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The Diary of an Acid-Attack Survivor in West Bengal

The Quint spoke to Sanchayita Jadav a survivor, to understand the impact and the trauma of an acid-attack.

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Imagine looking at the mirror and not being able to recognise yourself, supplemented by the shattering thought that you will never get to see your previous self again. That is the thought every single acid-attack survivor must live with for the rest of their lives.

According to the latest NCRB report, West Bengal is ahead of all other states in the number of acid-attacks (Section 326 of the IPC). The report stated that West Bengal recorded 34 out of 174 recorded acid-attack cases in the country. Out of the 34, 30 were against women, while there were 11 attempts to acid-attack against women.

However, this isn’t the first time that the state has come first in this regard. West Bengal has constantly recorded 50 cases and more since 2017, having topped the list in 2018 previously.

The Quint spoke to Sanchayita Jadav, 30, an acid-attack survivor, to understand the impact and the trauma of an acid-attack.

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‘Attacked Me Because I Refused to be With Him’

On the evening of 22nd September 2014, Jadav, then 22, left her home in Dumdum and was walking to her relative’s place to watch TV. Five minutes into her walk, the person she was previously in a relationship with, walks up to her requesting her to continue the relationship. He threw acid on her face as soon as she denied the request.

The Quint spoke to Sanchayita Jadav a survivor, to understand the impact and the trauma of an acid-attack.

He threw acid on her face as soon as she denied the request.

(Illustration: Chetan Bakuni / The Quint)

She met him after which they started dating. She claims that she didn’t want to continue the relationship because the person would never disclose anything to her about her work and would lie to her.

She ran to her relative’s place immediately after the incident, where her mother was present too. They changed her clothes and took her to RG Kar Hospital near Shyambazar.

The doctors told her that she wouldn’t ever be able to see through her right eye. The right side of her face, including her right nostril had melted, but those can still be fixed to a point with plastic surgery.

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In the hospital, people wouldn't come near me. They would be scared to look at me. I had to do my dressing myself while my mother would hold the mirror.
Sanchayita Jadav, Survivor

The same year, the doctors tried operating on her cornea, but it was unsuccessful. In 2015, she had her facial reconstruction surgery.

My face was destroyed. I am a girl. I wanted to become a police officer and was even preparing for the examinations. My mother also wished for me to marry at some point in my life. All those came crashing down on me.
Sanchayita Jadav, Survivor

The incident shattered her confidence, and aspirations. It had become a mammoth task for her to step out onto the streets. But slowly, with the help of those close to her, she stepped out, specifically because she had to pay constant visits to the hospital for her treatment.

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On the streets, she claimed that she would often be ridiculed by people in her neighbourhood, especially women who would taunt and ridicule her for her looks. She said that our society is such that when something happens to a woman, “it is the woman who is always blamed.”

The Quint spoke to Sanchayita Jadav a survivor, to understand the impact and the trauma of an acid-attack.

On the streets, she claimed that she would often be ridiculed by people in her neighbourhood, especially women who would taunt and ridicule her for her looks.

(Illustration: Chetan Bakuni / The Quint)

If a child would come and play with me, often the parents would take them away and warn them about me like I am some sort of a demon. They would sometimes scare the child that I would kidnap them.
Sanchayita Jadav, Survivor

She has had to accept all that and try to move on. She tried to protest but that did not stop people. She claims that people ridicule her even now.

She tells The Quint that it was the support from her mother, and now husband Subhro which helped her get through the hurt and trauma that she faced daily. She said that her mother was constantly “by her side” and tried to “raise her in the best way possible.”

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She kept reminding me that everything will be alright.
Sanchayita Jadav, Survivor

Her in-laws were initially against her marriage but her husband, she claims was constantly by her side reassuring her and supporting her as a friend since the day of the incident. “He still supports me every day,” she said. She lost her mother in 2018.

She married Subhro in 2020 and they both had a daughter the next year. She now lives with her husband, in-laws and her daughter Arna

But coming from a poor background made it difficult for them to make ends meet.

In 2016, she visited the Human Rights Law Network office for her case when she requested them for a job. After repeated attempts, she secured a job with them. She now works at Lalit the Great Eastern Hotel as an inventory in-charge.

Her accused was brought to justice in 2021 after he was remanded to 14 years of custody after a case that dragged on for over three years. She tells The Quint that one of the biggest problems that an acid-attack survivor faces is the fact that cases drag on for a long time in the state while the accused roam scot-free.

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‘Law and Order Needs to Be Stricter’

Jadav believes that the law-and-order situation in the state needs to be stricter, and the survivors must keep fighting for justice, while not losing hope.

Calcutta High Court advocate Pritha Bhowmik who has fought seven acid-attack cases in the state seconds Jadav’s statement and adds that there are two major aspects when it comes to justice for an acid-attack survivor – bringing the accused to justice and compensating the survivor.

She tells The Quint, “Somewhere the state is guilty too. The usage of acid is not banned, and people can buy acid from hardware stores with ease. The state needs to take onus of this and act on this.”

She further adds that the survivors face immense trauma whilst finding it difficult to get a job to sustain themselves. So, the compensation provided by the state is very necessary.

The survivor must first sustain themselves before that can fight for justice. Most victims of acid-attacks come from poor backgrounds and can’t afford to get treated at a good hospital.
Pritha Bhowmick, Calcutta High Court Lawyer
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She claims that the survivors need a lot of financial help, but there are several loopholes in the state compensation scheme for survivors.

She tells The Quint, “If the survivor gets compensated by an existing insurance company, then he or she will not be liable for state compensation. Another loophole is that if the attack results in no loss of pay, then the survivor is not liable for compensation.”

Both Bhomick and Jadav said that this loophole makes students or teenagers unable to benefit from the scheme, since they have no source of income. Jadav further claimed that kids are being targeted more in recent years. She further notes that most cases of acid-attacks are by jilted lovers.

Studies have shown that jilted lovers are one of the primary reasons behind acid-attacks across the county.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  West Bengal   Acid Attack   NCRB 2022 

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