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Global perspective on crime

It was an enriching experience for Neeraja Rao, when she attended a conference on crime and punishment in London.

IT WAS an unusual gathering that Neeraja Rao was addressing... Commissioners of Police, cops and academicians from across the globe.

She was one of the two Indians to present a paper at the sixth biennial conference, hosted by the Metropolitan Police Service, London, held this past month in London. "Modernising Criminal Justice: New World Challenges" was co-hosted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Over 500 delegates from over 23 countries participated in the conference, and among the speakers were British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, Sir John Stevens.

The conference was held as part of efforts to bring the international justice community together to work closely on issues of mutual concern.

So, how did Neeraja end up being part of the conference? "A friend of mine e-mailed me about the conference and asked me to submit an abstract. That's how I got to attend the conference."

And her topic? "Victimisation of Women: The Dowry Problem". A problem that is quite India-specific.

The soft-spoken lecturer of Sociology from Stella Maris College has always been interested in terrorism, crime, violence and ethnicity. What triggered the interest? Her reply is, "Well, I've always been interested in such issues." And the conference was just the right place to be.

"It was an interesting and enlightening experience, " she says.

Elaborating on the topic, she says, "More and more women are today willing to talk openly about dowry harassment. Of course, the number is more in the cities than in the rural areas. But that too is slowly changing." For the academician, who has done her doctorate in Sociology from the Osmania University, travelling is a passion.

At the conference, papers were presented on various issues such as crime prevention programmes for youth, fighting terrorism, ethnic and criminal justice and so on.

In fact, there's a new concept taking shape in the West. Restoration Justice is something where the victim and the offender are allowed to talk to each other over a period of time.

With overcrowding of jails, this new concept looks like an answer to many a problem. Or is it?

There's good news for Indians. According to some London policemen whom Neeraja had the opportunity to interact with, Indians living in the land of the Beatles abide by the law and are, by and large, a peaceful community.

Wonder why the same is not possible in our country!

SAVITHA GAUTAM

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