Family, friends grieve young techie’s death, demand stringent punishment for attacker; activists call for penal provisions in law

For Vinodhini’s family, witnessing her death on Tuesday, after having been through a three-month battle to save her life, was shattering.

When the hospital declared the 23-year-old acid attack victim dead at 9.10 a.m., her family broke down. Torn by grief, her mother begged the doctors to take her life away too.

Vinodhini, who was attacked in Karaikal in November, had suffered extensive burns on her face, neck, stomach and shoulders when nitric acid was thrown on her by a man whose advances she had rejected.

Her father, Jayapal became emotional and told media persons that her attacker Suresh Kumar should suffer as much as she had. “It is not enough if he is hanged. She suffered so much agony and pain. He should suffer similarly,” he cried.

Her uncle, Ramesh, alleged that the doctors at the hospital had led them to believe that she was doing well, even as she was dying.

At one point he said, “We will not allow a post-mortem examination. The attacker has already destroyed her completely. It will only cause further damage to her. The doctors could not treat her, so what is the point,” he raged. It took much reasoning from social activists including representatives from the All India Democratic Women’s Organisation and a doctor, R. Ilvanji, belonging to Naam Thamizhar, for Ramesh to agree to an autopsy.

Youngsters and college students came to express their support for the family. Four students from Loyola College’s department of social work were seen. “We befriended her when she was at the Government Kilpauk Medical College Hospital, and then we came here too. But they would not let us in,” one of them said. “We never talked to her about the attack but we shared details about our life experiences to keep her in good spirits,” another student said.

Vinodhini’s friends from her workplace, who came around 1 p.m., stood in a group, silent in grief. “We worked with her,” said K. Anjana. Another colleague, R. Ilaya, said, “Often we heard from the family that she had breathing problems. On Sunday afternoon she suffered another bout. Since she was in the ICU we could not meet her.”

Her colleagues had first heard of the attack when Vinodhini’s mother called the office to inform them that she would be on leave.

As the ambulance carrying Vinodhini’s body left the hospital, six hours after she was declared dead, the crowds dissipated and life on Barnaby Road returned to normality.

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