And when they came for the men, there was nothing left to complain about.
The men in question were three unsuspecting individuals who were attacked by detractors in Hubli last week. All three men were victims of acid attacks; and the fact that acid can be easily procured perhaps had made the incidents appear more facile.
Yet, the consummate ease with which acid can be bought from hardware or even grocery stores, is something that campaigners have been screaming hoarse against all these years. The pleas have always fallen on deaf ears. Even the recent Supreme Court order asking governments to take measures in regulating acid sales has gone unheard in Karnataka.
The reason for this lethargy in cracking down on acid sales can possibly be gauged from the callousness with which successive regimes have dealt with hapless acid attack victims — they have been left in the lurch, to fend for themselves, to deal with their own trauma.
In simple words, it is a question of rehabilitation.
The Campaign and Struggle Against Acid Attacks on Women (CSAAAW), a coalition of over 20 women’s rights and human rights organisations in Karnataka, is now concentrating on rehabilitation of acid attack victims. Sushma Varma, trustee with CSAAAW, stresses on the need to work more on rehabilitation.
There’s a reason for this. Many of the acid attack survivors in the state are in their 30s and 40s, and get no help from the state government towards a livelihood. They are, by and large, partially or completely blind, and are still reeling under with the trauma.
Agrees Pragya Prasun Singh, a survivor here in the city.
“Rehabilitation is the biggest issue as far as acid attack survivors are concerned. The psychological help required in dealing with the incident obviously comes first. But what happens after that? Survivors need a livelihood too,” says Pragya.
It is a long-drawn process. The first three years, after Pragya was attacked in 2006, went by in a flash only in treatment.
Even today she cannot travel for long, or spend too much time under the sun. One of her eyes is damaged, and all because of a diabolical suitor who threw acid on her only 12 days after her wedding. The perpetrator was caught and imprisoned for four-and-half years. Now, of course, he is out there in the open.
And it was only this year that Pragya came into contact with other survivors, courtesy the online campaign forum stopacidattacks.org. She has traveled to Mumbai and Chennai for her surgeries, but there are many, as she subsequently found out, do not even know what to do or how to get treated after such an attack. She knows of others who have had more than 20 surgeries. But then, “a normal face can never come back,” Pragya rues.
But some things can certainly happen if the government wakes up from its slumber. Last month, Varma’s coalition took up the issue with the Union home ministry urging for a policy for prevention of such attacks as well as a rehabilitation package for victims.
CSAAAW, which was formed in 2002 and formalised the following year, has been documenting cases of acid attacks in the state since 1999. There have been more than 80 attacks, but this number does not portray the bigger picture.
“One of the reasons for this is that the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) does not have a separate section to categorise such acts of gendered sexual violence,” explains Varma.
But then, no one seems to be listening. Be it about prevention, or rehabilitation.