Muzzafarnagar’s Rupa faced the acid attack inside her own home – her step mother-in-law attacked her and even her father did not stand with her or save her.
Deepika Padukone’s latest release Chhapaak salutes the spirit of those like Rupa who fight all odds with little support and emerge winners, even after having faced acid attacks. Directed by Meghna Gulzar, Chhapaak is the story of acid attack survivor Malti (essayed by Deepika) who reclaims her life. Chhapaak is loosely based on Delhi’s Laxmi Aggarwal and also features Vikrant Massey.
We profile few of those champions who not only braved the social stigma in a comparatively less-privileged environment of our smaller towns and cities.
Rupa was attacked in 2005 and has been associated with groups supporting and helping women who have faced similar attacks. “I only had my uncle for support. He stood with me throughout,” Rupa says. After staying inside the house for almost nine years, covering her face even from her own family members, Rupa found support in a group of women and began stepping out. She is now an independent woman, earning for herself and takes pride in her face. “I have realised this is my identity now. I am not ashamed of my face anymore,” she says.
Lucknow’s Mehrunnisa was in college when a neighbour attacked her with an entire bottle of acid. “He used to follow me and I had complained about him to my family who scolded him. One day, he just came close to me and threw the acid on me. I had near-fatal injuries. Because of the society’s attitude towards women like us, I did not come out of my house for long,” she says. She is now working with Sheroes Café in Agra and credits the NGO with instilling confidence in her.
Anmol’s case is even different as she was just two-month-old when acid was thrown on her. Her father attacked her mom and the acid also destroyed her face, giving her major injuries. Anmol says that someone brought her to a hospital and her mother succumbed to the injuries while she kept fighting for five years in the hospital. Anmol does not know who her parents or family are. “But I have been lucky, all the hospital staff took care and ensured I was treated well till the age of five. It was only later that I was sent to an orphanage because they felt I could make a better life for myself if I study,” Anmol says. Aged 19, she calls herself a social media influencer who earns her living through brand associations and content creation for platforms like Instagram and Likee. Anmol, however, is not your conventional social media star – she is an acid attack survivor who also had to struggle with poverty and a lack of home.
Anmol started an NGO to help acid attack survivors get proper treatment but left the organisation soon. “Many people got associated with it and began treating it as business. The cost of surgery for acid attack survivors is such that if you remove 20%-30% from the donations, there is practically nothing left. I could not continue with such mentality,” she tells HT.
Shabnam, who hails from Agra and works at the Sheroes Café, says she cried a lot while watching Chhapaak. More than her own plight, she was reminded of the hardships that her family faced due to the attack on her. “I feel bad that they had to see such days because of me. Had I not been in that family, they would have never faced all these things.” She worked with a contractor and did embroidery work for him and he attacked her after she did not reciprocate his advances.
Reminded that the attacker is to be blamed, not her, Shabnam says, “I know, my parents keep telling me. After I came to Sheroes, I began coming out in the open. Earlier, even if I stepped out, I would cover my face. Now I do not care for what people say and simply do all that I want.”