The movie “Chhapaak” starring Deepika Padukone released on Friday and is already winning rave reviews for being brutal in impact and horrifying in its depiction of pain and trauma. It tells the story of Laxmi Agarwal, who was burned with acid in New Delhi in 2005, and has since become an advocate for banning the sale of acid in India.
Around 250 acid attacks are reported in India every year, despite laws restricting its sale and that of other deadly chemicals, according to Stop Acid Attacks, a non-profit group. Prior to 2013, there was no law that dealt specifically with this act of extreme violence with the intent to disfigure, maim, torture or even kill the victim. Now, it is an offence and punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Laxmi’s PIL in Supreme Court in 2006 led to a landmark judgment in 2013 when the apex court directed the Union government and all states/UTs to regulate the sale of acid and provide a uniform compensation of Rs 3 lakh to an acid-attack victim.
Odisha too has its share of such horrifying acid attack stories. Let’s look at some of the survivors who did not let the scar define them and reclaimed their lives.
Pramodini Roul was just a teenager when a spurned admirer hurled acid on her face, melting it away completely and blinding her in both the eyes. The incident took place on April 18, 2009 while she was returning to her uncle’s house. She was 16 then. Pramodini underwent treatment and a series of surgeries at SCB Medical College and Hospital following the acid attack. The prime accused, Santosh Bedanta, was finally arrested in connection with the ghastly act in 2017.
Minati Pradhan, a 20-year-old paramedical student of MKCG Medical College and Hospital at Berhampur received severe burn injuries on her face, chest and left eye after her spouse threw acid on her in November 2017. A native of Barida village under Kabisuryanagar police limits, she had married Niranjan of Polasara area on May 7. Her father Bipin Pradhan alleged she was being tortured mentally and physically for dowry since her marriage. Following the ordeal, she had left her in-laws’ home and was staying in a private hostel in the city. She is currently undertaking training in pathology in Behrampur Medical Hospital.”
Manini Bisoyi of Gangapur in Ganjam district was attacked by a jilted lover when she was only 16. She is currently pursuing vocational training in Berhampur.
Mamta Behra of Dhenkanal is another acid attack victim. At 17, she was attacked by a stalker after she rejected his marriage proposal. He poured a bottle full of acid over her head. She continued to study and completed a computer course. She later married and the couple has a son. She also worked as a nursing attendant in a government hospital.
Last year, a youth falling victim to acid attack. The incident took place at Barik Sahi in the Shikaripur area of Cuttack on November 27, 2019. While some claim that the girl was in a relationship with the victim, Alekh Barik, a resident of Jagatpur, he claimed that the case was one of unrequited love.
Earlier on January 1, Debanti Bibhar, a native of Khandi Dangriguda, was attacked with acid by Parsuram Majhi of Bankapala village. Majhi poured acid on her while she was on her way to attend a computer class at Kalampur after she rejected his proposal. The 22-year-old sustained burn injuries on her face and other parts of the body and was admitted to Kalampur Community Health Centre before being shifted to Bhawanipatna Headquarters Hospital. She was later taken to SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack for treatment. In July, the Additional District and Sessions Court of Dharamgarh sentenced Majhi to10 years of rigorous imprisonment (RI) under Section 326-A of IPC and fined him Rs 1 lakh.
According to the latest NCRB report, the number of acid attacks in Odisha rose to 13 in 2018 from mere 2 in 2013. While 10 such cases were reported in 2014, the number dropped to five in 2015, but went up again to 12 in 2017.