By Ridham Gambhir
He slowly broke the seal of the bottle with his gloved hands and tapped the man sitting ahead of him. The girl was still walking on the footpath ignorant of these men. With an expeditious move, he threw open the bottle. The acid splashed out and incinerated her face ruthlessly. Her scream silenced the humdrum of the road while the bike raced along the corner and disappeared.
Acid attacks have been experienced by some, seen by a few and read by a lot more. A woman doctor became a patient herself when two juveniles threw acid on her face in a marketplace in West Delhi. This attack took place in 2014, one year after the Supreme Court ordered a ban on the over-the-country sale of acid. The ban was announced as a result of a PIL filed by Luxmi Agarwal, an acid attack survivor.
Despite the ban, the year 2014 saw an unparalleled 309 acid attacks being reported from across the country. While the open sale is banned, the life-taking liquid continues to be sold illegally in places like Ghaziabad in UP for a minimal amount of Rs.25.
Luxmi Agarwal, at the age of 16 became an acid attack victim when she rejected the advances of a 32-year old man. Hina Fatima, a young bride was force fed sulphuric acid in the name of whisky by her husband and later splashed with a whole bottle of it. Sarojini Kalbagh, 19, died of 80 per cent burns when her ‘lover’ succumbed her to death by the fatal liquid. Noorjahan, a widow and a mother of two was soaked in acid by a dejected factory worker.
No matter which age group they belong to, women are the majority victims of such attacks. It is not out of his love, but his desire to overpower the woman and an attempt to prove his masculinity that results in such a heinous act.
To combat the rising acid attacks, the apex court has announced stern rules. Such as, anyone under the age of 18 will not be able to purchase acids like hydrochloric, sulfuric and nitric. These acids are easily available for mere Rs. 20 and are used as cleaners. Shops will have to keep details like the quantity sold and the addresses of buyers, who will need to present photo identification to purchase acids.
Retailers will have to declare the amount of acid being stocked to the police, the court said. Failure to do so would lead to undeclared stock being confiscated and a fine of up to 50,000 rupees. Additionally, Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chairperson Swati Maliwal in consultation with deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and health minister Satyendra Jain, along with a delegation of 5 acid victims announced that the latter shall be provided free medical treatment at all hospitals in Delhi, including private hospitals.
It is the easy availability of acid and the rage of a spurned lover/husband that provokes him to ‘teach a lesson’ to the girl. Blaming the government authorities for such acts is commonplace but while the government is putting a check on the supply and demand of acid, how about we reappraise our gender relations and morality?
Are we to remain a silent spectator to such attacks or just a candle-bearer after these women die? Reduction in the sale of acid will not reduce acid attacks, it is the depth of humanity that needs to be explored and ameliorated.