Acid attack victims find strength in numbers

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Photo: PTI
Photo: PTI

New Delhi, Jul 20 (PTI): Left with little hope of leading a normal life after being attacked with acid, Rupa, a girl in her 20s, is now trying to set up her own boutique, thanks to an initiative by Chaanv – a rehabilitation centre that began operations here last year.

Located in Laxmi Nagar, the centre is a first of its kind in the country that offers shelter to acid attack survivors undergoing treatment in the national capital.

Rupa credits Chaanv and the ‘Stop Acid Attacks‘ campaign founded by Alok Dixit for helping her undergo a two-month training in dress designing from a mechanical engineer.

Many others like Rupa, all survivors of acid attacks, are now reaching out to the centre which is now managed and run by the acid attack fighters who have recovered with grit. Survivors gathered here recently and shared their stories at a discussion, which highlighted gory tales of acid attack and the need of regulation to control the open sale of acid. Activists say that regulating the sale of acid will help curb the violence against women.

Laxmi, who won the International Women of Courage Award in 2014, narrated her painful story during the discussion. In 2005, her jilted lover threw acid on her face after she refused to accept his proposal.

“It has been a tough journey since then,” says Laxmi. She has gone through seven major surgeries after which she filed a PIL in the Supreme Court to regulate the sale of acid at retail shops. The apex court passed an order on 18 July 2013 prohibiting the sale of acid without license, making it mandatory for retailers to maintain a record of customers. But the order has not been implemented by the Centre.

The order stated that those who purchase acid are bound to produce identification and address proofs and should be above the age of 18. Additional to this, the dealers will have to submit details of sale to the local police within three days of the transaction.

“Acid is being sold openly in the market. Anybody and everybody can buy it without any regulation. The government is least interested and does not pay heed to the order passed by the apex court. We thus want stringent laws to regulate the sale of acids,” says Alok Dixit, founder-member of Stop Acid Attacks campaign.

“It was very difficult for me. I could not complete my education. People used to look down upon me. Social rehabilitation became difficult and also lawyers asked me degrading questions. It was then that I thought of doing something for the survivors and victims like me,” says Laxmi who now coordinates activities of the Stop Acid Attacks campaign.

A research conducted by Alok Dixit showed that 167 women have been attacked by acid by jilted lovers or due to other enmity at public places and at home.

“With our initiative we want to change the state. Our fight does not include any funds or help from the government. We work on crowd-funding and tend to help in rehabilitation work of the survivors,” says Dixit.

“The egoistic approach of the attackers is the biggest reason for most of the attacks. The patriarchal society wants to show their supremacy and they do so by attacking the females,” says Karuna Nundy, an advocate at the apex court.

The founders of ‘Stop Acid Attack’ have now begun a new campaign called ‘Spot of Shame’.”We have travelled to 50 places in the country and want a put up a board with ‘Spot of Shame’ written on it where these acid attacks have taken place,” says Laxmi.

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