Bihar acid attack Dalit victim, her story part of HT award-winning series, dies at 23
Chanchal Kumari’s account of how her dream to become a computer engineer turned into ashes, was part of an HT series which won the International Press Institute (IPI) India Award for Excellence in Journalism, 2014.india Updated: Jul 03, 2017 16:15 IST
PATNA An acid attack victim whose searing first person account of how her dreams turned into ashes in a few seconds, featured in an international award winning HT series in 2013, has died apparently for want of adequate medical treatment owing to poverty.
Chanchal Kumari, a Dalit girl, was 23 years old, when she was pronounced ‘brought dead’ by doctors at Patna’s Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS), in early hours of Thursday. The exact cause of death was not immediately known.
Confirming this, Chanchal’s younger sister, Sonam, who was also injured in the acid attack that caused severe burns to Chanchal, said she was in severe distress over the past few days with extreme heatwave conditions searing the burnt parts of her body.
“Last evening, Chanchal developed very high fever and started fainting. We rushed her to IGIMS but doctors there said she was already dead by the time she reached the hospital,” Sonam, 19, told HT.
Deputy inspector general of police (central range) Rajesh Kumar said he had directed the Maner police station SHO to meet the victim’s family and get post mortem done on the girl only if her family consented to this.
Chanchal was severely burnt and her face completely disfigured when, late night on October 21, 2012, four youth climbed on the roof of her single storey Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY) house at Chitnawan village under Maner police station of Patna district and poured acid on her.
The provocation for the acid attack was apparently her stiff resistance to the overtures of the youth, one of whom, it is alleged, wanted to marry her. Sonam, who was sleeping with her when the attack came, also received acid burns.
Chanchal’s heart-rending story, featured in ‘Stop Acid Attacks’, a 10-day campaign run by Hindustan Times in July 2013, had won the International Press Institute (IPI) India Award for Excellence in Journalism, 2014, for outstanding journalistic work done during 2013.
“The investigation by Hindustan Times told of the horrid practice of disfiguring and shaming women by throwing acid on them. The series of articles spoke of acid attack victims who had suffered in many ways, and how some of them carried on with the fight by prodding an indifferent society. The series culminated in a campaign called ‘stop acid attacks’, to enlist the support of the society for the cause,” said an IPI in its citation.
The jury noted that the investigation “was not only timely but also generated lot of public attention about acid attacks. The focus on a very heinous crime has raised awareness and initiated discussion on preventive steps.”
Though the Supreme Court later ordered much better terms for compensation and treatment of acid attack victims, Chanchal was still waiting for her full compensation and justice to be delivered to her, when she died.
Rather, her family claimed the four boys accused in the case - were roaming free on bail and still threatening them not to appear in court and pursue the case. The main accused among them had taken the plea he was a minor when the acid attack took place.
Chanchal’s family said she had undergone six surgeries, each costing Rs 5-6 lakh, to repair her disfigured face and severely burnt torso. She still needed many more, said the doctors treating her in New Delhi and Patna.
Yet, monetary help was difficult to come by. “The compensation for acid attack survivors is Rs 3 lakh, but we have received Rs 1 lakh each,” said a teary eyed Sonam, who rued Chanchal’s dream of becoming a computer engineer had died with her.
Chanchal’s father Shailesh Paswan, a labourer who sometimes works as a gardener at the IGIMS, told HT the trial of the case was proceeding rather slowing in the Patna civil court, when Chanchal’s end came.
“Even though more than four years had elapsed since the acid attack, the PMCH authorities had still not submitted the injury report in the court. Because of this, the girls’ statements had not been recorded till date.
Chanchal’s mother, Sunaina, broke down as she recalled her daughter repeated words, “I want death sentence for them, nothing less than that. Destroying someone’s life just because your ego is hurt can never be justified.”
Chanchal Kumari, a Dalit girl, was 23 years old, when she was pronounced ‘brought dead’ by doctors at Patna’s Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS), in early hours of Thursday
The compensation for acid attack survivors is Rs 3 lakh, but we received just Rs 1 lakh each.
— Sonam, Chanchal’s sister and herself an acid attack victim