Acid-attack surviors share stories of hope

Acid-attack surviors share stories of hope

An interactive event was organised at VR Mall to honour them

Rossé Fem Social, a leisure and networking hub for women in VR Mall, Whitefield, hosted an interactive event to honour acid-attack survivors of
Bengaluru on Saturday. 

The speakers at the event were Pragya Prasun, Dr Satish, Shabnam and Hatim, all acid-attack survivors.  

Pragya, the founder of ‘Atijeevan Foundation’, began the event by narrating the gruesome attack on her. Just 12 days into her married life, Pragya was attacked by a jilted lover during a train journey to Delhi. She was on her way for her campus placement interview. 

“I suddenly woke up and felt a burning sensation. I saw fumes coming out of my body and jumped off the berth and cried for help. I had many dreams and ambitions but after this incident, everything was shattered,” she recollected.

Even after undergoing multiple surgeries, she still can’t breathe from her nose, has lost vision in her left eye, lost her right ear completely, and her left arm is burnt. “But I am happy because I survived,” she said. 

Pragya spoke about the importance of family support at such times, to give more strength to the survivors. “Recovering was tough. Two years after my surgeries, companies rejected me. I am lucky to have had a supportive family and husband, who not just helped me financially but also emotionally,” she said. 

In 2013, Pragya launched ‘Atijeevan Foundation’ in an attempt to rehabilitate burn and acid attack patients and survivors in India.

Timely medical help crucial

Not receiving timely medical attention can be life-threatening. Many hospitals don’t have doctors who are equipped to treat chemical injuries. Mohammed Hatim, who was attacked by his ex-wife in last April, said nearly two hours were wasted before he could get the right medical help. 

“After the incident, she locked the door from outside and ran away. I screamed for help and someone finally rescued me and took me to a government hospital. But the people there had no idea what to do with a chemically injured person. Instead of treating my case as priority, they were more keen on knowing my Aadhaar card details. I moved from one hospital to the other but it was nearly two hours before I could get proper medical treatment at St Johns Medical College & Hospital.”  

Even after multiple surgeries and eight-and-a-half-months of pain and agony, Hatim is still not sure if he will get his vision back again. The medical insurance company declined to cover the expenses. 

Jilted lover attacked her

Shabnam Sultana, from West Bengal, said that she was attacked by her neighbour when she was 18. “He used to follow me everywhere — from my tuition classes to basketball practice — but I ignored him. One day, he attacked him with acid; I saw my skin melt and fall on the ground. When I saw my face for the first time after the surgery, I was devastated but at the same time, something inside me gave me the courage to face myself and others. I told my mother, ‘he has burnt my face, not my dreams’.”    

After four months of treatment, she rejoined college and completed her graduation. Later, she went on to complete her MBA in Chennai. 

‘Don’t even who the attacker is’

Most of the time, the survivor knows the attacker but this was not so in the case of Dr Satish Amarnath.  Even after 21 years, Dr Amarnath still doesn’t know who attacked him and why. 

“I was walking to my house from a tailor’s shop when someone threw concentrated sulfuric acid on my face. When my doctor colleague told me that I won’t be able to see again, fear died inside me. It was a difficult time to relearn everything, including how to eat. My family and colleagues stood by my side and I am so grateful.” 

With an undying passion for his work and a determination to be independent, Dr Amarnath returned to work in just 40 days. 

Compensation delayed or denied

Under the Victim Compensation Scheme, a sum of Rs 3 lakh should be paid to acid attack victims. But that isn’t always enough, considering how expensive the treatment is. 

In most cases, where the accused belongs to a high profile family, many don’t even get this compensation. Pragya emphasised that it is important for victims to know their rights and also fight for them. 

Rossé Fem Social also hosted a movie screening of ‘Chhappak’ after the talk session. 

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