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The real faces of courage: Acid attack victims participate in photoshoot

A photoshoot, featuring five acid attack survivors that went viral on social media last week, changes popular perceptions of beauty. It drives home the point that the women, till now ostracised by society, are ready to face the world in all their glory, without hiding behind any veil

In 2005, 15-year-old Laxmi’s life changed forever after she turned down a 32-year-old man’s marriage proposal. Incensed, he teamed up with his younger brother’s girlfriend and threw acid on her face in Khan Market, New Delhi. Four days after the incident, he was arrested. A month later, he was released on bail but was finally imprisoned for 10 years. In the interim, he got married and now has two kids.

Laxmi and Rita and Rupa
Laxmi, Rita and Rupa strike a pose.

Laxmi, meanwhile, was ostracised by society and lost her confidence. Over a period of time, her father and younger brother died. Today, however, 24-year-old Laxmi is brimming with confidence. Dressed in a powder blue and pink lehenga choli, she strikes a pose along with four other acid attack survivors — Rupa, Rita, Chanchal and Sonam. The five have done a fashion shoot, sporting Rupa’s creations, to raise funds for the latter’s boutique.

Laxmi
In 2005, a 32-year-old man threw acid on Laxmi’s face.

The shoot, conducted by Delhi-based photographer Rahul Saharan under the aegis of Chhaon, a support centre for acid attack survivors, captures the quintet in a candid mood, redefining the meaning of beauty, courage and positivity. It shows the world that they are no longer willing to hide their faces behind a scarf.

Rita
 In 2008, Rupa’s stepmother threw acid on her face, following which Rupa disowned her father for supporting her stepmother.  She now wants to open a boutique. Pics/Rahul Saharan

Laxmi, who works with Chhaon and is also associated with the Stop Acid Attack campaign, which was launched last year on March 8, says, “We want to rent a shop for Rupa in a decent locality in Delhi, which she can use it as her boutique. We want to also provide her with the initial capital for her shop so that she can buy the equipment and employ other acid attack survivors.

Laxmi and Rita

The photoshoot will hopefully create awareness about Rupa and her creations and help her pursue her dream.” People who want to contribute for Rupa’s boutique can log on to www.bitgiving.com, a crowd-funding platform. The photos, clicked on August 7, went viral on social media after Saharan uploaded them on Facebook. They were picked up by other websites and got people talking about the five girls’ courage and their zeal to live life on their own terms.

Rita and Rupa

Saharan, who has been associated with Chhaon since two years, says, “I wanted the pictures to be candid so that the girls could be captured in their glory and change people’s perception of beauty.”

Rupa

Along with other survivors, Laxmi is now working on a Spot of Shame campaign in the capital wherein they tell public about those places where acid was thrown at various girls. She is also associated with the Shoot Acid campaign, where volunteers take pictures of shops that sell acid and expose the shop owners.

However, it wasn’t easy for her to regroup her life. She says, “It took me three years to gain control over my life. But when I finally started stepping out, I never covered my face with a veil. I wasn’t ashamed of it then and I’m not ashamed of it now. I love my face.”

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