In conversation with: Chhanv Foundation, a support centre for acid attack fighters

Stop Acid Attacks is a call, a campaign against the brutality of acid violence. They recognize acid attack as the most inhumane, barbaric form of assault that leaves indelible scars on the life of the person attacked. Recognising the urgency to bring this burning issue and stories of valiant fighters who have survived this violence, they launched an initiative on March 8th, 2013.

Here they talk about the foundation, the founders and the tasks they conduct,

Tell us about your foundation:

In the first year of the campaign, nobody anticipated this day. We begin with a sole purpose of the campaign for acid violence because before 2013 it was never talked as a concerning national subject. Then we were just known by the name Stop Acid Attacks. Later on, we started to come across many acid attack survivors demanding help. In order to implement projects for the benefit and welfare of such survivors, the organization was registered in 2014 just before the launch of Sheroes Hangout Project in Agra. As an organization, our aims and directions of work have expanded and through the years we are now focusing on reaching-out to as many survivors as possible.

Some acid attack survivors got to know about our initiatives and heard about us from various sources of media. That is when they contact us and asked for help. Then we invited those few survivors to Delhi at our team centre. Later when we framed the Sheroes' Hangout model cafe project, we sought need to establish an organisation as well. That is when Chhanv came into existence. Chhanv means "shade" and in Delhi, it is basically an abode to any such acid attack survivors in need of shelter while their medical or legal process is going on in Delhi. In medical cases, it takes the matter of months to recover from the acid burn injury. Delhi has a number of hospitals which can treat acid burn patients. Hence, meanwhile their treatment is going on in Delhi, the acid burn patient or her attending family member can stay back at Chhanv. We provide them a hygienic place to live, food and other needful assistance in the concerned case.

Tell us about the founders:

The organization is founded by a group of young people mostly from the journalism background and who are also prominent figures in social activism and advocacy in India. The organisation is headed by a group of three members Mr Alok Dixit, Ms Laxmi and Mr Ashish Shukla. The campaign was started by social activist Mr Alok Dixit and he looks for all the counselling of the acid attack survivors. Ms Laxmi, an acid attack survivor was attacked in 2005 also the face of the campaign and one of the Director of Chhanv Foundation and Mr Ashish Shukla, from the activism background looks for all the authorised works of the foundation.

How was the initial response you got?

Weakly responsive. In cases of acid attacks, it shall be noticed that such violence on women is more societal than other reason. So, if the society were aware and responsive many attacks could have been avoided in the first place.

According to you, what is the current status of acid attacks in our nation? Has it decreased after the Supreme Court's directions to the states and Union territories on a regulation of acid sales?

Since the laws have been implemented in 2013, it is perhaps very early to conclude the rate of attacks. Wherever the attacks are happening, the statics are sustaining more or less. It has only been three years the National Crime Record Bureau is reporting for acid attack cases. Based upon just a handful figure we shall not conclude it is increasing or decreasing.

What is the legal provision in the IPC to punish the attackers?

The laws have been enforced just three years ago. 2013 has been a landmark in a juristic turning point in acid violence in India. It has been made the non-bailable offence and the perpetrator may have to face lifetime imprisonment.

Which aspects do you cover in the organisation?

The major aspects which we cover in the organisation are:

  •         Reach-out
  •         Medical Treatment
  •         Compensation
  •         Employment
  •         Education/Training

How do you help the people who come to you seeking help?

Definitely, we welcome them with open arms. When the organisation was started, at the initial level we were lacking various resources, it was the people who helped us throughout the time and the result is we are here. We always believe in the team work so whenever people approaches the organisation for any kind of help, we connect them with survivors so they could understand the cause, and the little most thing which we expect from them is to create the awareness about this type of sensitive cause.

How do you give victims the confidence and hope to start living the life normally all over again?

When a girl faces such kind of attacks she gets boycotted from society. It gets very hard for her to survive in the society and the survival concerns starts from her own house; she is being told to cover the face or not to go outside so when she reaches to Sheroes Hangout, she has been provided with the platform where she could fulfil her dreams because upon facing the attacks all her dreams get scattered. The organisation makes sure that whatever she wants to learn, she should get all the opportunities. From here only she gets the confidence and the normal life which she expects after the attack. We always believe that why she should suffer or feel shy or stop living a normal life.

How do you help them in the area of education and employment?

For their education, we provide them best training and classes of their interest. If someone wants to join the dance class, the organisation gets them the admitted in the Academy which suits them the best. Apart from this, we are in regular touch with various companies to provide them with grooming classes and computer training, for example, a few months ago we have done training with TCS in Lucknow.

Also, we're providing the employment at Sheroes Hangout, a cafe run by Acid Attack Survivors. If anyone wants to go to the place of her interest, the organisation would definitely support her.

What are your future plans?

Currently, we are running three units of Sheroes Hangout in Agra, Lucknow and Udaipur which were opened to provide the employment to the survivors. In the upcoming time, we are going to launch a trauma centre to make the best medical facilities available to them.

Your message to the world:

We always have a thought; why these attacks occur? While we're continuously putting the efforts for this cause, the answer which we get is; it's not about starting the NGOs or the organisations. We can only make the people aware of Stop Acid Attacks or these attacks are very heinous. To stop these attacks, very first step which should be the correct parenting; parents should teach their child on their own. There should be no communication gap between them, they should sensitize them about these attacks then only the children will learn. They should be taught that a moment of anger can ruin someone's whole life.

Rest what we want to say is "Stop Acid Attacks".


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