Shopian: On October 5, 2021, the afternoon sun in south Kashmir's Shopian district was shining with genial warmth. Most of the people in the picturesque Kral Chek village were in their farms, picking up apples.
17-year-old Mehnaz (name changed) was locking the front gate of her house when she felt a presence near her and as she turned her face, a young man threw acid on her.
As soon as the corrosive liquid touched her face, Mehnaz fell on the ground and began screaming with excruciating pain. "It hurt so badly that I scratched the ground with my fingers and ate up soil," Mehnaz recalls those painful moments.
A few people in her neighbourhood soon rushed her to a local medical facility where doctors sent her to SMHS, Srinagar. The acid almost dissolved one side of her face and caused burns around her right eye. Mehnaz went under the knife five times over the past four months to regain her earlier facial appearance.
"We are readying for another surgery," said her father.
As the corrosive material caused 45 percent burns on her face, Mehnaz was unable to close her right eye. “She uses tape to keep her eyes shut at night,” her father said.
The treatment of his daughter cost him around Rs 4- 5 lakh so far. Her father who works as a sweeper in a local government school at a meagre salary of Rs 400 per month, had no means to treat her daughter.
“Many people helped me after I sought donations on social media,” he said.
However, the donations, he received, were not enough to meet the entire medical expenses. Despite the clear cut directions from the Supreme Court to pay compensation of Rs 3 lakh to acid attack victims, the father of Mehnaz claimed that he had not been paid anything by the government.
“I approached the Deputy Commissioner for the compensation and showed him the pictures of my daughter. But I did not receive any financial help from him,” he said. He said that the total treatment would cost over Rs 13 to Rs 15 lakh. “The doctors treating her at a private hospital in Srinagar told us that she would require at least three more surgeries,” he said.