An acid attack survivor in Bihar has allegedly come under attack again from the accused ahead of a court hearing, two years after her case prompted the Supreme Court to bring in stringent measures against perpetrators of such crimes.
The victim’s searing first person account had also featured in an
international award winning series
by the Hindustan Times.
Chanchal Kumari, a Dalit girl, now 21, said those accused of pouring acid on her face in October 2012, now out on bail, are continuously hounding her and threatening her ahead of the hearing of the case in the Patna civil court on Tuesday.
“For the past several nights the accused and their kin having been throwing stones and liquor bottles at my house (at Chitnawan village under Maner police station of Patna district) to terrorise me,” she told HT on Tuesday.
The Hindustan Times’ 10-day ‘Stop Acid Attacks’ campaign in July 2013, which featured Chanchal’s account, had won the International Press Institute (IPI) India Award for Excellence in Journalism, 2014.
Four youth had allegedly poured acid on her face on October 21, 2012 for rebuffing her overtures, snuffing out her dreams of becoming a computer engineer.
Laxmi’s long legal battle paid dividends when the Supreme Court, on July 18, 2013, ordered strict regulation of sale of acid. In a series of orders since then, it has ordered compensation for and rehabilitation of victims, their free treatment in hospitals and asked for acid attack to be made a non-bailable offence.
Determined to hold her attackers to account, Chanchal arrived at the Patna civil court under police escort on Tuesday to give evidence in the case. But the travails besetting her long journey to bring to book those who had disfigured her face, were prolonged once again.
While her uncle took the witness stand, there was no such luck for Chanchal. After she had waited at the court premises for four hours, she was informed she would have to return to her village without taking the witness stand.
“I was told that owing to a large number of cases listed for the day, I will be called upon to furnish evidence on Wednesday. This is terribly disappointing,” said Chanchal, for whom the “slow progress of the case is only marginally less excruciating than the acid burn on my face.”
The police escort party which brought her to the Patna civil court from her village in Maner, about 30 km west of Patna, has left after dropping her. As such, her immediate worry was how to reach home safely.
“We are in mortal fear of what might happen to us. About three months ago one of the accused, out on bail, had warned Chanchal that what had happened to her (in 2012) was nothing as compared to what would happen to her next,” said Sailesh Paswan, Chanchal’s father.
Paswan, 39, a daily wage labourer, said motorcycle-borne people have been throwing stones and empty liquor bottles late at night for the past several days, apparently to terrorise the family ahead of the court hearing.
“We have repeatedly requested Maner police to give us protection but they have not been forthcoming,” said Paswan, who visited the office of Patna senior superintendent of police (SSP) Jitendra Rana, on Monday, but found he was away.
Reached for a reaction on Tuesday, the SSP said he had no idea about the case.
“But if the victim and her family petition for security, I will instruct the SHO of Maner police state and deputy superintendent of police, Danapur, to provide them police escort for every court appearance,” he said.