A few hours before Harpreet Kaur from Haryana was to get married, acid was flung at her face. The incident occurred on December 7, and yesterday, the 24-year-old woman who was on a ventilator for the past week, succumbed to her injuries at a burns hospital in Navi Mumbai.
Doctors at the facility cited multiple organ failure as the cause of her death. She had suffered more than 40% burns, they said. The deceased’s family members broke down on hearing the news, and said she fell prey to a blood feud in the family of her in-laws-to-be, a feud she had nothing to do with.
Harpreet, a resident of Sarabha Nagar in Ludhiana, was to marry Harpreet Singh. On the day of their wedding, she went to a beauty salon in the locality to get make-up done.
Her younger brother Arshdeep Singh said, “The woman who used to be the groom’s sister-in-law she had divorced his elder brother is the one who got acid thrown at my sister. She was resolute that nobody should get married in the groom’s family. And in her attempt to make sure that the family never gets to be happy, my sister became the victim.”
Doctors in Ludhiana referred the woman to the National Burns Centre in Airoli. Darinder Kaur, the girl’s mother, said, “My daughter was sitting in the beauty parlour, with her bridal clothes and ornaments on. The miscreants entered the salon and asked for her. Someone pointed and they immediately threw acid at her. My innocent child suffered for no fault of hers. I am not satisfied with the treatment she was provided at the Navi Mumbai facility.”
Dr Sunil Keswani, medical director of the Airoli facility, said that in the last two decades of his career, this was the first case he had come across in which such a large quantity of acid had been used to assault a person. “From the time the patient was brought to the hospital her chances of survival looked dim. The quantity of acid thrown at her seemed to have been around a litre. I have seen patients get critical with millilitres of acid, but this was an exponentially larger quantity.”
He added, “The woman died because of multiple organ failure. For the last six days, she was on a ventilator. The acid had destroyed her face, ears, chest and a portion of her thighs completely. During the second surgery, while trying to remove the dead tissues, I almost reached up to the body muscles, which indicates how deep the burns were and until how far inside the damage had occurred.”
To the family’s dissatisfaction with the treatment given at the facility, Dr Keswani said, “Whenever a person succumbs, family members try to console themselves in such ways. I had informed the family that patients like their daughter survived in some cases but her chances were less. However, they held on to the words that conveyed to them the possibility of her survival.”
Harpreet’s s body was sent for post-mortem to the Navi Mumbai Municipal Hospital (NMMC) in the afternoon, police officials said. Sukhdeep Singh, a police official from Ludhiana who was in the city, said that six persons have been arrested in the case, including the groom’s divorced sister-in-law and her accomplices. They have been charged under sections 302 (murder) and 120-b (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, he said. The inquest panchnama was done by the Rabale police.