That soul searing sensation

Acid Attacks

That soul searing sensation

Till not so long ago, most Dehiites thought that acid attacks on women are a rural phenomenon, that such uncivilised incidents can take place in the hinterlands of UP and Bihar only (almost as if a fatal gangrape could be any better). And then the case of Preeti Rathi occurred – a young girl from Narela who was reaching Mumbai to take up a nursing job. At the Bandra Railway Station, someone tapped her shoulder and as she turned back, threw acid on her face. After a month-long struggle with death, she finally gave up.

However, what has kept her struggle alive is a series of incidents coming to the fore since then. A number of victims from all over India, and Delhi especially, have come out of self-imposed exiles and are demanding justice. Activists, both national and international, have also written to the central government asking for the sale of acid to be regulated.

Ashish Shukla of Stop Acid Attacks Campaign informs Metrolife, “Acid attacks are a nation-wide problem. There are incidents in Delhi too, just that such cases die out in the court and not many remember them later. Only last Sunday, a woman was splashed with acid by some bikers in Punjabi Bagh. It was later found that the same men had attacked another woman in Khayala two months back.”

“It’s not just spurned lovers,” he continues, “But suspicious husbands, in-laws and parents who fear ‘loss of honour’ – all are using acid as a weapon. The logic is simple. Firearms are difficult to procure. They require documentation and the owner can be traced. Acid, on the other hand, is very easily available in the market. You can get it from any store, chemist, automobile shop, goldsmith shop, just anywhere.”

Acid attacks are not a new problem. But predictably, it hasn’t occurred to the government all this while that the sale of acid must be regulated. Meanwhile, other South Asian countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh, where such incidents are common, have already formed strict regulations which are yielding positive results.

MK Verma, vice chairman, Acid Survivors Foundation of India, says, “Acids are of many varieties – hydrochloric, nitric, carbonate etc. Firstly, we want that the extremely corrosive, low pH value acids should not be freely available. You would obviously not require it to clean your toilet. Further, in the case of more dangerous varieties, records should be maintained from the time of production to end usage.”

“Who has been provided which type of acid and in how much quantity – all should be duly noted down. CCTV cameras should be placed to take their footage.” Unfortunately, the government does not seem to share their enthusiasm. Even after several acid attacks and reprimands from courts, the government hasn’t come out with a suitable
legislation.

24-year-old Laxmi, who was attacked by her friend’s brother in Khan Market in 2005, has been fighting a long court petition with the same aim. After the hearing of her case yesterday, Laxmi rued to Metrolife, “The court fixes date after date but nothing happens. Every week, a new acid attack case emerges, but the authorities want to work at their own pace. Som-etimes I wonder, do they not have daughters of their own?”

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