Look at me, don’t turn your face, I’m human too: This is the thought that has most crossed her mind in the last eight years.
Acid attack victim Laxmi (R) with other victims at the Supreme Court after hearing on a plea filed by her on the regulation of sale of the chemicals at the retail level in New Delhi. (Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times)
Laxmi was only 15 years old when on April 22, 2005, she was pinned to the ground and attacked with acid by a 32-year-old man and a lady accomplice because she politely turned down his offer of marriage.
In thirty seconds, the acid had leached through to her bones, melted her ear and reduced her face to a mass of third-degree burns. The pain was unbearable.
“My skin was peeling off and falling to the ground,’’ she recalls. In was broad daylight at a busy bus stop, but no one answered her screams for help.
Since then, she has mostly lived indoors. She has had seven surgeries and needs four more. Life has been all about pain and rejection.
But hers is also a story of great courage: She has become the face of a campaign to restrict the sale of acid, get the state to pay victims' medical bills and provide them government jobs.
"I lost my face, my beauty, but I am now trying to create a new identity," says the 23-year-old. “You all remember December 16. Fight for us too, our trauma is no different."
HT joins Laxmi and countless other acid victims – there is an attack every three days -- in their fight for dignity and rehabilitation. India needs to do more. You and I need to do more.
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