'Life after an acid attack is like a death every day'

AttackA bride was killed in an acid attack this month. Survivors of 3 such attacks describe their ordeal. (IE Photo: Gurmeet Singh)

Last week, Harpreet Kaur, 22, died after she had been attacked with acid in Ludhiana on the day of her wedding, an unwitting victim of a feud within the family of her groom.

In the neighbouring district of Moga is another victim, this one a survivor who was looking for a divorce when her husband allegedly flung acid on her. In Ludhiana itself, a girl was killed and another practically blinded in an acid attack by an alleged harasser in 2007, while yet another acid attack the same year blinded a junior engineer who had cracked down on power theft.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court said the minimum compensation for an acid attack should be Rs 3 lakh, and that governments should bear the cost of treatment — interim directions until uniform guidelines are framed. The Moga family, which has received the compensation for the woman and her father, has been bearing the cost of the treatment. Harpreet's family, too, had borne the cost of her treatment, though the Punjab government announced Rs 5 lakh after her death, besides Rs 3 lakh compensation for the acid attack and a job for her brother.

Harpreet had been at a beauty parlour on December 7, putting on bridal makeup, when a group of men allegedly led by one Parwinder Singh flung acid on her. They had allegedly been sent by Amitpal Kaur, a woman the groom's brother had married and divorced, and the attack was apparently Amitpal's revenge on her former husband's family. Harpreet died in Mumbai on December 27.

Of the other victims, the two surviving women no longer step out of home except for treatment, while the engineer, now retired, tries to bring treatment to other blind people.

Mandeep Kaur

Mandeep Kaur is a nursing graduate who in July lost an eye to an acid attack, allegedly by her husband from whom she was seeking a divorce. She has undergone 10 reconstructive surgeries over the last six months with 15 more to follow, she says, sitting in her room in Dayakalan village, Moga, dark glasses constantly covering her eyes, a muffler wrapped around her face.

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