Two brave girls, bed-ridden from acid attacks almost a month ago, are vying with 574,685 students to pass the most dreaded School Leaving Certificate (SLC) exams — nicknamed the Iron Gate — with flying colours.
On 22 February, Seema Basnet and Sangita Magar were attacked with acid by an unidentified male at a Basantapur-based tuition centre in the heart of capital city Kathmandu. Nepalese police announced on 20 March that they had arrested Jiwan BK and accused him of carrying out the attack, 26 days after the incident.
Seema, one of the girls, had written a four-page letter to the Prime Minister Sushil Koirala requesting that she be allowed to appear for the exams from hospital.
— Setopati (@setopati) March 12, 2015
The prime minister responded by instructing the Ministry of Education to arrange for the examinations to be taken from the hospital beds.
While Seema wrote her first paper from the Bir Hospital on her own, Sangita took the exams with the help of an assistant at Kathmandu Medical College (KMC) Hospital.
Acid attack victim Seema Basnet writes the first paper of SLC exam from Bir Hospital on Thursday. Hemanta Shrestha pic.twitter.com/C39dBJSTzw
— The Kathmandu Post (@kathmandupost) March 19, 2015
Acid attack victim Sangita Magar takes her SLC exams with the help of an assistant at K.M.C. hospital on Thursday. pic.twitter.com/tB6YjNLT6D
— Nepali Times (@nepalitimes) March 19, 2015
There was a huge uproar in Kathmandu following the acid attack against the teenage girls.
Leading Nepali blogger Lex Limbu posted photos of protests against the violence.
— lexlimbu (@lexlimbu) February 24, 2015
People have increasingly been speaking out to amend the law and increase the punishment as there is no harsh punishment against the crime. The current law carries a fine of up to 2,000 Nepalese rupees (about 20 US dollars) and a maximum sentence of four months in jail.
Ankit Koirala, an assistant professor of agri-economics at Agriculture and Forestry University, Rampur, tweeted:
— कृषि मुलश्च: जिवनम् (@ongkeet) February 24, 2015
People also demanded that treatment be provided for free to both girls.
Hinting at the money spent from state coffers on petty issues, Ram Kumari Jhakri, a central committee member of Community Party of Nepal – United Marxist and Leninist, tweeted:
एउटा जोगीलाई भेट्न सातहेलीकप्ट उडाईन्छ तर अपराधिले तेजावले जलाएकी बालिकाको उपचार योराज्य गर्दैन भने मान्नुसकि दिनगन्ती गरेहुन्छ हिसाब हुन्छ।
— Ram Kumari Jhakri (@ramkumarijhakri) February 26, 2015
Seven helicopters are flown to meet a sage but if this state doesn’t take care of a girl burned by acid thrown by a criminal, face it – the countdown will begin, scores will be settled.
Thanks to Seema and her courage, after receiving her heart-touching letter the prime minister directed the concerned authorities to provide free treatment to both girls.
Journalist Bhabasagar Ghimire tweeted his interpretation of the girls’ bravery in the aftermath of the attack:
जसले एसएलसीलाई फलामे ढोका भनेर तर्सायो उसलाई एक पटक भेटेर भन्नुछ, मैले त्यो ढोका जोखेर कवाडीमा बेच्दिसकेँ, अब नभन्नु ।
— Bhabasagar (@Bhabasagar) March 19, 2015
Whoever frightened [me] saying that SLC was an iron gate, [I] need to meet with them and tell them, I have weighed and sold that door to the scrap dealer. Now don’t tell [me].
Salute to these brave girls, who are determined to move ahead and succeed in life and are not getting cowed down despite the violence they have suffered.