Laxmi Agarwal is the name of courage and survival spirit among Indian women. She used to be a lively girl full of dreams for her future. But at the tender age of 15, in 2005 she was brutally attacked with acid all over face and body. This happened with because she said NO to the marriage proposal of a man double her age! This episode gave her months of pain and sufferings but couldn’t break her courage. With her fighting spirit, she not only herself came out of this darkest phase of her life but also vowed to help others in the same. Today acid attack survivor Laxmi Saa speaks for the rights of all acid attack survivors.
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Laxmi was born in 1990 in New Delhi in a middle-class family. At 15 she was a student at Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, Pandara Road. She joined as an assistant at a bookshop near Khan Market. She wanted to join a music class next door. But her dreams were crushed as she was an acid attack on the very first day of her music class. She filed a PIL in 2006 seeking a total ban on the sale of acid, citing an increasing number of incidents of such attacks on women across the country. Currently, she is in a live-in-relationship with social activist Alok Dixit and a proud mother of a 3-year-old daughter.
Laxmi is a campaigner with Stop Acid Attacks, an organization against acid violence, and a TV host. She has also been a pioneer in advocating against acid attacks through gathering over 27,000 signatures for a petition to curb acid sales, and taking that cause to the Indian Supreme Court. Her petition led the Supreme Court of India to order the central and state governments to regulate the sale of acid, and the Parliament to make prosecutions of acid attacks a lot easier.
At present, acid attack survivor Laxmi Saa is the director of Chhanv Foundation, an NGO dedicated to helping the survivors of acid attacks in India. Laxmi received a 2014 International Women of Courage award by US First Lady Michelle Obama. Every year, this award is given to women from around the world who have shown exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for women’s rights and empowerment. After seven surgeries and eight years of hiding indoors, acid attack survivor Laxmi decided to become an activist speaking out against acid attacks, which are very common in India, causing many young women scarred for life. At the awards ceremony, Laxmi recited this moving poem about her scary attack.
“You hold the acid that charred my dreams.
Your heart bore no love. It had the venom stored.
There was never any love in your eyes. They burn me with caustic glance.
I am sad that your corrosive name will always be part of my identity that I carry with this face.
Time will not come to my rescue. Every surgery will remind me of you.
You will hear and you will be told that the face you burned is the face I love now.
You will hear about me in the darkness of confinement.
The time will be burdened for you.
Then you will know that I am alive, free and thriving and living my dreams.”
Recently Meghna Gulzar, a famous filmmaker in India, has announced to make a commercial Hindi movie based on the life of Laxmi Agarwal with Deepika Padukone playing the lead role. Laxmi and Alok are working together helping and supporting many survivors of acid attacks in India, and have launched the Sheroes Hangout, which is a café, in Agra, run by victims of acid attacks. Hope she continues to inspire us all!