<i>Gone insane for a son</i>
Babli's father wanted to be the "proud parent" of a son, and when a son was not born to him but a daughter, he chose to be a villain.
Bakhtiar Rana, a carpenter by profession in Betagi Thana in Rangunia, Chittagong, took an instant dislike to the fact that his wife "had given him a burden instead of an heir" and made his feelings clear.
The resentment over being stuck with a burden -- as a girl child is still labelled in society -- grew in such proportions in him that things took a turn for the worst when Babli was just seven months old in July 2000.
On the fateful day, Babli's father chose to forget that he was a human being. He took his child in his arms and used a medicine dropper to force acid into her mouth, into her ears and on her feet. He also did not spare her anal passage.
The attack left Babli with a burnt throat, tongue and severe hearing impairment. She also suffered serious damage to knees, feet and anal passage. But the fighter that the little baby was, she kept her struggle to just stay alive and she was lucky enough to draw the attention of people who would help her.
Now eight years later, after sessions of continuous treatments, Babli can now not only eat on her own but also talk and even goes to school.
Bakhtiar Rana was never arrested and her mother Parul Akter still suffers from the trauma of witnessing the heinous attack on her child to kill her.
Parul who lives and works in Dhaka now told The Daily Star yesterday “Everyone apprehended she would die from the injuries she suffered but my brave daughter held on. She underwent at least six major operations over the last eight years since 2001.
A visiting surgeon from the USA first operated on Babli to try and repair her food pipe and throat. After that surgery she was able to drink liquid food and gradually was able to swallow semi-solid food.
In 2004, one of her damaged toes had to be amputated during surgeries to restore the use of her feet. In 2005, further surgery restored the use of her tongue. Then in January and March 2006, two operations by a visiting plastic surgeon from UK reconstructed her inner mouth.
All these operations were made possible because of the shelter given to the mother and child by the Acid Survivors Foundation since November 2000.
Parul told The Daily Star “We did not get justice in nine years and I now think that we will never get any justice because the law enforcement agencies say that Bakhtiar is still absconding.
"The joke is that Bakhtiar still lives where he used to live, has since got remarried and is now the father of two, including a son. Only the law enforcement agencies cannot find him."
A case has filed around a year after the attack under the Nari O Shishu Nirjaton Domon Tribunals, Chittagong. After reinvestigating the case, the court finally accepted the charge sheet and the charges were framed in January 2003.
Monira Rahman, executive director of Acid Survivors Foundation, said “Both victims -- mother and child -- of this cruel violence has suffered severe traumatic disorder over the years.”
Babli is a student of class-II in a city school and she is also learning to dance. She is quite good at dancing and has already performed at national level programmes despite the loss of a toe.
She is able to talk now, and though not clearly, doctors at Jibon Tari Hospital, run by ASF where Babli was treated, expressed hope that in time her speech will be totally alright.
Parul today works as an office assistant in Dhaka and supports herself and Babli.
"We hear every day that the government is so aware about acid crimes, but why is then Bakhtiar still free while my child suffers by the hour?"
“What is my child's fault? Why does she suffer alone still?" Parul said as she burst into tears while talking about the ordeal they have been through.
Babli is one of the many cases of acid violence. According to a report by Acid Survivors Foundation, 45 people fell victim to acid violence between January to June this year alone. Another 179 people in 2008, 192 in 2007, 221 in 2006, 272 in 2005, 325 in 2004, 411 in 2003, 490 in 2002, 349 in 2001 and 234 people in 2000 suffered similar attacks.