People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 07

February 17, 2013




Death Focuses Attention on Anti-Women Violence


S P Rajendran


BATTLING for life for almost three months after a gruesome acid attack that left her blind, 23 years old Vinodhini, a B Tech graduate working in a private firm, breathed her last on February 12, in a private hospital in Chennai. 


Doctors at the hospital said she had suffered a cardiac arrest. Plastic surgery expert V Jayaraman, who was treating her since the attack, said: “We twice tried to revive her heart. We also gave her blood. But the protein levels were low as she did not have enough nourishment.”


The crime had taken place in Karaikal, an enclave of the union territory of Puducherry on November 14 last year.


Vinodhini lived in a working women’s hostel in Saidapet. Her father, Jayapal, is watchman in a private school in Karaikal. The assailant, Suresh, was a family acquaintance. Suresh was a construction labourer who had befriended Jayapal and had also loaned him money over a period of time. On November 14, Vinodhini was walking with her father at the Karaikal bus terminus after visiting her parents for Deepawali. Before she could board a bus for Chennai, Suresh accosted them and threw nitric acid at her. Vinodhini and her father Jayapal suffered injuries. Though Vinodhini’s father had returned the money, Suresh kept pestering him and even sought Vinodhini’s hand in marriage, but Jayapal had advised him to give up such thoughts. Vinodhini too had rejected his overtures. Suresh planned this acid attack as his one sided love affair was rejected, and executed the cruel attack on Vinodhini with help from some others.


After the attack, Vinodhini was rushed to a private hospital in Karaikal where the first aid was administered. She was then referred to JIPMER, Puducherry. On November 15, she was transferred to the Government Kilpauk Hospital, Chennai, which has a burns ward that specialises in treating the acid attack victims. But the injuries were extensive, with her nose, eyes and ears having suffered irreversible damages.


Though the Karaikal police had arrested Suresh, albeit very late, they did not attempt to arrest his accomplices. “They know he had three or four more friends with whom he colluded. He went to a hardware shop and asked for the acid that is used to remove colour spots from buildings,” relatives of Vinodhini said.


Initially, the media treated the cruel attack on Vinodhini as just routine news. But the All India Democratic Women's Association and Students Federation of India raised protests over the issue in Puducherry. The acid attack on Vinodhini drew some attention in the wake of Delhi protests against anti-women violence. It was only then that the NR Congress government of Puducherry announced Rs two lakh as medical assistance for Vinodhini's treatment. Soon she received financial help from various quarters, including Rs three lakh from the Prime Minister's Relief Fund, and from the public in India and abroad. The Tamilnadu state committee of the AIDWA also collected funds for the treatment. It also organised protest actions demanding the arrest of all the culprits.


The death of Vinodhini focuses attention on various forms of abuse suffered by women in society.


“Like the Delhi gang rape victim, even Vinodhini battled for her life like a champion. The Verma committee recommendation that acid attacks must be taken seriously and severe punishment must be awarded to the accused should be considered seriously by the state and the central governments, and the perpetrators should be brought to book,” said the CPI(M) state secretary G Ramak­rishnan, who had come to offer his condolences to the victim's parents at the hospital.


Ramakrishnan pointed out that the girl who fought all odds for the past three months deserved justice. The case should be handled with great sensitivity and the Verma committee guidelines should be implemented to prevent such incidents in future. “Acts of violence against women are increasing rapidly and it is the state government's duty to step in and initiate action against those who are behind Vinodhini's death,” he added.


In the meantime, reports pointed out that the draft bill, Prevention of Offences (By Acids) Act 2008, proposed by the National Commission for Women (NCW) still remains on paper and has not been passed by the parliament so far. The bill suggests that a national level board for assistance to acid attack victims must be set up --- one that would recommend to the government strategies for regulating and controlling the production, hoarding, import, sale and distribution of acids.


There were 6,940 cases of violence against women in the year 2011 in Tamilnadu alone. But we still don’t know the accurate number of acid attack victims. AIDWA state secretary P Suganthi has demanded that special provisions should be made to curb the such cruel attacks as acid throwing. V Perumal, the CPI(M)’s Puducherry unit secretary, has demanded a government job for one of the Vinodhini's parents. He also charged that the Karaikal Police did not act properly and were not yet ready to arrest the other persons who accompanied Suresh, the main accused.