Survivors of acid attacks who came together in Bengaluru on Thursday decided to defy social discrimination and fight for their place in society.
“Why should we cover our faces? The people who did this to us should cover their faces,” said Gulnas Khan, a survivor. “Men should know that women, who give birth, are also capable of destroying them.”
Tired of ill-treatment at her workplace, Reshma, another survivor, said: “People in the company say how can we expect our day to go well after seeing such an ugly face in the morning.” Struggling for breath, she added: “Our surgeries cost Rs 25-30 lakh, but we are provided only Rs 3 lakh by the government. We have sold all our properties to pay medical bills. An army man wanted to marry me, but I refused. The next day, he splashed acid on my face. He was in jail for just four months, but I am devastated for life.”
Makima Khatun had a similar experience. “I was in class 7 when I was approached by a boy with a marriage proposal. His mom did this to me. Maybe I would have been spared if I wasn’t good-looking. Society punishes a girl for being beautiful,” the braveheart said.
There are inadequate restrictions on the sale of acid.
In 2013, the Supreme Court had ordered the state governments to ban over-the-counter sale of acid. Four years later, it is still possible to procure a bottle of acid without much difficulty.
According to the apex court’s directive, minors are not allowed to purchase acid. Details of an acid sale are supposed to be provided to police within three days.
“People buy acid worth Rs 20, destroy our lives, and just sit back and watch,” Gulnas added.
Talking to The Observer about her painful experience, Shabnam Khatun, another survivor said: “My skin was falling off, my vision was fading, I felt helpless while I screamed for help.”
Acid attacks occur in most of India. The government compensates the victims with a meagre amount which is not even one-fourth of the money needed for surgeries.
In its March 13, 2018, issue, The Observer had reported that cases of acid attack have gone up in Bengaluru in the past four years, while Karnataka has fewer cases than other major states.
Chandrahass Mishra, public relations officer of the Acid Survivors & Women Welfare Foundation, said: “We filed PIL back in 2013 regarding the amount of compensation provided, but there has been no development on the matter.”