‘Acid attack ends a victim’s life’
City Doctor, who survived an acid attack, prays for death penalty to perpetrators
Mysore/Mysuru: Sixty seconds are easy to be dismissed as inconsequential in the procession of minutes and hours. However, sometimes, everything changes in just 60 seconds. A few seconds are all it takes to splash acid on someone. Acid flung by a jilted lover or a jealous husband at a woman eats into her flesh in seconds, scarring her for life and the face becomes just a lump of flesh.
While Laxmi Agarwal, the acid attack victim from New Delhi, became the muse for Deepika Padukone’s latest Bollywood flick ‘Chhapaak’, there are many acid attack survivors who are silently continuing to serve the society, providing succour to marginalised despite being victims themselves.
Mysuru city has one such acid-attack victim who beat all odds of the brutal hate crime and today she is giving shape to her life’s mission: To provide a healing touch to the poor and needy. She has an inherent desire to help acid attack survivors enabling them to lead independent and dignified lives. She is Dr. Y.N. Mahalakshmi, Administrative Medical Officer, Primary Health Centre (Karnataka State Health and Family Welfare Services), Old Agrahara in city.
Recalling the trauma, Dr. Mahalakshmi wants death penalty to acid attack perpetrators. “It is the end of life for acid attack victims as they are scarred for life. The perpetrator, who usually gets away after a jail term, has to be sentenced to death. That’s my prayer to the Legislature, Executive, Judiciary and the Media,” she says.
A cruel society
Sharing her life’s story with Star of Mysore, Dr. Mahalakshmi says, “Society is cruel and taunts even a normal skinned person, then who am I? Even women would taunt me and call me names. But the support from my parents gave me the courage to move ahead with the multiple surgeries I needed. While I was aware of the physical deformities caused by the acid attack, I could never imagine that the trauma would cripple me for life. That’s why I want death penalty to acid attackers.”
The traumatic incident
Dr. Mahalakshmi was attacked with acid on Jan. 11, 2001 by one Chikkabasavaiah, a property owner, after she complained to the Police against him. Chikkabasavaiah had rented out a part of his residential building at Industrial Suburb in Vidyaranyapuram to Dr. Mahalakshmi to run her clinic.
Chikkabasavaiah owned a wine store in Vidyaranyapuram and he made advances towards Dr. Mahalakshmi but the latter resisted his advances. She later closed down her clinic and opened a new clinic at B.M. Shree Nagar under Metagalli Police limits while she resided with her parents at Brindavan Extension. But there was no escape for her from Chikkabasavaiah as he began to visit her clinic here too.
Justice after 11 years
On the evening of Jan. 11, 2001, a spurned Chikkabasavaiah, who was waiting for an opportune time to strike at her, threw acid on Dr. Mahalakshmi when she was returning home after work from her B.M. Shree Nagar clinic. While the District Sessions Court acquitted Chikkabasavaiah on Jan. 1, 2005 for lack of evidence, the High Court, on Jan. 12, 2012, sentenced him to three years imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs. 20,000.
Dr. Mahalakshmi got justice after 11 years and pursued her case relentlessly though some of her sensory organs had ceased to function. Following many acid attack cases, the Supreme Court amended the laws with regard to acid attacks and fixed a minimum of 10 years rigorous jail term and also restricted the sale of acid with stringent measures. The punishment can go up to life imprisonment too.
25 corrective surgeries
Dr. Mahalakshmi sank into depression after the acid attack and she was aged 26 then. “I did not lose hope and courage to fight against injustice. I underwent over 25 corrective surgeries over the years,” she says, almost 20 years after the attack.
“Society will not accept disfigured and disabled women and this is the most devastating form of social injustice. Victims are forced to stay within the four walls of their houses and many of them don’t even look at mirrors. Though the Government rehabilitates acid attack victims with a monthly pension, free house and employment, the society must change its outlook towards acid attack victims,” she feels.
Refused to be cowed down
Languishing under the mental and physical toll of the attack, Dr. Mahalakshmi says, “I refused to be enslaved by the injustice meted out to me and fought my case in the High Court. It was a long legal battle,” she sighs. Now Dr. Mahalakshmi treats over 50 to 60 outpatients every day and leads an independent life.
“Chhapaak is a good movie and is inspiring. It gives a powerful social message, grit and courage and displays how victims face the society. Acceptance of acid attack victims is not easy in society. We do not need sympathy but we need social support to lead a dignified life,” she says.
Continuing her noble profession of serving the needy, Dr. Mahalakshmi says that she has certain plans for acid attack victims and she was corresponding with Government to implement them.