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Acid attacks: Stemming the free flow of toxicity

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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.

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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.

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Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chief Swati Maliwal

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.

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Mercy for the Nirbhaya Rapists?

Gender discrimination is the root of many evils. While keeping the aspiration of females down, certain males have committed many wrongs in the past.

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Nirbhaya
The Nirbhaya incident in Delhi was “instrumental” in bringing about a kind of gender awareness renaissance in India.

By Salil Gewali

Gender discrimination is the root of many evils. While keeping the aspiration of females down, certain males have committed many wrongs in the past. Apart from various kinds of physical tortures, the mental tortures undergone by defenseless females are endless. Within the confinement of four-walls innumerable sins are still being committed which mostly go unreported. However, it was Nirbhaya’s rape incident in Delhi that was “instrumental” in bringing about a kind of gender awareness renaissance in India. Post-Nirbhaya incident, a lot many changes in the laws have been made. The safety and security of women have been prioritized, the nation-wide the whole police departments have been sensitized, to a greater extent the road transportation has been made women-friendly.

Nirbhaya rape
The public is right and more sensible now to point out the “hard cruelty” with which the gang had sexually tortured Nirbhaya that night.

Thanks to the countless number of protests across the country condemning the six rapists. The people from all walks of life came together and relentlessly pressurized the government that the Nirbhaya convicts must be awarded capital punishment. Media’s contribution in the campaign is immeasurable. Alas, India’s judiciary is so annoyingly slow it has taken over 7 years to pronounce the death sentence.

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Advocate Indira Jaising suggested that the convicts of Nirbhaya rape case could be “forgiven” by the parents.

However, now nothing could be so mind-blowing than the flood of condemnation against the comments by a veteran advocate and social activist Indira Jaising. Without a sense of guilt and potential backlash, she suggested that the convicts be “forgiven” by the parents. Jaising’s idea has clearly touched a raw nerve of the major population in the country. People’s anger is spilled well over social media. What is most noteworthy is the scathing condemnation directly from the horse mouth — the mother Asha Devi. A very bold lady, who determinedly fought for justice for so many years, thunders – “Who is Indira Jaising to give me such a suggestion? The whole country wants the convicts to be executed. Just because of people like her, justice is not done with rape victims,” Asha Devi aptly further adds — “Can’t believe how Jaising even dared to suggest such this; I met her many times over the years in Supreme Court, “not once” she asked for my well-being and today she is speaking for convicts. Such people earn a livelihood by supporting rapists; hence rape incidents don’t stop,”

The latter comments by the Nirbhaya’s mother clearly hint the doubt at the “integrity” of the advocate Ms. Jaising. How on earth that one who has not spoken a word of sympathy in spite of many encounters in the court can reserves the right to suggest that which offends the distressed victim party. Asha Devi deserves a salute for her boldness. Yes, India Jaising is one of the advocates who knocked the door of the Chief Justice of India in the middle of the night in July 2015 in order to seek the mercy for the dreaded terrorist Yakub Menon.

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In 2015, the Delhi Government proposed to award the Nirbhaya juvenile convicts with Rs 10000/- and a sewing machine.

Again, here is another bombshell to drop which many of us may have forgotten. Can we ever “forgive” for the shocking proposal in 2015 by Delhi Government to award the Nirbhaya juvenile convicts with Rs 10000/- and a sewing machine?  Who has approved such bizarre ideas and which leaders are responsible? What kind of lesson should the citizens take from this?

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I think the public is right and more sensible now to point out the “hard cruelty” with which the gang had sexually tortured Nirbhaya that night. They had used the iron-rod to inflict deep injuries upon the girl which is unspeakable, which is very unpardonable. So, given the increasing cases of rapes and subsequent inhumane cruelty and cold-blooded killings, Capital punishment can be the only answer and “one of the deterrents”. Before the divine retribution, the hard rod of punishment should not be spared at all. 

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali