When Sonali Mukherjee, an acid attack victim whose story had greatly moved me, appeared on Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC), it gave me immense hope. Hope that finally, acid attacks are gaining the prominence and media coverage that they deserve. I staunchly believe that acid attacks are the most inhuman act of crime there can be. The emotional, physical and financial trauma through which the victim's entire family is put through is unimaginable. What makes it worse is how easy it is to commit the crime - an acid bottle would cost Rs. 50. That's it! That's the money that the perpetrator of the crime needs to have to commit this crime. Most acid attacks result from a woman 'rejecting' a man's proposals. Hence, it is a gross violation of a woman's freedoms, and a reflection of our society's inherent gender discrimination. Just today, a woman was threatened with rape and an acid attack, and for what! For stopping a boy from beating up a dog.
Since acid attack does not get the prominence it deserves and neither does it have a separate law, the exact number of acid attacks is unknown. That said, the best estimate is in the range of 1000 such attacks in India every year. Caste is often a factor in these attacks, as evidenced in the case of Chanchal Paswan and her sister. Many victims, such as Chanchal, belong to Dalits, or the untouchable caste. The attacks are used as retribution by men belonging to the higher castes.
The new law enacted as a response to the December gangrape case specifies more stringent punishment for acid attacks. The minimum sentence has been fixed at 10 years. While this is a commendable move ahead, yet we must not forget that curative actions such as these would be inferior to preventative actions. As written in this news article, efforts to curb the availability of acid in Bangladesh has caused a steep decline in the number of cases reported each year. On this side of the border, we have neither a plan to limit the free availability of acid and neither a plan to rehabilitate the victim.
This is a cause that I hope to be able to contribute. I cannot even begin imagining how inhuman such acts are. I am hoping that in the coming days, I can be a significant part of the battle against acid attacks.
Here is a short interview with Sonali Mukherjee. Her determination is as inspiring as her pain is shocking. Peace be with her!