Thursday, 29 January 2015

At the beginning of the year, Aarti Thakur (23) faced an acid attack at Goregaon station, that too in the peak evening hours. The 23-year-old girl had just begun her career in marketing and her family had pinned its hopes on her to kiss their financial woes goodbye.
Their dreams were dashed that evening, two months after she joined a renowned IT company in Goregaon. Following the attack, she never heard from her employers ever again. But, what Aarti regrets most is how all her colleagues, who over a period of two months had become good friends, wiped her out of their lives. "Till date, not a single colleague or friend has called to enquire or help. This attack was also an eye-opener in many ways," she said.
The attack brought about a sea-change in the once confident and outgoing girl. She has now confined herself to their one-room flat in Nalasopara and steps out only for hospital visits or unless absolutely necessary. And every time she covers herself from head to toe. "Partly, it is the fear of being attacked again, and part of it is about the way I look now," she said. The gruesome attack left her with serious burns and scars on eyebrows, face, neck and forearms. The attack also mentally scarred her 21-year-old sister, who always steps out wearing a burqa now. She is pursuing a beautician's course and dropped out of her college for want of funds.
Aarti's family, which comprises her mother, a single parent, and her sister, are practically leading a hand-to-mouth existence. The only earning member of her family, Aarti made about Rs 14,500 a month before the attack. Now, the family has no source of income. Their home rent of Rs 3,000 is pending for the last six months. She said the IT firm she worked for also owes her 21 days' salary that they have refused to pay her. "But, we do not have the time and resources to fight for all that now," she said.
Now, a typical day in the household starts with Aarti's mother Seema making a list of trusts and organizations she has to visit. She aims at collecting Rs 2 lakh for at least three more surgeries that Aarti has to undergo. Aarti said she wants to get back to her normal self and ensure her attackers suffer as much as she is suffering now. The trial in the case is yet to begin and all the accused are out on bail.

Fate is just too cruel for some people.

Baby Wasima hails from Fatehpur. Untimely death of her father and abject poverty had kept her away from education. She used to work at a Bidi factory and she used to be paid ₹30 for every 1000 Bidis produced. While returning back from work, she had to counter a group of 5-6 hooligans, who used to tease and make disgraceful remarks at her. Life was tough, she knew she had to work against all odds to earn a living.

One evening while returning along with her sister, they saw two men standing at a distance. Baby took her usual route, inspite of repeated coaxing from her sister to take a different route.
They had not recognized those two men from a distance. While they were passing them, the men splashed acid on her face. She thought the men had poured milk on her face. Her sister tried to catch the attackers, but they fled. When she reached home, her face was black and the family was befuddled. They took her to the government hospital in Fatehpur and the doctors disillusioned them about the acid attack. After 2-3 days of treatment, she was referred to a hospital in Kanpur.

Her face has been disfigured pitiably and she has lost her eyesight. Poverty has denied her proper treatment. 7 years after the attack, today also she is living an onerous life. Loss of eyesight has barred her from working for a living. She helps the family in household chores.

With minimal wages earned by the working members in the family, they see darkness ahead. Stop Acid Attacks campaign strives to show them a ray of hope.

She remains on the bed mostly. Depends on her mother to move around even in the house. Chronic pain and a burning sensation down from her throat to lower abdomen makes it difficult to keep a step on the ground. “It is unbearable below the left breast. Every moment of scorching Chennai heat seems like death. Death would certainly be better. Now, I pray to lord to bestow me death, which would be much better than such a life.”

That is Kanmanipriya, whose wailing mother says, “When she dies, I will die, too. After her last suicide attempt, even her brother says that we will all die together now. Her pain has become unbearable for us, too.”

Frequent abuse by her husband pushed Kanmanipriya's mother to move to her father's place when her daughter was only eight-year-old. Kanmanipriya's grndfather, a priest at the church, got worried as she entered teenage and married her off at an early age of 14. She soon was a mother of two and regular sufferer of her husband's atrocities. Young Kanmanipriya couldn't cope with the harassment and got a divorce. She then moved to Trichi along with her son to live with her mother and got a job as a cashier. While Kanmanipriya was peacefully raising her son in Trichi, a friend of her former husband visited them from Singapore, tried to impress them with praises for Kanmanipriya, and proposed to marry her. She denied the proposal straight away, but he kept insisting her to rethink her decision. Relatives and friends advised: “Being alone throughout your life would be tough. If someone is ready to hold her hand, why not?” They were soon married in a church.

Kanmanipriya had clarified to her second husband that she won't be able to conceive, as she had already undergone a tubectomy, and he agreed that he would never demand kids. She married the man and moved to Chennai with him. When her new in-laws visited, they seemed unhappy with the marriage that had happened without their consent, and expressed their desire for a grandchild. The husband, too, started pressurising Kanmanipriya for a child. She was shocked.

Her inability to give birth proved troublesome for Kanmanipriya, as this family, too, started abusing and harassing her regularly. “He was already quite cruel on me and a womaniser. His parents' presence made him all the more cruel. He started figuring out ways to finish my life. Became worse than an animal. He would frequently abuse me in public, so that I get frustrated and commit suicide, and he could marry another woman who could give grandchild to his parents.

“On June 5, 2004, the man brought an acid bottle from the bathroom, uncapped it, and forced Kanmanipriya to gulp it down. She had no way out and soon started vomiting blood and chunks of melted flesh from her insides. The husband got frightened and rushed her to hospital. The first four to five hospitals refused to touch her without the involvement of police. Death was hovering around Kanmanipriya, when a nursing home finally took her in, and saved her life.

“But, by then I had turned into a hopeless case. When I gained consciousness, he told me I will be fine and that he will always be around me. He begged me not to disclose his crime and say that it was a suicide attempt by me,” she narrates.

He urged the 63-year-old mother, too, to hide his crime. The old lady thought it was out of her social and financial status to get involved with the police and courts and did not have any relatives either to support them. She agreed, in the hope that her silence in front of police would save her daughter's life, as she had no idea how to get Kanmanipriya the required treatment when she had not been able to drink or swallow anything, because of the melting innards.

After 45 days and three surgeries, Kanmanipriya's doctor said only nine percent of her treatment had been successful. The fourth bypass surgery could save her life somehow and that was around 2006, when the accused husband, who forced her to consume the acid, decided to flee.

Her son James Samuel Dharmaraj is 25 now, and makes about Rs 7,000 every month, which facilitates the trio's bread and her mother's few medicines for survival. Kanmanipriya needs to undergo endoscopy twice a year, but it has been two years since she underwent one; each costing her about Rs 10,000-15,000.

“The injury is inside. Even I haven't been able to see it ever; only feel the burning pain even if I try to swallow a lentil seed, it is tough for you to imagine how it feels throwing up after almost every meal you ingest forcefully. I don't have the energy to puke any more. It kills me. The last time my doctor told me he doubted some sort of cancerous system inside my body when he saw me throwing up blood clots,” says Kanmanipriya, lying in their tiny residence, that has lost every single article of use over her treatment and survival. Life, still, doesn't seem to take any easy turn for the three of them. Her mother's cousin sister helped them last time with her jewels that saw Kanmanipriya through the last round of treatment.

When Rakesh from SAA asked the family about the complications involved in saving Kanmanipriya's life, she said, “Please talk to my doctor urologist Ashok Thyagarajan, sir. He is a renown doctor and no less than god to me, sir. He can tell you everything about my medical needs.” Dr Thyagarajan was caught up in a surgery when Rakesh contacted him, but he assured that he would soon share with us a detailed note about Kanmanipriya's medical needs and estimated cost of the best possible treatment for her.

We could reach Kanmanipriya through a translated story that appeared in Kunguman Thozhi, a Tamil magazine, lying by her bed. A report by Vijaya Anand about Stop Acid Attacks informed them about this campaign that aims at rehabilitating acid attack survivors, and providing them medico-legal support.

While Dr Thyagarajan shared with us how he had been hoping that Kanmanipriya's son completes her graduation, despite the odds he is facing, so that he could get him a decent job that would take care of family's monthly expenditure, Kanmanipriya explained Rakesh how she spends most of her days. “I like movies. I have seen a couple of Hindi movies also, like Dil Wale Dulhaniya Le Jayengey and Hum Aapke.... .” Rakesh had to remind her the name. And she added, “I have seen both these films about a hundred times,” with a sparkle in her eyes. “Kanmani means eye ball, sir,” she explained. She, the one dear to eye balls, lies on a bed in that tiny hutment.

Hoping against all misery that this doesn't turn out to be her death bed.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Entreaty to PM Narendra Modi : from Chhanv Foundation

Posted by Stop Acid Attacks On Thursday, January 15, 2015 1 comment

Respected Prime Minister Sir,
           To start with, we wish you and entire government a Happy New Year. We hope this new year brings more positivity to our nation, and the humans it is made up of. We hope the struggle to ensure that every human needs to lead a dignified life sees new dimension this year, under your leadership.
Prime Minister Sir, let us accept that Acids have become a new weapon against women in this country. Rather entire South Asian nations have seen emergence of Acids as a new threat to women’s identity. In India, a bottle of Acid is as easily available as any household product or a snack- be it broom, a bottle of water or Cadbury Dairy Milk. There are no concrete steps to ensure that the sale is regulated in retail shops. We need cheaper substitute for Acids for household purposes of cleaning. The state needs to facilitate entrepreneur to come up with ideas and products like cheaper toilet bowl cleaner, cheaper Harpic. If need be, then state can come up with a subsidising plan for Harpic and similar products- which are not life threatening!
Just like any terror attack, the life is divided into ‘before’ and ‘after’ for the person on whom Acid is thrown. In most cases a girl is attacked because she rejects proposal of a ‘man’. The attacks are a proof what the ‘hurt machismo’ can do in society. We need to address this. No man is important enough to take somebody’s identity!
Acids Attacks must not be seen as just burn cases, or any other incident of molesting a girl. The issue is deep rooted. The patriarchal structure of the society gives the confidence to a man to use Acid as a weapon. The entire idea that “a girl cannot say ‘NO’ to me” needs to be challenged. A girl can say NO to ill advances of a man and can very well lead a normal life. Law of the land, and society at large needs to ensure this. But sadly we have not been able to ensure. Sir, we have failed numerous girls. Sir, we have failed numerous dreams. It is high time we keep up our promises.
We at Stop Acid Attacks movement have come up with 10 demands, which we have been sharing over various platforms. Sadly we have faced many hurdles, and even now these demands are on paper.

The demands are mentioned here:
  1. The order issued by the Supreme Court (PIL, 18-07-13, Laxmi Versus Government of India) to ban the sale of acid should be quickly followed.
  2. Quality medical assistance and facilities should be available free of cost for acid attack fighters.
  3. Legally the Acid Attacks should be included in the list of heinous and rarest of rare crimes and through fast track court Acid Attack victims should get justice within 3 months.
  4. The investigation of these crimes must be conducted by a special independent committee, and also by police. Police must prepare charge sheet within 15 days.
  5. Government help, job and livelihood should be arranged for the acid attack survivors.
  6. Central Government should start a plan to know the real statistics of Acid Attack victims, and help various state government in rehabilitation.
  7. A special budget should be allocated to hospitals for training of the para-medical staff to properly take care of the Acid Attack victims.
  8. Lower courts should take an initiative to start a separate court which can quickly end up all acid attack cases (old or new).
  9. In every capital of the region a budget should be passed to avail the facility of plastic and cosmetic surgery for Acid Attack survivors.
  10. By seeing increasing number of this cruelty mostly against women, the state governments must pass a law for Social Reform.
Sir, in your address to the nation you have promised that you will do everything to ensure dignified life to the daughters of the nation. We know your intentions are noble, and you will turn every stone to keep up the promise. We have faith in you and law of the land. But we have to start from the scratch when we talk about Stopping Acid Attacks.
We form part of South Asia, and the countries here are considered developing nations. As India leads the economic front of the region, we also need to set examples by creating models which leads to societal reforms. We are sure that you agree to the fact that only economic development is not what India or any other country requires. We need concrete steps to ensure that every human gets the respect he/she deserves.

With hope for better tomorrow,
Chhanv Foundation

Friday, 26 December 2014

Support Hunger_Strike by Join our Initiative : #Online_Anshan

Posted by Stop Acid Attacks On Friday, December 26, 2014 No comments

Stop Acid Attacks’ campaigners held a 10-day long serial hunger strike to draw attention of the Government and the Parliament towards the menace of acid attacks throughout the country. During the period, we carried out awareness campaigns and protest programs and were successful in drawing the attention of civil society. Using online media, including social media, WhatsApp, email and SMS services we were able to connect actively to a larger mass and were able to convey our concerns to the government through them. In the bureaucracy also we were able to press for and made them agree to pass orders about the regulation of acid sell in states. Although, we could not make government agree on many of our demands during the current session of Parliament.
      Due to the ongoing debate in parliament on the issue of religious conversion and lack of awareness amongst elected representatives about the vice of acid attacks, we have decided to suspend the protest for till the budget session of the Parliament. During the meantime, the awareness campaign would continue specially to make the elected representatives aware of this hazard. Apart from this the campaign would try to ensure implementation of the Supreme Court guidelines, in letter and spirit, about the regulation of acid sell through RTI and ‘shoot-acid’ activities at district levels. During the 10- day protest, social activist and theater guru Arvind Gaur, International Woman of Courage Laxmi, CPI (M) leader Brnda Karat, Woman Rights activist Kavita Krishnan, Congress MP Ranjeet Ranjan and a number of civil society members extended their support to the cause.

Your #Anshan_Online will add strength to the message being sent to the honorable Home Minister through an email.

For us Anshan means protest, a pledge, a promise that you will care for the cause and join us even when you are at workplace, at home or on a dinner table. Anshan doesn’t confine to an idea of being part of hunger strike. We can be part of an Anshan by leaving our comforts. This way everyone can join our Anshan in support of the fighters of Acid Attacks.

Here is a list which needs immediate attention of people around us. Please join Anshan Online in demand of strict laws & justice for acid attack survivors and fighters.

For last 7 years on Lakshmi's PIL supreme court has been ordering the government to act in order to stop Acid Attacks, but till now neither the acid attacks have reduced nor the Supreme Court guidelines have been implemented. Acids are freely available in the retail shops across the nation. Acid has become the new weapon against women in our society, and every year thousands of dreams and soul are crushed because of it.

In these circumstances, the campaigners of STOP ACID ATTACKS have decided to follow the path of Gandhi ji- the path of non-violence- the path of Hunger Strike to raise our voice before government and people. If you agree with us, then dedicate at least one day in support of the Hunger Strike by Acid Attack survivors and let the world know about it.


    About Us

    SAA is a campaign against acid violence. We work as a bridge between survivors and the society, as most of the victims of this brutal crime, which is much more grave in its impact than a rape, have isolated themselves after losing their face. Due to ignorance of the government and civil society, most survivors find no hope and stay like an outcast, in solitude. SAA aims to research and track acid attack cases and compile a data to get the actual situation of survivors.

    Our Mission

    We work with partners and stakeholders towards elimination of acid and other forms of burn violence and protection of survivors' rights. The process of justice to an acid attack victim remains incomplete until she gets immediate medical, legal and economic help, along with the critical social acceptance. Our vision is to free India from this crime, which reflects the flaws of our patriarchal society and abusive attitudes. We want survivors to have access to fast justice and fight back the irreparable impact of this crime.

    Support Us

    Any amount you can donate to us, no matter how small, will be very gratefully received and put to good use helping acid and burns violence survivors. Your help could help pay for dressings and medical supplies for recuperating patients. A small help could help survivors with vital physical rehabilitation after an attack, including physical therapy and nursing.

    Click this link to donate for a good cause.

    Join Us

    We welcome all the volunteers to come forward and join us in our camping and contribute in whatever way possible. Please visit the Join Us page for more details.