Bengal’s acid attack crisis reflects lawlessness and injustice

NEW DELHI | Updated: 19 December, 2023 11:24 am IST
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The latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report on crime in India has revealed a disturbing trend. West Bengal has topped the list of acid attack cases in the country for the third consecutive year. In 2022, the state recorded 31 incidents with 35 victims, followed by Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Nationally, there were 124 incidents with 140 victims, and 38 attempted acid attacks.

Acid attacks are one of the most heinous forms of violence, often motivated by revenge, jealousy, or hatred. They cause severe physical and psychological damage to the victims, who are mostly women and girls. The perpetrators aim to destroy the victims’ identity, dignity, and self-esteem, leaving them scarred for life.

The alarming prevalence of acid attacks in West Bengal raises serious questions about the state of law and order, the implementation of legal measures, and the support for the victims’ rehabilitation. Despite the Supreme Court’s 2014 judgment requiring identity proof for acid purchases and registration of acid-selling shops, acid is easily available in the market. The police and the administration are either negligent or complicit in allowing this illegal trade to flourish. The legal system is slow and ineffective, with the accused often securing bail quickly and the victims facing prolonged trials. The victims also lack adequate medical, financial, and social assistance, forcing them to bear the burden of their trauma alone.

The Bengal government cannot afford to ignore this crisis any longer. Immediate action is imperative to combat acid attacks and guarantee justice and dignity for the victims. Stringent enforcement of the Supreme Court’s guidelines on acid sales and distribution is crucial, along with intensified efforts to apprehend and swiftly prosecute perpetrators. Additionally, comprehensive assistance for victims, encompassing cost-free medical care, compensation, counselling, and vocational training, must be prioritized. Public awareness campaigns must be undertaken to underscore the severity of the problem and advocate for the rights of the victims.

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Acid attacks are not just a crime against individuals, but a crime against humanity. They reflect the breakdown of law and order, the failure of governance, and the erosion of social values. They are a challenge to the collective conscience of the society and the nation. Bengal must rise to this challenge and end this scourge of violence. It should shield its women and girls from this barbaric act, reinstating their confidence in the system. Demonstrating the value placed on their lives and aspirations is essential. The state must affirm its commitment to the rule of law, rejecting lawlessness in favour of justice.

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