Acid Attacks On The Rise – What Is Being Done For Them?

meena acid

 

TL;DR: Acid attacks are a barbaric and vicious form of violence which are very common in India. 80% of the victims are women who are attacked by jilted lovers or abusive husbands and in-laws. In our individual capacities, we can do very little to stop people’s lives from becoming hell, but we can definitely contribute to their well-being. Your contributions here will help a victim of this horrific torture receive surgical intervention and live her life in some peace again.

Anger and resentment will furnish these blank pages burnished with digital splotches of ink, but they have nothing beautiful to say, only an exclamation at the lack of explanation of the vitriol that tarnishes the sanity of a waning teenager scrolling mindlessly down the web of the Social Network.

Through chemistry I learned that acid + base —> salt + water and through reality I learned that acid + face —> sizzling distorted flesh + pain.

Through physics I learned that a mirror is painted glass that forms virtual images, and the glass screens all around me form virtual images of the reality I can see but cannot touch, safe and secure in my blanket of privilege – or luck?

Nobody threw H2SO4 on my unprotected skin but I feel the metaphoric burn not of dilute acid but diluted pain. I laugh, tasting metal in my mouth; this puts a new spin on Give Me Some Sunshine; concentrated H2SO4 ne saara bachpan jala dala. 

Dear God, don’t give me rain. There’s enough of it cascading down as salty rivers from tormented eyes. Dear God, I stopped believing in you when I was in what, class seven? But I still call out to your humble abode in the heavens — force of habits I have not changed yet; I have bigger battles to fight.

And they slapped me with a reminder from the city of rain, the rain drowning crawl spaces called homes – the slums and the chawls and the dilapidated mansions of the riches built over rags which in spite of their majesty succumb to the pollution – the acid, acid rain.

She was married when she was 15 years old. 

For some, this is enough of a point of entry into the discussion.

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Well-meaning words adding to the polluting smog clogging and choking this damned city.

Her husband used to be a construction worker but he barely went to work – all she ever saw him doing was indulging in alcohol, going around the city with his friends and living off of her father’s income. She would do odd jobs to make money, but when her daughter Anisha was born, she knew that she would have to do a lot more to support her and her education. 

She thought he would change after she entered their lives, but he didn’t.  

Others chime in: “Oh, you naive, uneducated girl. How could you believe him?”

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Even angels have their wicked schemes, Rihanna told me, and my bua echoed this thought, and their voices bounced around and ricocheted off of empty chamber walls of the bitter experiences of nameless faceless women. But bitter secondhand experiences have brought me no answers about how to spot the devil lurking inside Prince Charming, so I suppose I’ll continue to give Princes a miss; their miss-es will not be me?

That last line break was foreboding enough: he was never around.  

But then he did something that destroyed every bit of emotion she felt for him. The monster kidnapped her daughter when she was just 20 months old…his own daughter, just so that he could blackmail her parents to get more money for alcohol.  

It does get more heartbreaking than this: than an abused mother knowing nothing of the whereabouts of her vanished daughter for two whole days till the police found them. It does get more heartbreaking than this.

When she saw Anisha, she was burning with fever and had ulcers because he hadn’t given her any food — it was then that she knew, she had to create a life for both of them without him and she left.  

It does get more heartbreaking than this, because like the formula for a fabulous thriller, the narrative gives you hope before it gets crushing. The little family thrived for two years at maiike — the mother’s parents’ home, and then they moved back to where they lived.

And the monster continued to haunt them; they couldn’t stay off his radar. He hunted, she hid. One unfortunate evening, the cover blew.

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And I can’t write my words like poetry anymore. I am tired and close to tears. Words shouldn’t have to be beautifully tailored to grab the frivolous attention of distractible audiences, words should hold their own for the strength of their meaning.

So listen to my choppy sentences now. In 2013, “after years of coaxing from the Supreme Court and resolute effort from acid attack victim Laxmi, the Centre on Tuesday (16/7/13) finally said it would now treat acid as ‘poison’ and apply a century-old stringent mechanism to regulate the sale of the deadly liquid which has been used by spurned lovers and obsessed stalkers to disfigure women.

People rejoiced when this happened. Rejoiced. Because we had to FIGHT A BATTLE to get acid, a corrosive substance commonly used in Indian households as a toilet cleaner, classified as a harmful and potentially poisonous substance. Because apparently common sense doesn’t dictate that a chemical that can eat through metal and bones should be regulated. And why, tell me why? Because we’re a poor country with poor people who cannot afford food, toilets and toilet cleaners? Because sparkling toilets matter more than safe and sound citizens?

The battle was won, but what about the war? Statistics taken from the Acid Survivors Foundation India  show that in spite of the regulations, acid attacks have been on the rise.

chart

This is partly because after changes in the Indian Penal Code in February 2013, acid attacks were recognized and hence reported as a separate set of crimes, and partly because the ban did little to stop the easy over-the-counter availability of acid. Headlines scream of the free flow of acid sales investigated through citizen sting operations

We see these things and we all need ways to make sense of them. Some of us try to avoid them, others write rants like mine, and some people post borderline insensitive comments that nonetheless come from a place of bewilderment.

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What can we do about such things? Truth be told, in most situations, not much, unless we have a certain expertise to offer. What we can do in our day to day lives is simple and effective – teach and help the people around us to be kind.

In the two hours I spent turning the current of my thoughts into bits and bytes, kindness worked a little bit of magic. I found this story on the Humans of Bombay Facebook page.

There was a call for action, to donate money for Mabiya’s eye surgery. Within two hours, a sum of over 15 lakhs was raised.

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This post made my heart soar! Put to good use, social networking can elevate lives, as it did for Mabiya. To see for myself, I clicked the link and indeed, contributions had been closed as the goal had been more than met. But a window popped up, asking me to contribute to a similar fundraiser.

Meena’s story is different from Mabiya’s, but no less painful. A small contribution from you can change someone’s life for the better. You can read her story and contribute (anonymously or otherwise) here.

Neutralise the vitriol. Let’s make a difference.

By Sanya Sharma

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Sanya is a second-year undergraduate student at Ashoka University uncertainly exploring the inseparable realms of history, politics and literature. As someone with an insatiable curiosity who is always at a crossroads, she loves the interdisciplinary in every field of life and so she indulges creating various forms of art. She writes to make sense of the world.

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