The Fighting Souls – Story of Acid Attack Survivors
Face is a valuable asset for every human being as one’s identity is marked by the face only. When it is being attacked in some way, it affects us not just physically, but mentally and emotionally too. When it gets disfigured it disfigures the souls too. The story here is about The Fighting Souls – Story of Acid Attack Survivors and their survival and fight against this heinous crime.
Sheroes Hangout, a unique cafe launched in the city of Taj Mahal, Agra (UP, India) few months ago, is managed by five acid attack survivors namely Ritu, Neetu, Rupa, Geeta Mahor and Geeta Lodhi. This is the first time in India that survivors of such heinous crime have come forward to pursue their dreams thereby breaking stereotypes which our society has been using to force them to live their lives in closet. The initiative of “Sheroes Hangout” is a joint venture of a campaign named Stop Acid Attack and an NGO named Channv Foundation.
“ I don’t want any punishment for him, just that he should realize what he did as in my opinion no punishment is bigger than a self realization”
Ritu who was attacked by her cousin over a property issue in Rohtak says “ I don’t want any punishment for him, just that he should realize what he did as in my opinion no punishment is bigger than a self realization”. She is still under observation and goes to Hyderabad for eye treatment very often. Rupa who hails from UP, was attacked by her step mother. Other than running a cafe, she is now working as a designer and runs her own boutique with a dream of becoming a great fashion designer someday. In another incident, Neetu’s father threw acid on her and her mother due to an internal fight in family. Neetu was just 3 years old that time and lost her eyes in the attack. Now after 22 years of attack, she continues to live with her father (the culprit) along with her mother. They both say “we have forgiven him and we are a family”. Neetu likes singing and when I asked her to sing, she sang a very old classic Mohammad Rafi track. Another victim, Geeta Lodhi was attacked by a shopkeeper back in 2000 and the attacker is still absconding. She is now happily living with her daughter Sheetal and wants her to do well in life. Geeta likes reading books which consumes most of her time in the cafe.
All these acid attack fighters belongs to different parts of the country and are working together to make this place a success so that this motivates and encourages many other victims of this crime and they come together to fight for their own self.
In recent years, acid has been used often as a weapon against women. Easy availability of acid facilitates the use of acid as a weapon. It is my call against the brutality of Acid Violence. It is a step towards supporting these people, who in my opinion are not the victims, but the fighters in true sense. These girls have the power to break the stereotypes of the Society, and come forward to fight against the dogma of our Society. This project is my effort to bring out the issue in focus and to raise a question against the acid selling in India and all the other countries.
I am working on this story to extend my support to these fighters through my photographs which directly or indirectly asking – “Why acid is still available over the Counter?”
All images & text © Jai Thakur
By Jai Thakur