'Encounter' did not serve justice: 2008 acid attack survivor

'Encounter' did not serve justice: 2008 acid attack survivor

Telangana's 27-year-old Disha's rape and murder case in Hyderabad caused a frenzy of outrage and sensation across the globe. The brutal process of the whole incident left the case as one of the prominent rape cases that India might never forget. While the public is still left in shivers in India, the 31-year-old Pranitha who resides in Denver, Colorado is experiencing something similar or going through more pain after hearing Disha's news.

Pranitha is also a Telugu woman settled in the US and one of the leading media houses interviewed her post the vet doctor's case. Pranitha said that she nearly stopped watching television from  November 28 where Disha's news has been constantly scrolling on news channels and it was also the day  the Telangana police found the burnt body of 27-year-old Disha. According to Pranitha, she could not witness anymore the details shown about the case or even watch the visuals of the incident and protests that made Hyderabad city unite into a big group.

With social media trending various hashtags on the case and for the speedy justice, Pranitha remained shivered and disturbed because the #JusticeforDisha campaign brought back the painful memories of a harrowing day in her life, and its aftermath. Just two days after the vet doctor's incident, Pranitha was interviewed and she recalled her horrific story which took place on  10 December 2008. It was the day when three cowards threw acid on Pranitha, who was 20 years old then.

Along with her, Pranitha's classmate Swapnika also fell as a victim and with zero humanity, the two girls were haplessly left to die on a busy street in Warangal. The accused 25-year-old S. Srinivas, D. Sanjay (22) and P. Harikrishna (24) have attacked the two girls only because of the frivolous reason for Swapnika rejecting Srinivas's love proposal. Even back then, the mass protests and candle marches took place, demanding for the justice for Pranitha and Swapnika all over Andhra Pradesh.

In a similar manner, the three accused were killed in an 'encounter'. The cops have told in a press meet that the trio tried to attack them with weapons and acid. The scenes back then almost sound similar to Disha's case now in 2019. The Warangal cops were also accused of not acting instantly when Swapnika came to the PS along with her family to file a case on Srinivas just three weeks prior to the terrible incident. Unfortunately, Swapnika died in the acid attack and Pranitha was hospitalised. Pranitha now recalls after eleven years that  the 'encounter' of the perpetrators did not serve justice and said that preempting assault is the best way to ensure justice for women.

The present Commissioner of Police, Cyberabad, V.C. Sajjanar, is receiving huge accolades for the Disha's accused encounter. Even in Warangal acid attack, Sajjanar was Warangal's Superintendent of Police and in charge of the acid attack case investigation. On today's encounter, Pranitha wants to advocate her demand for shorter response time for police complaints, a fast-track legal recourse and conviction by trial.  In 2008, Pranitha, who was in her final year B. Tech in Kakatiya Institute of Technology was all set to live a surreal life as she had already secured an offer letter for a "dream job" in Infosys-Hyderabad. Swapnika was also a close friend of Pranitha, besides just a classmate and Pranitha claims that she knew a man had proposed to Swapnika and that she had rejected the proposal.

However, she did not take her friend's case seriously. The horrific day had two girls riding their scooter with Pranitha driving and Swapnika on the pillion. All of a sudden, Srinivas poured the corrosive liquid on both, changing their lives upside down.  Coming to 2019 Disha's case, Disha was blamed by a politician for calling her sister first instead of cops. In a similar manner, Pranitha too called her parents instead of police or a hospital. When asked why she did not turn to the law-and-order officers first, she asked, "Would the police have come if I had made the call?". Pranitha said that her parents reached the hospital within half an hour and the police reached later. "It was the doctors who were around to help us," Pranitha's father quoted.

After three days of the incident, Pranitha, who was sleeping in the night,  a commotion woke her. "I did not open my eyes. But someone who was standing near the door shouted, 'Because of you they are encountered'". Without being fully conscious or looking at people's fae, Praniths said she could relate that her attackers were dead. The encounter took place when cops took the accused to the outskirts of Warangal, where the trio had allegedly hidden acid bottles which were used in the attack. However, the encounter did not make Pranitha happy as she thought she became the cause of someone's death. She explained, "Maybe the expected reaction was happiness. But in my case it was different. I was afraid". A normal college going girl is being told that she is the cause for three deaths made her stay scared. People also started asking questions like  "Why did you ride a bike that day?" and "Are you aware that you have become a burden for your family?".

With taking the entire blame on her, Pranitha was asked if the killing instil courage in Pranitha? "Please don't ask me this question. I never wanted to think about the encounter ever. I never did. It was scary and I do not want to think about it," she said. Talking bout the justice, "I think there's no justice in that kind of action. Justice will be done when my face comes back to normal when my skin is normal and I get to lead a normal life. That will be called justice. Though they are killed, I am still facing the aftermath of the incident," she said. Pranitha went through something unimaginable as she initially thought her case was not severe and she would be discharged before her mid-exam who was coming next few weeks. But, she was advised being bedridden for at least three months.

Nearly for a month, Pranitha laid motionless in the hospital bed  and Swapnika, her friend, succumbed to the acid burns after 20 days. For the next two months, she focused on studying for her mid-term examination. "There were only two options for me—either watch TV or study. I chose the latter," she said. Pranitha also underwent 14 surgeries on her skin during the time. She, however, appeared for her mid-term examination in March 2008, with face, bandaged. She gave an emotional statemnet – " Life had changed drastically. Justice was the last thing on my mind at the time. Survival was my priority." Though she secured 82% in her final year examination and took up the Infosys job in January 2009, her life did not return to normalcy.

Recalling her aftermath of an attack, Pranitha shared her painful discrimination over her face-. "I was once told that I cannot go for a foreign business trip because the team leader felt I am not physically fit. I had to contest this and get my right to attend the business meeting," she said. In 2012, Pranitha got married but whenever she takes a picture, he says it reminds of that day. "When I look in the mirror I know that I look the way I look because of that day," she said.  

Concluding the interview, Pranitha said, "If the death of the accused in my case was a deterrent, attack on Nirbhaya or Disha would not have happened. If every two kilometres, a police response team is available for women who need help, it may ensure quick relief in case of emergency. Also, if we had an emergency number like the 911 service in the US which response to distress calls immediately, we could ensure shorter response time. A medical team and police should be available for women in distress".

(Source: The Huffington Post)