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.
With a population of almost 1.2 billion people and an area of 3.3 million square kilometres, India is home to approximately 17 per cent of the world’s population but constitutes just 2.4 per cent of its land area (MHA, 2011). India’s rates of violence vary greatly from state to state, and city to city, ranging from relatively high to negligible. These rates are reflected in the nation’s wellknown diversity in languages, literacy, economic status, and cultural customs.
There are many circumstances in which the use of force by the police is considered a legitimate action. Indeed, even in a democratic society, police are distinguished by their legal authority to use force to coerce citizens (Klockars, 1985). Given the high potential for the police to abuse force, checks and balances are needed to minimize the use of force and make officers accountable when they resort to it.
India is home to one of the world’s largest small arms industries, but it is often overlooked in international discussion because it mostly supplies domestic military and law enforcement services, rather than civilian or export markets. Small arms procurement by the Indian government has long reflected the country’s larger national military procurement system, which stresses indigenous arms production. This policy has changed since the 1990s, but its legacy will continue to affect Indian official small arms procurement for decades to come.
Violence against women, and the reluctance of authorities to deal with it, present a serious challenge to Indian society, law enforcement, and judicial affairs. Numerous incidents involving group rapes and rape and murder—such as the Nirbhaya case in New Delhi in 2012—have captured national and international attention. While domestic violence and public intimidation are familiar to women across India, statistics remain scarce and unreliable.