Scars didn't deter her spirit, she bounced back after surgery

Laxmi was scared when she saw herself in the mirror the first time after the attack

Laxmi was just 16 years old when she became a victim of acid attack in 2005, and a confident young girl decided to confine herself to the four walls of her room for three years. Now 23, she is the face of the strongest Supreme Court order regarding acid attacks in the country.

On April 22, 2005, Laxmi was on her way to a book shop in south Delhi’s Khan Market when she was attacked by Naeem Khan alias Guddu and his brother Imran’s girlfriend Rakhi.

“The disfigured face affected my studies and it seemed as if my life had come to an end. I lost all my friends and had no respect in the society. I rarely left home, and began to socialise only in 2008 after undergoing numerous operations,” Laxmi says.

Guddu had developed a one-sided liking for Laxmi and wanted to marry her. Laxmi says he proposed her for marriage and kept sending text messages.

“It continued for around 10 months, but I did not respond to his advances and ignored his messages,” she adds.  

A day before the attack, Guddu contacted her on her mobile phone and asked about her dreams.

“I told him that I want to lead a simple life without his interference,” Laxmi says. On this, Guddu resolved to distort her beautiful face with acid.

Belonging to a lower-middle class family, Laxmi had taken up a job and was working with the bookshop at Khan Market. She was about to reach the shop at around 10.45 am, when she saw Guddu and Rakhi.

“They were holding a glass and threw its liquid at me,” Laxmi claims. Before she could realise it was acid, she fell on the road and was hit thrice by the passing vehicles each time she tried to get on her feet.

Nobody came forward to help her for a while, until a man who claimed to be Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s driver, made a call to the police control room. She was rushed to Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in a PCR van.

Fortunately unlike many other survivors of acid attacks, Laxmi got immediate medical help and treatment. Her family, however, ended up losing all their finances and resources on her treatment. She has undergone seven operations till date and is waiting for three more due to lack of funds.

“I underwent plastic surgery at Apollo Hospital in 2009. Doctors say I still have to undergo three operations for eyes, ears and nose,” she adds.

Cosmetic surgery is also yet to be done which doctors promise will bring much more positive changes.

Last year, tragedy struck the family again when her father passed away which left them without the sole breadwinner. Her younger brother, 19, has also been diagnosed with dysfunctional lungs and is undergoing treatment.

With her mother being a homemaker, Laxmi went on to learn tailoring and beautician’s work after recovering from the grave injuries.

She says for eight months, all the companies she had applied in for a job, did not contact her after interviews, probably because of her scars.

On May 19, she joined Stop Acid Attacks as a volunteer and presently earns
Rs 10,000 per month for working as a supervisor there.

“I have been able to study as compared to most acid attack victims who get frightened of the constant public scrutiny. Now, I have the confidence that I can work and earn for the entire family,” Laxmi says.   

She says she was scared when she saw her face in the mirror for the first time after the attack, but “now I go out bindaas.” She does not bother about others’ opinion anymore.

In a landmark case the two accused — Guddu an Rakhi — were sentenced to seven and 10 years of imprisonment respectively in November 2009. They were arrested soon after the attack, but were released on bail. Guddu went onto marry and has two children.

Laxmi also filed a PIL in the Supreme Court urging for a regulation on sale of acid in 2006.

“The order will bring a change. People will be afraid to purchase acid,” she says. She demands a ban on the sale of acid, but also agrees that it would not be possible.
“The government must treat us like their daughters and make such strong laws that acid attacks become history,” she adds.

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