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Acid violence in India

The tragedy, size and complexity of the problem of acid violence in India needs to be understood in the context of the socio-cultural and politico-economic transformation that is taking place in the country since the last century. Kofi Annan rightly observed that, "Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation, and perhaps the most pervasive." A Cornell Law School Report on combating acid violence published in January 2011  concluded that, "Acid attacks are social phenomena deeply embedded in a gender order that has historically privileged patriarchal control over women and justified the use of violence." This calls for an attitudinal change besides other palliative measures.

Regrettably, the attempts to deal with Violence against Women in India have not kept pace with the rapid, rather haphazard, transition taking place from a custom bound societal framework to contemporary challenges, a feature that characterizes most Afro-Asian countries. This naturally hampers fast track results and needs to be appreciated from the perspective of India’s own distinctive features and challenges.

Just to recapitulate: India is the seventh - largest country by geographical area, it is the second - most populous country with over 1.3 billion people. It is a multi lingual, multi religious, multi ethnic and multi cultural nation besides being the oldest surviving civilization in the world. India is a Union of 29 states and 7 union territories organized on federal, secular and democratic principles with universal adult suffrage. All states and union territories, some more advanced than the others, have independent elected legislatures and governments. During the current century India has been reaping the benefits of globalization and steady GDP growth. However, there is a layer of unimaginable poverty and deprivation, of tragedy and unjust mores.

A UN Development Bank Study in 2010 concluded that about 37.2 % of India’s population is poor and that 8 of the Indian states have more poor amongst them than 26 of the poorest African nations. The latest official estimates are that nearly 21% of India’s population lives below the poverty line. Lack of education and awareness about human rights amongst the masses aggravates the situation.  Social tensions and ugly frictions are inherent in such a conglomerate and disparate society ridden with caste and class conflicts, outdated customs and hierarchical obsessions. This is a fertile breeding ground for crime and violence.

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