Have you tried sleeping with your eyes open? Absurd, you’ll say. Crazy, you’ll exclaim. Now, if you’re forced to spend days sleeping with your eyes open, how will you feel? And how will it affect your entire system? You probably don’t have an accurate answer. That’s because you didn’t have to experience any such thing. But this is what young Arti Shrivastav, went through in those agonizing days 10 years back, when she was undergoing treatment in a Kanpur hospital after being devastated by an acid attack. Why ? Because she repeatedly refused the advances of her classmate who claimed he loves her.
Let’s reflect what exactly happened on that cursed January afternoon. 24th Jan, 2000, a young girl was returning home from tuitions in Kanpur. Her father, Pratap Saran Shrivastav, a professor at DAV College at that time, was escorting Arti back. The usual travel plan of Arti’s returning alone was changed a little, as her college mate, Abhinav Mishra, was creating a ruckus those days, pursuing and harassing her even after her strict decline to his proposals. As the father daughter duo neared their home, a van came surprisingly close to them, and moments later Abhinav flung acid towards them and fled. Before Pratap could turn back and realize what happened, Arti’s skin was in agony. Her skin badly burnt, and the acid was seeping deep into her forehead and scalp. With the help of a policeman who kindly lent him 20,000/- Pratap rushed her to a local hospital where the shocked doctors took time to realize what the need of the moment was. They weren’t too ready or equipped to handle such cases. They did their best to make sure Arti survives, but the damage was done. Hearing loss, partial vision loss, damage in throat & adjoining areas including a major portion of her face became the stigma of the vicious attack launched by Abhinav, then a teenager, the son of a district tax collector.
A day after this incident, Abhinav reportedly told the media that he simply wanted Arti to marry him — and that since she’s been defaced, he hoped she’d conform to his proposal now. From what we know, later on he pursued an MBA degree, and has been married too. How convenient !!
Unlike other acid attack victims, the jovial Arti has not gone down in a life of complete seclusion. She’s not depressed. She’s a little worried and regrets the 16 lakh that her parents spent for her treatment. The almost 30, Arti, now residing in the Shabd Pratap Ashram in Gwalior, part of the Radha Soami Satsang did not give up on academics. Arti got a BA in English and an MA in Education from DG College, Kanpur and wishes to continue with a PhD in Education.
The resilient Arti is not looking for revenge, she’s seeking justice. After Abhinav underwent trial in 2009, he was sentenced to 10years in prison and a fine of 5lakhs. But a close associate of Shrivastav family broke this shocking news to them in February when a court granted bail to Abhinav. Arti exclaims that a court cases is like a curse for those women who have been victimized. While justice is a far cry, the whole exercise of facing the demons and putting up with a public façade is very stressful, and agonizing. And considering that most cases are still pending, and women do not get justice, then when one sees the likes of Abhinav been granted bail sets all the wrong precedents. Arti’s mother Meena laments that while initially for publicity, media was regularly following their case up, but with time their interest has lessened and now they are left with the trauma of their suffering daughter and ‘denied justice’.
In India, the law is often said to be sluggish on most matters, and is same with acid attacks. Such cases are currently booked under Section 322, 325, 326 which says that attacker is guilty of “voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons”. While other countries are more stringent, India is still lagging behind, even by its own standards when it comes to dealing with such heinous crime. We need more advocacy and support groups, along with healthcare and & home for the acid-attack survivors. A major part of the urban population still likes to believe that this happens in smaller towns, not in metros, and prefers to ignore such incidents. How long do we keep our eyes closed and feign ignorance?
I am re-writing this post again (and yet again) in hope to spread this as much as possible in request of Sanjib da who first caught my attention in this regard.
The more this spreads,the merrier.
I invite al your opinion on this matter.