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Have You Met an Acid Attack Survivor?

Acid attacks statistics in India show that despite some of the best laws, acid is still easily available in India, and acid attacks still go unpunished.

Acid attacks statistics in India show that despite some of the best laws, acid is still easily available in India, and acid attacks still go unpunished. Acid attacks statistics in India show that despite some of the best laws, acid is still  easily available in India, and acid attacks still go unpunished. I’ve been in touch with Stop Acid Attacks for years now, and am used to the devastated yet smiling faces on social media, so I’m puzzled with my state of mind.

For the last two days, I’ve been trying to juggle a work deadline with translating the stories of acid attack survivors from Hindi to English. The translations is not technically difficult, because the stories are simple. Horrifying, but simple.

People, mostly in a small town, or in rural India, mostly women, piss off someone else, and pay for it by having their faces and bodies bathed in acid, eating into the skin, tissue fat; ruining faces, identities, mental equilibrium.

I’m going to finish the first profile today and send it in to be checked, but it is one of the harder things I’ve done–it is hard to see humanity inflict its worst on an unsuspecting individual–some acid attacks occur during sleep, attackers are usually family members and ‘admirers’–at any rate, a known person. The idea of a father burning his child/ children with acid is so unfathomable, as is the continued relationship of the devastated child with that father.

I’ve taken frequent deep breaths, but I still cannot bring myself to share pictures of the survivors–you’ll find their pictures, videos and stories here, on their Facebook page. I’ve written an entire novel that features an acid attack, but somehow, that feels different. Intense and true, yes, but fictional. These are real women, real lives, real tears.

Have you ever done something that was technically easy but emotionally difficult? Have you met an acid attack survivor?


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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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37 Comments

  • Christy B says:

    That must have been hard to translate. Is the piece you’re translating going toward educating readers to help stop these horrifying events from happening? Bringing awareness as you’ve done here and through texts in multiple languages is a great start to making change.

  • So horrific and hard to imagine how one human being could do this to another.

  • macjam47 says:

    This is horrific! Acid attacks are so cruel. It is hard to imagine the hate behind an attack such as this.

  • It is horrifying, and those activists who play off that trauma with the milk shake attacks–how do they think anyone will listen to them?

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – it must be the most cruel thing to have happen to anyone … quite appalling. I know I’d hate to do what you’re doing … so admire that you have the courage to translate their ‘event’ into English … so we can read it. One, I’m sure, cannot convey the agony, hurt and horror that these attacks cause …

    Until we can change humanity and realise that abuse and hatred are not human conditions – and get equality, where each of us is treated the same as others … be they male or female … this world is troubling.

    You are certainly helping their case, and the organisations … thank you for having the courage to do them and to share with us – Hilary

  • The breadth of horror and pain that mankind inflicts on mankind is devastating, but work like yours faces the bullies head-on, and shows what can be done to stop them. You are wonderful, Damyanti, and I wish the best for all the victims.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Sharon, I’ve done nothing of any significance so far, but hope to do more.

      It is not me but the survivors and orgs like Stop Acid Attacks that are wonderful.

  • DutchIl says:

    Thank you for sharing!… you are doing a wonderful job helping the victims and having the world be aware of the issues… there are a lot of issues of mankind’s in-humanity against mankind proving that the human race is not as civilized as they would like the universe to believe… 🙂 technology is enabling the world to see it as it is ad hopefully can change things for the better… 🙂

    “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” ( Mother Teresa)

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I join my hope with yours, Larry.

      I haven’t done anything at all— need to do so much more. This post was more about my lack of strength to handle things second-hand, things that the survivors have been handling firsthand since years, decades.

  • Shalzmojo says:

    I havent met an acid attack survivor but this horrific act eats me up inside. Its terrifying to think of it in context of a reality for myself; I cannot fathom living after this. So I for sure wont be called a survivor if this ever happens to me.

    Its disgusting how in India this is such a commonplace occurrence and nothing is done to stop it. People are so blase in committing this act simply because a woman refused them.

    I dont know how you are doing this write up – it must be devastating Damyanti- more power to you and hugs my dearest girl

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Shalini, you’re stronger than you think. I haven’t done anything at all so far, but if the novel sells—I hope the royalties would go some way to help these very brave women.

      Hugs, and so good to see you up and about in the blogiverse again. Missed you.

  • Unishta says:

    I’ve never met an acid attack survivor but I could only imagine how terrible this is. I’ve written about this in one of my WATB posts and feel that anyone who dows anything however minute to help these hapless victims deserve all the support we can give.
    I once had to help in hospital duty with a relative with whom we weren’t on good terms with. It was easy enough to sit in the hospital but to spend the rest of the time with the hostile relatives was emotionally very draining.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yes, the emotional drain of caregiving can be significant, Sunita.

      Thanks for being part of the WATWB family. Let us hope we can together help acid attack survivors in whatever capacity we can.

  • And as long as persons like yourself make sure no one forgets, there is hope
    Hard work and subject material to process as you say but you are now the voice for silent victims and there for a medal you deserve

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I’m not here for medals, and have done nothing at all to deserve them.

      But yes, I’m going to try make sure no one forgets, and that I do whatever I can to amplify the voices that need to be heard.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • It’s just… It’s hard to express the feelings I experience when I hear about something like this, when I think about the agony these women must go through. I will never understand, nor try to, what makes a person do that to someone else.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Kristina, yes on everything you said. As a writer I’m empathetic to all my characters, but I don’t know if I understand even a little of what goes on in the world of aggressors and survivors. Mankind is capable of the greatest cruelty and infinite compassion. I need to find more ways to build around compassion.

  • These kinds of attacks are horrific! It is a fate worse than death carrying that disfigurement through life. Voices like yours are needed to make people aware of how horrible this is.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I’ve met many survivors, and been inspired by the joy, the smiles, the sheer normalcy some of these women have brought into their own lives.

      They have received considerable support from orgs like Stop Acid Attacks.

      My voice is very small, and I haven’t done as much activism as I should have done: partly because sometimes I feel that some of the survivors get exploited, made into a bit of a freak show, and I haven’t been able to find a way to help constructively, long distance.

      I’ve tried to help with counseling and teaching in a very limited way, but I don’t think I’m qualified to help in the way and extent they need. I do what little I can.

      So many others are doing so much more, and still there’s so much more to be done.

      I hope to raise my voice even more in the coming months and years. All the royalties of my novel will go to Project Why and Stop Acid Attacks.

      • Yes you promote some areas of human need that certainly do need urgent attention. I think any form of disfigurement is a criminal act. I was surprised to learn first hand that some disfigure themselves in order to beg more effectively. Isn’t it a tragedy that people would do that because they could think of no other way to make a living. Keep up the good work Maharani. I’m inspired by your empathetic spirit. 🙂

        • Damyanti Biswas says:

          Ian, it is indeed tragic that people go through such horrors.

          I’m no maharani though, not even the good person I would love to be. Thanks for being a good friend over the years–I hope I grow up to deserve your praise some day.

  • msw blog says:

    What a henious crime! I use to be a triage investigator in a hospital’s ER, and I had to resign because the things I would hear and see…

  • literarylad says:

    It’s difficult to comprehend how anyone could do that to another human being, let alone one of their family. It must be deeply upsetting to have to translate these accounts, but what you are doing is just one of the things that will help change society so that these atrocities stop, and that is something to be proud of.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      It is a challenge for me, but puny in comparison to what these women go through. They are the ones who should be proud of themselves, not letting any setbacks come in the way of their goals.

  • setinthepast says:

    We do hear quite a bit about this in the UK, because of the close ties between the UK and India, so people are aware of it, but what you’re doing to raise awareness is incredibly important – thank you.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Don’t think I’m doing enough, but hope to do more, this year, and in the future. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have a lot of incidents, and there are acid attacks in the UK as well.

  • I have not met any survivors but have seen the horrific pictures and heard testimonies. This is so wrong, so sad, too much of the ‘family honor’ or people who don’t want so and so the ever marry another. The Canadian women attacked by another woman with acid on a bus, women not wearing a hijab or some such in so many countries. This is tragic, these are women who have undergone surgeries like FGM, beatings, forced submission, beheadings, stoning or acid attacks which can only be described as so ignorant, barbaric, and people without an ounce of compassion, no equality or respect for women. It is sickening, sad, and many women come to other countries to receive plastic surgery, and some cannot cover the scars forever. This should be on MSM. FGM should be decried. This kind of treatment of anyone must be addressed and the guilty, jailed, these practices, illegal. This is not a simple mental health issue, it is the way of life for many. From here all I can do is pray for their safety from these horrid acts.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Everything you said, and more, Claire. There’s just so much anger, hatred and violence in the world–these women are learning to focus on the beauty, and the love.

  • Mayur says:

    No

  • Shilpa Garg says:

    I have met acid-attack survivors. Sheroes Hangout is a cafe at Agra which is run entirely by acid-attack survivors. The cafe aims to build confidence in women who have survived the devastating attacks and also works as a bridge between survivors and the society. You are doing a fab job by bringing their stories out and helping build awareness too. Proud of you, Damyanti!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yes, I know the survivors at the Agra Sheroes Hangout. Hope to meet some of them again this year if I can swing a visit. I’m not doing any job at all, Shipa–just whinging about how difficult things are for these women. They’re the brave ones, meeting their face in the mirror, and the world, with a smile.

  • Thank you for bringing awareness to the worldwide community about these horrific attacks. I pray that awareness will help stop some of these occurrences.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Sadly, Tamara, too little has changed too late, despite a rise in awareness. We need so much more help to fight this scourge.

  • I had no idea. I can’t even imagine that this is commonplace. 🙁

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yeah. When I first heard of it, I couldn’t believe it at all. That was years ago— not much has changed.

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