No longer victims but fighter with a cause

No longer victims but fighter with a cause
Acid attack survivors Ritu Saini, Chanchal, Neetu Mahor, Geeta Mahor and Rupa Saa.

When Mr Alok Dixit fell in love with a woman who survived an acid attack, he not only brought joy back into her life but also brightened the lives of other survivors brooding over their plight in homes-turned-prisons.

Mr Dixit, a former journalist, was writing an article on acid attacks when he met Ms Laxmi (who goes by only one name) two years ago. At the time, she was fighting a campaign in the Indian capital to convince the government to curb the sale of acid.

It was easily available in grocery stores for just 30 rupees (67 Singapore cents) a litre, making a horrific crime easy to commit. In 2013, the Supreme Court told the government to ban the sale of acid without the possession of a special licence.

Struck first by her courage, Mr Dixit, 26, found himself falling in love with Ms Laxmi, now 24.

She says she was wary at first. "I remember a family friend once saying something cruel to me. She said no matter how many cosmetic surgery operations I had, I should never hope for love," she said.

Mr Dixit knew his relationship would anger his conservative Hindu parents, who had already begun searching for a suitable bride for him.

The couple began living together. Their small flat doubled up as a campaign centre for Stop Acid Attacks, a group Mr Dixit set up soon after meeting Ms Laxmi and the only one of its kind in India.

Funded by donations, it works to bring survivors out of hiding, help them experience some normality by finding them jobs and fight for free medical treatment.

Although there are no official statistics, campaigners estimate that around 1,000 women are attacked in India every year.

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