“I AM NOT A VICTIM. I AM A SURVIVOR. THE MAN WHO ATTACKED ME WILL COVER HIS FACE, I WON’T.”
Like every other girl, she had dreams. She aspired to become a singer and make her parents proud. She was attacked with concentrated acid in Delhi’s Khan Market in 2005 by her acquaintances, Guddu and Rakhi. She was 15 at that time and had refused a proposal to marry Guddu, her friend’s brother.
Laxmi Agarwal suffered 45 percent burns and, even after seven surgeries, is far from ‘looking normal’. She wanted to kill herself after seeing her face in the mirror for the first time after the acid attack. However, the thought of further grief her parents would face made her stop herself. Just like her family was strong in their support, she knew she had to be strong for her family. It took Laxmi few years to accept her tragedy and her scarred body.
In 2006, Laxmi filed a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking orders to regulate sale of acids, which was successful. While Laxmi’s parents relentlessly supported her, her friends and relatives avoided her completely. In 2009, with her parent’s support, Laxmi took up the challenge to walk outside without covering her face despite people’s negative reactions and estranging behavior. Laxmi also took the case to court that went on trial for 4 years. Guddu was imprisoned for 10 years, while Rakhi was sentenced to seven years in jail.
In 2013, Laxmi joint ‘Stop Acid Attacks’ campaign and started a discussion around acid violence in the country. This campaign culminated into becoming “Chhanv foundation”, an organization that provides treatment, counseling, rehabilitation support and employment opportunities for girls like Laxmi.
In 2014, she was presented an International Women of Courage Award in Washington DC by First Lady Michelle Obama. At the award ceremony, Laxmi read a poem she had composed, part of which was directed at the man who attacked her: “You haven’t thrown acid on my face; you threw it on my dreams… The time will be burdened for you. Then you will know that I am alive, free and thriving and living my dreams.”
Today Laxmi is one of India’s foremost activist against acid attacks. Along with the growing success, Laxmi experienced success in her personal life as well. She fell in love with and is in a relationship with one of her fellow campaigners, Alok Dixit. Both decided to be in a live-in-relationship and not get married. Their families have accepted the relationship and their decision not to have a ceremonial wedlock. They now have a lovely daughter named Pihu.
“You can either choose to whine over your past or move on staring right into the eyes of the problems challenging it.”