Of terrorists and terrorism

Prof M K Bhat
Terrorism at present has grown into a big threat for world peace, it is as deadly as climate change or Covid-19 pandemics and world has to find ways to control this menace before it goes out of control. The world till date has failed to coin a common definition of terrorism and has adopted only sectarian approach in this context. Every country defines terrorism after considering its own profit and loss, Hamas is a case in point. It stands as a patriotic organisation for some countries despite, its attack on innocent citizens of Israel. This group holds Israel as terrorist nation for using disproportionate force against Hamas in Gaza despite, its right to protect its citizens from the attack of non-state actors. There are others who term Hamas as a terrorist outfit for its inhuman act on 7th October by targeting the Israeli civilians. The opinions and counter opinions make one to believe the old saying that ‘one’s terrorist is others nationalist’.
Certain nations use terror organisations as proxy army and others make their use to settle their score against the enemy country e.g. Hamas is getting support of Russia, North Korea and China etc because USA has come in the support of Israel. They are getting used as proxy by Lebanon, Egypt etc Iran and Turkey uses them to keep their hegemony among Muslim countries as the champanions of Islam and Iran also uses them to settle its score against USA. Some countries provide terrorists enough space for their own benefit and term their activities as freedom of expression, Canada is a case in point. Over the years their clout has increased which they manifest in different forms thereby give new challenges to the concerned governments. Terrorism in no way is linked to poverty, illiteracy or culture. It is generally ideology based supported by religious beliefs. The terror groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Wagner and ISI are having private army with sophisticated weapons and if not controlled the day is not far away when they will be having nuclear arms in their weaponry.
The international terrorism will never come to an end until such organisations will go on receiving encouragement from one or the other country on one or the other pretext. It is no doubt that such organisations provoke governments but reaction need to be guarded otherwise there remains no difference between state and terror organisations. India was provoked in 2008 Mumbai Attack, parliament attack 2011, the Pulwama attack, Uri, Kalachak etc India’s reaction was gauged from humanitarian angles. Action against non- state actors targeting civilians, demands reaction but civilians shall not fall prey to such reactions. Once the common man falls prey to any state action, the sympathy boosts the morale of the terrorist outfit and goes a long way in fulfilling its target.
Terror has a long history and was practised by state and non- state actors throughout the world. The ancient Greek historian Xenophon (c. 431-c. 350 BCE) wrote of the effectiveness of Psychological Warfare against enemy populations. Roman emperors such as Tiberius (reigned 14-37 CE) and Caligula (reigned 37-41 CE) used banishment, expropriation of property, and execution as means to discourage opposition to their rule. In Hindu mythology the most resembling term is ‘Asura’ or ‘Rakshas’ – existed in every era. Indian history is full of instances when foreign rulers terrorised people for religious conversion and other economic purposes.
The term terror was coined first time in 1790s to refer to the terror used during the French revolution by the revolutionaries against their opponents. In 20th century the term has been applied most frequently to violence aimed, either directly or indirectly, at governments in an effort to influence policy or topple an existing regime.
All terror acts bear certain common elements. They involve the use or threat of violence and seeks to create fear, not just within the direct victims but among a wide audience. It destroys the public’s sense of security in the places most familiar to them. It can be held as the calculated use of violence to generate fear, and thereby to achieve political goals, when direct military victory is not possible. They resort to hijackings, hostage takings, Kidnappings, mass shootings, car bombings, and, frequently, suicide bombings etc.
India condemns terrorism in all its forms and strives to increase the effectiveness of international cooperation to deny terrorist groups safe haven, freedom of operations as well as financial, material or political support. It has been a victim of terrorism propagated by its neighbours like Pakistan, China etc. Canada has developed a sanctuary of Indian terrorists and any action on terrorists by government is not only over publicised but also gets a good advice from America and other developed countries without evaluating their own acts. The G20 New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration said “We condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including those on the basis of xenophobia, racism and other forms of intolerance, or in the name of religion or belief, recognizing the commitment of all religions to peace. It constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security,”
Internationally deaths due to terrorism vary from year to year, in 2010 it was less than 8,000, in 2014 almost 45,000 people died in terrorist attacks, in 2019 around 20,000 people died from terrorism. These deaths have been uneven among countries. The global Terrorism index 2023 of Institute of economics and peace, in its 10th report held that terror attacks have become more deadly with 26% more people dying in each incident – the first rise in lethality in last five years. It holds Afghanistan with a score of 8.822 as the most affected country by terrorism followed by Burkina Faso with 8.564 points and places India on 13th rank with a score of 7.175. It takes into consideration total number of terror incidents, number of injuries caused by terrorism, number of deaths resulting from terrorist incidents, property damage caused by terrorists.
Terrorists generally use civilians as shield to protect themselves from the wrath of the governments. They use civilian hostages as bargaining chips to further their own interests. They generally establish their base in densely populated areas. This restricts the reaction of governments and any reaction by govt. adds to their support base. They are being supported by Certain countries at international level and by different political parties at domestic level. All those who support such activities are no less to terrorists. The person with a gun on his shoulders and one who provides that gun or finances or makes ecosystem for such people are equally terrorists and until these supporters are not tackled the terrorism can’t decrease.
In order to overcome the terror menace United Nations adopted Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in 2006.It holds that terrorism is unacceptable in all its forms and manifestations, and member states resolved to take practical steps, individually and collectively, to prevent and combat terrorism. The main features of this strategy are:
* Measures to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism.
* Measures to prevent and combat terrorism.
* Measures to build States’ capacity to prevent and combat terrorism and to strengthen the role of the United Nations system in that regard.
* Measures to ensure respect for human rights for all and the rule of law as the fundamental basis of the fight against terrorism.
Terrorism can’t go too far, unless it has local support. These terror organisations bear over ground workers who further their activities and at times justify them especially in case of domestic terrorism. They have political support and flourish in democracies due to vote politics, human rights organisations and religious groups etc.
(The author is Professor Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi)

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