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Sonali to attend Rahul meet

Ranchi, Jan. 10: When Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi holds discussions with youths from across the country tomorrow in Bangalore, braveheart Sonali Mukherjee will stand out for being the only apolitical face from among the four invitees from the state.

Apart from Bokaro-based Mukherjee (28), who has taken up the cause of hundreds of acid attack victims like her and has been a strong voice behind the demand for institutionalising strict guidelines for over-the-counter sale of acid, three Youth Congress activists from the state have also been invited to the brainstorming session.

They are Ajay Sah, Sanjeet Singh and Astha Poddar, who will attend Rahul’s day-long meeting tomorrow at Palace Grounds in the silicon capital of India.

“A didi from Youth Congress called me a week ago and asked whether I would be interested in attending Rahul Gandhi’s programme. I don’t have any particular political leaning but I decided to go because it will give me an opportunity to narrate the woes of hundreds of girls like me whose life has turned into a living hell,” the former NCC cadet told The Telegraph over telephone from Bangalore.

Sonali suffered 65 per cent burns and almost lost her eyesight after Telipara resident Tapas Mitra, whose marriage proposal she had turned down, and his two accomplices attacked her with sulphuric acid in Dhanbad on April 22, 2003.

A lower court sentenced the trio to nine years imprisonment. The case is now being heard in Jharkhand High Court. The accused are out on bail.

Deepika Pandey Singh, national secretary of the Youth Congress whom Sonali referred to as didi, was happy that she had agreed.

“Rahul wants to interact with youths between 18 and 35 years to incorporate their suggestions for the party manifesto. It is for the first time that a political party is holding such a wide consultation to reflect the views of youths,” she claimed.

Has Sonali made up her mind on what she would like to suggest?

“First, a harsh law for crime against women,” she said instantly.

“Second, I will request for speedy trail and death penalty in acid attack cases because it will act as deterrent. Third, I will request Rahul to ensure socio-economic security for victims like us. Even if Supreme Court says that it is the moral responsibility of the state and the Centre to ensure rehabilitation, compensation and treatment facilities for such victims, it is not being followed,” she added.

More than 200 youths from various walks of life including, students, professionals and entrepreneurs, are expected to attend Rahul’s Bangalore meeting. Youths from marginalised sections of society will also take part.

State youth Congress president Anup Kumar Singh has chosen the three young leaders who will be representing Jharkhand at the meeting.

While Ajay Sah is a Youth Congress vice-president from Singhbhum Lok Sabha constituency, Sanjeet Singh is the Youth Congress president of Dhanbad Lok Sabha constituency and Astha Poddar is a member from Bokaro.