Acid Attacks-The Warped Face of Love
It was probably just another day for techie J Vinodini as she walked home in Karaikal in South India at 10.30 pm on November 14 with a friend. Seconds later, life as she knew it would change irrevocably. A crazed stalker, a construction worker she had turned down and who had been stalking her since, accosted her and flung acid into her face.
She lies in hospital, with 40 percent burns, “severe burns to the head, chest, hands and stomach,” according to the news report. Apart from the disfigurement, she has also lost vision in both eyes. Numerous surgeries will be needed to reconstruct her face to some semblance of what it was before the attack. When acid hits the skin, the initial sensation is that of icy coldness. An instant later, the burning begins as it eats through skin, cartilage, hair, and even bone, depending on the concentration. Within seconds, the acid can burn and destroy body tissues on contact. Skin, hair, cartilage and bones dissolve, the nose becomes a hole, the vapours burn the respiratory and the digestive tracts, fingers get fused together, gaping holes can remain where eyes once were and the ears get damaged. The lungs can fill up with fluid which can often be fatal.
If a victim survives, she spends a lifetime undergoing reconstructive surgeries, being a social recluse with loss of vision and also, because of her appearance, loss of a normal life with a family and a job. I say ‘she’ because a majority of acid attack victims are women. The incidents seem to be on the increase. In Mumbai, my city, in January this year, IT firm employee Aarti Thakur was attacked by a person, hired by her spurned lover, who flung acid at her in public at the Goregaon railway station, burning her face, chest and arms. Shockingly, this was not the first time she had been attacked. Her face had been slashed by attackers on two previous incidents.
In early November this year, filmmaker Jerrit John went to physiotherapist Aryanka Hosbetkar’s home and flung a chemical into her face in the presence of her friends and mother. It was not the first time he had attacked her either, according to newspaper reports. In a previous incident, he had caught her head and banged it against a wall. She had refused to file a complaint against him because she was terrified of his temper. Jerrit was finally apprehended in a lodge on the outskirts of Mumbai. He stated after being arrested, “I wanted to destroy her future.” What shocked everyone, was that this was “someone like us, someone I knew,” as a friend stated, in disbelief.
Someone like us; not someone from a socio-economic section distinct from us, the educated middle class, as the popular perception goes. Someone like us; someone we knew. Arti Shrivastav was attacked by the District Collector’s son, Abhinav Misra, in January 2000, when she was just 18. In 2009, Abhinav was sentenced to 10-year imprisonment with a Rs 5 lakh fine. In 2011, he was out on bail. He went on to do his MBA, got married and had a family. A district collector’s son: someone like us. A boy from a decent family with educated parents.
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