they hold back to the Ludhiana Hospital for follow-up visits. She has rarely been able to go to school in the last few months. “Doctors told me not to go out in the sun. And in winter, I didn't feel like going to school that much, ”she says. "You can say that I lost interest in school after what happened."

But she plans on writing grade 10 exams. Your family has deposited the exam fee if you still collect your roll number. “My handwriting is very good, ask one of my classmates. But I don't know how I do in the exams. I haven't studied much in the past year. I don't know about studying. What i want is a job. The government should give me a job, ”she says. By the standards of the village, the family is relatively good-to-do. Her father Narinder Singh owns four hectares where he grows wheat and rice. Her brother, Satnam says the families of the six girls received Rs 25,000 from the District Legal Services Authority. In Prabhjot's case the government pays an additional Rs 1 lakh to the hospital where she is treated.

Prabhjot speaks freely about the “women gossiping” in the village who are “pitying” on you, but “pass comments, I must have done something wrong for these boys attacked me”, about fighting with their parents for Rs 4,000 up getting your hair done, and over not being given a cell phone by your parents - "my brother can have one, but not me because you don't treat us the same".

Great Masih, the father of the alleged attacker Sayan, in her home in Baoli village. Express photo by Gurmeet Singh

Most of all, she is angry about the "lack of support" from family and friends. She starts to cry when she tells that her teacher and friends didn't come to see her after she got home from the hospital. "Nobody can feel my pain," she says.

What rankles most is that you weren't the main target of the acid attack, yet it became its worst victim. “Everyone knows I picked the hit for my best friend. I made a victim, ”she says, accusing her tone of voice. Sitting next to her in the large courtyard at Prabhjot's house, Manpreet, says, “I am the best friend”. Your teachers describe Manpreet as a “brilliant student”. The 17-year-old lives four houses away from her friend, with her mother and two siblings, Aman and Jashan, in a common family with many uncles, aunts, cousins ​​and cousins. Her father works in a factory in Jalandhar and she only comes home on off-days.

There are buffalos that are in the yard, and the smell of cooking. The children are all wrapped up on a charpai with which to open their books, learn for the exams. Manpreet, just back from Gurdaspur Court, has your books open on your lap.
“I'm good at science, not so much at math, so I opt for the medical stream (biology, without math) plus 2. Next year, I'll be going to the senior secondary school in Dera Baba Nanak because of ours School doesn't have that stream, ”she says. Her "dream" is to become a science teacher.

Her mother Baljit Kaur says after the attack she is “scared” about sending your daughter to school, “but she is very good at her studies and I will never have the heart to stop her from doing what she wants” .
The late, Manpreet was cycling to school. "Yes, I feel a little scared, but I had to get over that fear," she says.

Her friendship with Prabhjot has been on a roller coaster for the past two years.

"You've been in different hospitals for months, that's why I couldn't come to see you ... It's not that I didn't mean to," says Manpreet Prabhjot.

“Prabh and I remain best friends. It's like friendships with all girls. There are fights and then we go up. She still goes on me when I don't see her coming, but our friendship is still on, ”says Manpreet. Teachers at the Singhpura School say Sajan had been troubling Manpreet since she was in 6th grade. Both Manpreet and Prabhjot had complained about him to the teachers.

"Manpreet was very little when Sajan started worrying her," says Baljinder Kaur, the physical education teacher to whom the girl confided about Sajan-first. Sajan, she says, was the school's “bad boy”.

“He used to follow Manpreet all the time, trying to catch your eye. Sometimes he would have slip of paper with a phone number Manpreet pocket, sometimes a letter, sometimes a cute one, ”says Prabhjot.

Then one day, Sajan reportedly slipped a cheap metal ring into Manpreet's pocket. That's when you told your parents about the harassment for the first time. Her family complained to the Sajan family and the school, which then struck its name from the roles. But after Sajan's parents went to school and promised that he would not bother you, Manpreet, the school took him back.

"But the harassment doesn't end, so we rusticated him a second time, this time for good," says Kaur, the PE teacher.

In the months following the attack, Arshdeep says she took tailoring and crochet classes to keep herself busy. "I can now have a full salwar suit," she says. Express photo by Gurmeet Singh

Between the six, there is a camaraderie that comes from being in the same class, the same village, and being attacked together. For now what connects you is the grade 10 exam you are all preparing. “We're all still friends,” says Arshpreet, who is under 18 is the oldest of the girls. She says she has kept the uniform she wore that day but can't find it now because a power outage has brought her home into darkness.

Arshpreet's parents separated years ago and she now lives with her mother, Sukhjit Kaur's maternal family.

Before the attack, Arshpreet would be walking to school with the other girls in the village, but now, says Tarsem Singh, her uncle, preacher in a gurudwara nearby, either he or his younger brother drop her and his two children at the school gates every morning and pick you up in the afternoon. “We're scared to send yours alone. We can't take that risk again, ”says Tarsem. On that day, the acid had fallen around your eyes and Arshpreet says the vision in his left eye has never been the same.

But the family isn't fighting the case in court. “We can't be a part of the fight because we don't have any money,” says Singh. In the months after the attack, Arshdeep says she took tailoring and crochet classes to keep herself busy. "I can now have a full salwar suit," she beams.

Sukhmandeep lives a few streets away. In a spacious room inside the house, your father Satnam Singh says, “Until that happened, we had only heard of acid attacks. Who would have thought this would happen to us. " However, says the 37-year-old father of three daughters and one son, there was never a doubt about sending Sukhmandeep back to school. He and his wife Gurwinder Kaur want their oldest child to join the Punjab Police after they quit their grade 12.
Sukhmandeep still goes to school with the other village children as they used to be before the attack. “The fear is always there. But we have no alternative. She has to go to school, ”says Satnam Singh.

Sukhmandeep has almost recovered from your burns. The acid had your clothes on, but it doesn't leave any scars.

"Punjabi is my best motive," she says, but admits that you'd rather play cricket and soccer with your three siblings, cousins, or watch Punjabi series on television. She says after your grade 12 she will "take over" immediately for hiring the police. “It's my dad's dream,” says the lanky 16-year-old.

The poorest part of the village is its Christian neighborhood, the one with its densely packed houses, and where most of the people work as day laborers. It is here, in a single brick room, that Asha Masih lives with her parents, older sister, and two brothers.

Gagandeep Kaur is preparing for your Class X exams. Express photo by Gurmeet Singh

"It hurts now and then," says Asha, taking off your sweater and showing the tiny scar tissue that acid has left behind on your upper arm.

Asha's father Manga-Masih doesn't have a job and her mother works as a housekeeper. Her older sister Kajal has already dropped out of school, and Asha could follow suit too. Her grades in school are low.

Gagandeep Kaur lives in one of the cluster of houses on the outer edge of the village, closest to where the attack took place. The acid fell on your face and arms, but doesn't leave any scars. "It's the grace of God, she has recovered," says her father Gurnam Singh, who owns five hectares in the village. “The school is close by, so she waits for the other village girls in front of our house to join you. Of course, we are scared, but fear can't stop living, ”he says.

At Sajan-Masih's home in Baoli, a village in Amritsar district, 10 km from Dharmabad, there are no denials about what he claims to have done, only resignation. Major Singh Masih, his father, says he last met his son in prison about six months ago and is meeting with him in the courtroom.

“I saw him in the court on February 15 but was not allowed to speak to him. When I met him in jail, he wanted me to apply for bail, but I didn't have any money for that. I had hired an attorney for Rs 11,000 but had no money to pay him, ”says Masih, a daily-wage Workers. His younger son Sunny also dropped out of school to work as a manual worker.
Masih had suffered a crippling attack a few months before the 2016 attack, and still finds it difficult to do hard work. The family, who lives in a brick house in the Christian section of the village, has no regular source of income.

Masih ‘s younger daughter Simmi married last year, but the family did not request Sayan bail. “There is nothing we can do for him,” says Masih.

And then, continuing in his resigned tone, he says, “We have tried so many times to make Sayan understand, and asked him to mend his ways. He's right every time and then ... I don't know why he did this.He told me he wasn't on his terms when he threw the acid, "says Masih, adding," Eh, what is our enmity with the girls or their families? "

The family has no photos of Sayan, except for the one on his Aadhaar card. “We had four photos, but the police took all four of them on the same evening, that's what happened,” says Sayan's mother Amarjeet. Sajan studied in school through grade 8, but was evicted the next year after allegedly molesting a girl.

“Sajan was good at school in our village, but after he was evicted from the Baoli school, we had to join him in Singhpur. And that's where he got into this precarious position, ”says his uncle Jassa Singh.

“Not all children who are doing well,” said a family friend who had dropped, “also have some sons of the maharajahs and badshahs who have turned out bad. It's not the parents' fault. It's all karam (fate) and fate. "

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