In 2008, a young Rupa, who was to be married soon, was attacked with acid while she was sleeping. She alleges that her stepmother and a few others attacked her in her Muzaffarnagar home because they were upset over losing the money Rupa’s grandparents had saved for her wedding. It has been six years since. All accused are out on bail and the case has seen little movement.
On Friday, Rupa and other acid attack victims began a hunger strike at Jantar Mantar to demand speedy disposal of such cases and fast track courts to hear them.
“Attack victims are called names. It is assumed that they had spurned lovers or are somehow responsible for these heinous attacks. In my case, it happened in my home… my own father bailed out my stepmother and the other accused. I have been fighting a legal battle for years, while simultaneously struggling to finance my treatment and earn a livelihood,” Rupa said. She has been working as a fashion designer for a year, operating out of Shiroz cafe — an eatery opened by acid attack survivors in Agra.
Access to treatment has been a struggle, with plastic surgery being the only way for survivors to get a new face. But the procedure is still seen as a “luxury” in medicine.
“Victims living in NCR have a tough time getting treatment. I have lost count of the number of trips I made to NGOs and hospitals to fund my treatment. Treatment for acid attack survivors should be made free,” Sonia, a beautician from Ghaziabad, said. She was attacked by a neighbour in 2004.
Coming together under the forum ‘Stop Acid Attacks’, the survivors have also demanded budget allocations to provide cosmetic surgeries and training for hospital staff.
In July last year, in response to a PIL filed in 2006 by Lakshmi — another survivor and protester — the SC had directed the government to ban over-the-counter sale of acid. However, protesters say acid is still very easily available in the capital.