Memes doing the rounds on social media is nothing new; they are created for social media platforms. But what caught my attention was this Chhapaak meme – a Deepika Padukone picture from Chhapaak has this written on it – “This could be you ‘Par tu maan gayi’” (meaning this acid attack survivor could be you, but you were saved because you accepted my proposal).

How sickening is that. And, I am sorry I don’t see any dark humour or any other kind of humour at all as the thread on this meme claims. As far as I am concerned it is against the dignity of any acid attack survivor and is undermining what the movie stands for.

Some folks claim memes are just for harmless fun, so chill. I strongly oppose that, I think nobody should be making fun of such a serious issue. I truly believe making fun of anything be it an issue or a person is the first step towards normalising it. Throwing acid on someone just because she did not respond to your overtures or even as an act of revenge is not ‘normal’, please get that right.

Some truths about this vicious act

According to the National Crime Records Bureau data between 2014 and 2018, there have been 1,483 victims of acid attacks in the country. This when over the counter sale of acid was banned in 2013.

Can you think of a more ‘real’ example of patriarchy in India? Where we allow boys to do anything they please and always escape with just reprimand or a slap on the wrist. And because he is treated specially it conditions him to believe that he is entitled to everything he wants, which includes the girl of his choice.

What does this act of violence mean? For one it is the deliberate use of acid to attack another person. What is shocking is that the victims of acid violence are overwhelmingly women and children. The attackers most often target the head and face in order to maim, disfigure and blind the victim. The act rarely kills but causes severe physical, psychological and social scarring, and victims are often left with no legal recourse, limited access to medical or psychological assistance, and without the means to support themselves, says a study titled ‘A Desire to Disfigure: Acid Attack in India.’

Also read: Scars Cannot Stop Them: Meet India’s Incredible Acid Attack Survivors

So, why do girls have to face these vicious attacks? There are many reasons but the most likely one is a rejected marriage proposal or spurned sexual advances, to which this particular meme points to. But such attacks are also carried out by those who seek revenge against another family or even by jealous colleagues. In all of this it’s the woman who is the victim.

Rarely do these attacks result in deaths; the horror of acid attacks is nevertheless striking. If you study such cases you get to know that when acid is thrown at a girl within seconds, the acid melts skin, fat, muscle and sometimes bone. Many are left blind, some with sealed nostrils, shrivelled ears and damage to their airway from inhaling the fumes. After some time, formed scar tissues tighten and pull what is left on the face and neck, causing intense physical pain and discomfort. Real life horror story? Yes.

The victim is in a living hell. I cannot imagine the sheer amount of physical and psychological pain they go through.

Can anybody now say – forget it it’s just a meme. I guess not.

Why do such attacks happen?

As pointed out earlier, the reasons other than taking as revenge on a family or by jealous colleagues the act is carried out by spurned lovers.

In most cases if a girl is not interested in being pursued romantically and declines a boy’s advances. The male ego is likely to take this as an ‘insult’ and so he decides to take revenge on the girl by ruining her entire life. “If you won’t be with me, I will punish you in such a way that you won’t be accepted by anyone else.” is most likely the thought running in his mind.

Can you think of a more ‘real’ example of patriarchy in India? Where we allow boys to do anything they please and always escape with just reprimand or a slap on the wrist. And because he is treated specially it conditions him to believe that he is entitled to everything he wants, which includes the girl of his choice. What the girl wants is nowhere in the picture here. After all she’s a girl, she must be glad that she’s getting any kind of attention from him. So when the girl has the courage to actually ‘refuse’ him, his massive inflated ego gets ‘hurt’.

The girl has to deal with “How dare you reject me? You will be taught a lesson” kind of sick mentality. I am thoroughly disgusted to even think of what goes on in the mind of these men.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau data between 2014 and 2018, there have been 1,483 victims of acid attacks in the country. This when over the counter sale of acid was banned in 2013.

Last word

I agree with Sital Kalantry, the Cornell international human rights clinical director who has termed the phenomenon “gender terrorism.” And let’s be clear unless women are able to step into a role of equality of rights and freedoms, the problem will persist.

Also read: India Is Failing Acid Attack Survivors, Here Is The Data

Keeping this in context I applaud Deepika Padukone and Meghna Gulzar for bringing forth this vicious act as a discussion point through Chhapaak. We read such news and forget about it the next day but we cannot fail our brave survivors because they have done nothing to deserve violence, it’s the patriarchal mind-set of entitlement that is at work. And yes, we have to stand up against it.

The views expressed are the writer’s own.

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