India's States of Armed Violence: Assessing the Human Cost and Political Priorities (IAVA Issue Brief 1)

Arabinda Acharya and Aaron Karp
Issue Brief

A traditional preoccupation with military threats to the state has long dominated Indian policy and activism aiming to prevent and reduce armed violence. This realist perspective has the effect—whether intended or not— of displacing consideration of other sources of danger related to armed violence. In recent years, the government has increased its focus on secessionism and foreign-sponsored terrorism, influenced by external events such as the 11 September 2001 attacks on US targets, but also by domestic terrorist incidents, notably the attacks of 13 December 2001 on the Indian parliament and the Mumbai attack of 26– 29 November 2008. Yet other forms of violence are far more devastating in terms of numbers of killed, injured, victimized, and affected. Some of these other forms of violence are especially serious in India, such as caste and dowry crimes, while others, such as criminal violence and suicide, are found in all countries.

Although India’s violence-related problems are serious and widespread, its rate of violent death is not especially high when compared with that of many other countries. In terms of international homicide rates, India is among the lower–middle ranking countries (see Table 1). But India’s national statistics conceal wide variation among its 28 states and seven union territories. Armed violence is much more serious in the north, the north-east, and the Maoist-affected regions. It is believed to be far lower in much of the country’s south. Divergence can be seen also among major cities, with violence much more of a problem in Delhi, for example, than in Calcutta.

India's States of Armed Violence: Assessing the Human Cost and Political Priorities focuses primarily on the three problems of insurgency, terrorism, and criminal violence in comparative perspective. In addition to examining patterns and trends, it reviews government policy and spending devoted to tackling the problem of armed violence.

Also available in HINDI.

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Keywords: Armed violence IAVA