“Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword”
TERRORISM is one of the greatest menaces faced by the world today. Though there has been a mind-boggling spurt in terrorism, this phenomenon has always been there and has had a hoary past. India has been a victim of terrorist violence not only in the state of Jammu & Kashmir but faces the threat of cross border terrorism in other parts of the country too. Religious fanaticism in Pakistan has been responsible for the continuation of the blood bath in Kashmir and the sectarian politics in that country has directly contributed to militancy and terrorist violence across the border. Political morality and maturity have almost disappeared during the last two decades along with worsening economic and law and order situation in the country, factors which had also had a bearing on the growth of terrorism in the country.
Terrorism means different things to different people, depending on which side of the hemispheric divides a person is found. The fact that the attempt to universalize the perception and meaning of terrorism has met with varied academic as well as practical opposition heightens the definitional problems associated with it. Whereas it is a threat to peace and security, many opine that the identification of its causes and the attempt to solve them may be a panacea to terrorism. Terrorism has existed in one form or another in many societies for centuries. It is the methods, means and weapons that account for differentiation of various manifestations of terrorism. It does not refer to the goals of an activity or an organization but to the means by which these goals are pursued. This is not an attempt at establishing the causal relationship of terrorism, rather it is an attempt to situate terrorism within the global perspective and create access to information on the subject, given the events that have coloured its meaning in recent years. Owing to the expanded impact of terror activities, it is a near crime to trivialize its implication for international peaceful co-existence. The meaning of Terrorism therefore is varied. However it can be defined, as
“Terrorism is the execution of acts aimed at creating and establishing fear of a thing or people. It is the struggle and enforced pursuit for recognition”.
In other words it is the systematic use of terror or unpredictable violence against government, public or individuals to attain a political objective. It is a form of morally unacceptable violent act.
Terrorism is a unique form of political violence. The use of terror however does not constitute terrorism, because terror may also be employed for criminal or personal ends. Political terrorism is a systematic use of murder and destruction communities or governments into conceding to the terrorists’ political aims. It is a strategy of political violence to achieve a particular end. It is a threat to peace, security and development. It is an illegal use of force against the innocent people to achieve a political objective. It is a tactic or technique by means of which a violent act or the threat thereof is used for the prime purpose of creating overwhelming fear for coercive purposes. It is type of political crime that emphasizes violence as a mechanism to promote change. They terrorize individuals, groups, communities or governments into conceding to the terrorists’ political demands. The following are few definitions of terrorism, which are though not exhaustive but comprehensive aiming to bring the wholistic purview of the expression-
"...The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a revolutionary organization against individuals or property with the intention of coercing or intimidating governments or societies, often for political or ideological purposes."
"...Premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine state agents."
"...Violent criminal conduct apparently intended: (a) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (b) to influence the conduct of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (c) to affect the conduct of a government by assassination or kidnapping."
“..The unlawful use or threat of violence against persons or property to further political or social objectives. It is usually intended to intimidate or coerce a government, individuals or groups or to modify their behavior or policies."
"Terrorism is the deliberate employment of violence or the threat of the use of violence by sub national groups and sovereign states to attain strategic and political objectives. Terrorists seek to create overwhelming fear in a target population larger than the civilian or military victims attacked or threatened. Acts of individual and collective terrorism committed in modern times have introduced a new breed of extralegal "warfare" in terms of threats, technology, targets, and impact."
Only a few EU countries have defined terrorism in law. One is Britain - the Terrorism Act 2000 is the largest piece of terrorist legislation in any member state. The Act says-
“Terrorism means the use or threat of action to influence a government or intimidate the public for a political, religious or ideological cause. The action involved includes serious violence against people or danger to life, a serious risk to public health or safety, or serious damage to property.”
Terrorism became widespread at the end of the middle ages, when their enemies subjected political leaders to assassination. The word assassin was derived from an Arabic word meaning ‘ hashish eater’. The literal interpretation refers to the acts of the ritual intoxication undertaken by the warriors before their missions. It originally referred to the drug using Muslim terrorist organization that carried out plots against prominent Christians and other religious enemies. When rulers had absolute powers, terrorist acts were viewed as the only means of gaining political rights. The term terrorist first became popular during French revolution. From the fall of the Bastille on July 14th, 1789 until July 1794 thousands suspects of counterrevolutionary activity were killed on the guillotine. The relative nature of political crime is documented whereas most victims of the French Reign of terror were revolutionaries who had been denounced by rival factions; thousands of the hated nobility lived in relative tranquility. The end o terror was signaled by the death of its prime mover, Maximilien Robespierre on July 28th 1794 as the result of the successful plot to end his rule. In the hundred years after the French revolution terrorism continued around the world. The Hur Brotherhood in India was made up of religious fanatics who carried out terrorist acts against the ruling class. However presently many of the alleged terrorists are considered freedom fighters who laid down their lives for a just cause.
DISSECTING THE MEANING OF TERRORISM - FREEDOM FIGHTER OR TERRORIST?
It is said that one nation's terrorist is very often another's freedom fighter, and many times one nation's terrorist of yesterday is seen as a hero tomorrow. But a little child knows that terrorism is any act that brings terror. And to any adult, terrorism is even something more than that; it can be any seemingly innocent act, which harbors, sustains, and promotes acts of terror. There is no point in playing with semantics. Every war in the past was fought by thousands of soldiers. The last large war reigned terror on most of the face of the earth. Today it is a fact that by pushing a few buttons, it is possible for the whole world to be over within 30 minutes. How did it happen that a few human fingers have accumulated such power to determine not just the fate of nations, but also the very existence of life itself?
WHO IS A TERRORIST?
Terrorists are the individuals carrying out the activities of terrorism. They engage in criminal activities, such as bombings, kidnappings and shootings. The terror tactics set in motion a series of events that enlists others in the cause and leads to long-term change. Terrorism therefore requires violence without guilt; the cause justifies the violence. The following are few of the forms of terrorists-
1. The Legal Immoral Terrorist -- This is the soldier who tries to save his own life while at the same time killing and destroying others, not in order to save his life, but just for the sake of killing; this is the war criminal. He will even disobey state orders in order to kill and destroy on his own. When he returns, very often, the state protects him and many times he is even called a hero.
2. The Illegal Immoral Terrorist -- The Illegal Immoral Terrorist has a strong desire to destroy property and even to kill others, but does not want to die or suffer in jail. His resources do not come directly from tax money.
3. The Illegal "Moral" Terrorist -- The Illegal "Moral" Terrorist does not try to save his life; he is ready to die at any moment for his cause and sometimes he even plans to die, but people are killed or mutilated because of his acts. His resources do not come directly from tax money. When his country is under occupation by another country, he is considered a useless man, a terrorist in the eyes of the puppet government of his country and a good portion of his countrymen. After many years when his country becomes free from the hold of the empire, then the free government of his country and almost all his countrymen often call him a hero, a freedom fighter.
4. The Legal Social Terrorist -- This is the soldier who by the orders of the state goes to war knowing that he might die, and he kills and destroys by obeying orders from the state. To avoid jail, execution, or disgrace, he will go, taking the chance he may die even though he does not want to die or suffer. He obeys state orders but has no desire to examine them; he is a pawn of the system, ignorant and confused a tool of the rich who exploit the poor, perhaps like most of the soldiers around the world. His family and the state call him a hero, and in truth he/she is a hero and a victim at the same time.
5. The Blind Citizen Terrorist -- In this category belongs a large number of people around the world and especially in the West who work day in and day out researching and making millions of weapons, some of which have unthinkable destructive power. They are people who say that they work for peace while knowing that any weapon, when used, brings terror, violence, death, and pain.
6. The Apathetic Citizen Terrorist -- Virtually every citizen in the world who supports with his/her taxes the war machine is in this category. When he/she hears that one fifth of today's military spending would suffice to ensure everyone a sustained basic supply of food, drinking water, education and public health services, he puts his head in the sand and says, "What can we do?"
7. The Religious Seed Terrorist -- Any citizen that will run away in the name of religion from any battle for a just world and hide in order to save his life or to avoid imprisonment is in this category. Representing the nonviolence of the weak, this is a coward.
And finally on the other end of the spectrum there are the real advocates of peace, the real fighters. Their actions could precipitate violence, but that is not their intent or plan.
1. The Legal Moral Fighter -- This is the soldier who is enslaved into the government system and is willing to die for his country and family, but who would not kill or destroy. Usually historians do not mention him.
2. The Real Mahatma Fighter -- The real fighter in his/her fight for peace does not try to save his/her life or avoid punishment, nor does he seek to give up his life or take any other life into his hands. And he will yield not even one inch to his opponent even if that means that he will die or spend his entire life in prison. He represents the nonviolence of the brave, a rare fighter like Gandhi, Badshah Khan, Martin Luther King, or Socrates.
THEORIES REFLECTING THE CAUSES OF TERRORIST BEHAVIOUR-
Violence, terrorism, etc are all different instruments of reflecting anti social behaviour of an individual towards the mankind as a whole. These may differ in terms of their ultimate target i.e. the body towards which it is aimed but the major reasons of such an behaviour can be clubbed under two broad categories-
However according to Glazer, “ A person’s crime or restraint from crime is determined by the consequences he anticipates from it. People commit crime whenever they expect that the gains will exceed loses. This decision is tempered by the quality of the social bonds and their relationships with others (control theory) as well as their prior learning experiences (learning theory). Hence the social process concepts like learning, labeling and control with structural and other variables have been integrated into two distinct groups: latent theories and developmental theories.
LATENT TRAIT THEORIES:
This theory holds that criminal behaviour is controlled by a ‘master trait’, present at birth or soon after, that remains stable and unchanging throughout a person’s lifetime. Is assumes that a number of people in the population have a personal attribute or characteristic that controls their inclination or propensity to commit crime. This disposition or latent trait may be either present at birth or established early in life and it remains stable over time. Some of the suspected latent traits are as follows- defective intelligence, impulsive personality, genetic abnormalities, the physical-chemical functioning of the brain. Since they are stable the propensity to commit crime is also stable. One of the examples of latent trait theory is human nature theory.
James Wilson and Richard Herrnstein argued through their theory that personal traits, such as genetic make up, intelligence, etc may outweigh the importance of social variables as predictors of criminal activity. All kinds of human behaviour including the criminal behaviour are determined by its perceived consequences. There is function of rational choice whereby the concerned person chooses crime over non-crime. According to them, “ the larger the ratio of net rewards of crime over the net rewards of non crime greater is the tendency to commit crime.” Criminal choices are reinforced by the desire to obtain basic rewards such as food, clothing, shelter, wealth, power, status, etc. this is one aspect of human nature theory and the other aspect focuses on the integration of social and individual traits. Psychological traits like impulsive and extroverted personality or generalized hostility also determine potential to commit crime. This model emphasizes that biosocial, psychological and social conditions working in concert affect thought patterns and eventually individual behaviour patterns. Similar is the case with the persons falling within the trap of terrorism. Usually those people reflect highly impulsive and excited personality, which needs a slight spark to burst out.
burst out. Their biological and socio cultural background further acts as an aid to them. Behind the garb of ‘just cause’ they continue performing acts which are detrimental not only to them but to the entire society. The terrorist with the objective of earning reward in terms of freedom or respect to their status, their existence chooses crime over non crime i.e. terrorism. They have low self-control, which pushes them towards crime prone activities.
Another theory is that criminality in terms of terrorism is a part of problem behaviour syndrome, a group of anti social behaviours that cluster together and typically involves violence, theft, etc indicating that all kinds of anti social behaviour have similar developmental patterns. They are mostly linked with personality problems such as rebelliousness, etc. problem behaviours including violence are stable and may cluster in a number of different ways affecting people as they mature from adolescence into adulthood.
Pittsburgh, Rolf Loeber and his associates have identified three distinct paths to a criminal career as-
1. Authority conflict pathway begins at an early stage with a stubborn behaviour. This leads to defiance and then to authority avoidance.
2. The covert pathway begins with minor that leads to property damage (setting nuisance fires and damages to property). This behaviour eventually escalates to more serious forms of criminality.
3. The overt pathway escalates to aggressive acts beginning with aggression leading to physical fighting and then to violence.
Other line of the explanation of the terrorist activities are the theories reflecting on the social factors as a cause for antisocial behaviour leading to terrorism. The social development model attempts to integrate social control, social learning and social structure indicating that a number of community level risk factors are responsible for developing anti social behaviour. The factors like involvement and interaction of the individuals with the secondary and primary groups, the nature of the primary and secondary groups, their response to them, etc all constitutes the building mechanism for a delinquent attitude, which thereby concretizes by psychological factors. Being a social being every individual tries to learn and thereby mould his learning into his behaviour and thus the environment in which he is brought up and the nature of interactional approach adopted plays an important role in framing an individuals perception towards the society. The moment the feeling of hopelessness, loneliness and absence of recognition develops; he is driven towards activities, which fall out of context. A society can convert an ordinary person to a criminal and it is the same society, which can derive a patriot from a terrorist.
Besides the above-mentioned factors political and economic constraints are chiefly responsible for the birth of terrorists.
The Causes of Terrorism
The term “terrorism” is applied to actions by a great diversity of groups with different origins and goals. Terrorism occurs in wealthy countries as well as in poor countries, in democracies as well as in authoritarian states. There is no single root cause of terrorism, or even a common set of causes. There are, however, a number of preconditions and precipitants for the emergence of various forms of terrorism.
This is not to say, however, that terrorists are just passive pawn of the social, economic and psychological forces around them. Terrorists make their choices between different options and tactics, on the basis of the limitations and possibilities of the situation. Terrorism is better understood as emerging from a process of interaction between different parties rather than from a mechanical cause-and-effect relationship. Following are the factors that provide a fertile ground for radical groups wanting to use terrorist methods to achieve their objectives.
The actual outbreak of terrorism usually follows a specific triggering event. Such a trigger can be an outrageous act committed by the enemy, defeat in wars, massacres, contested elections, police brutality, or other provocative events that call for revenge or action. Even peace talks may trigger terrorist action by spoilers on both sides. The following (and not all-inclusive) sets of factors will not address these triggers, but is limited to more structural and long-term causes.
1) Hegemony and Power Relations
Hegemony and inequality of power. When local or international actors possess an overwhelming power compared to oppositional groups, and the latter see no other realistic ways to forward their cause by normal political or military means, “asymmetrical warfare” can represent a tempting option. Terrorism offers the possibility of achieving high political impact with limited means.
Powerful external actors upholding illegitimate governments may be seen as an insurmountable obstacle to the possibility of regime change. Such external support to illegitimate governments is frequently seen as foreign domination through puppet regimes serving the political and economic interests of foreign sponsors.
Repression by foreign occupation or by colonial powers has given rise to a great many national liberation movements that have adopted terrorist tactics or guerrilla warfare. Despite their use of terrorist methods, some liberation movements enjoy considerable support and legitimacy among their own constituencies, and sometimes also from segments of international public opinion. In this context state sponsorship should not be viewed as a root cause of terrorism. Used as an instrument in their foreign policies, some states have capitalised on pre-existing terrorist groups rather than creating them. Terrorist groups have often been the initiators of these relationships, at times courting several potential state sponsors in order to enhance their own independence. State sponsorship is clearly an enabling factor of terrorism, giving terrorist groups a far greater capacity and lethality than they would have on their own. States have exercised varying degrees of control over the groups they have sponsored, ranging from using terrorists as “guns for hire” to having virtually no influence at all over their operations. Tight state control is rare. It is noted that Western democratic governments have occasionally supported terrorist organizations as a foreign policy means.
2) Governance Issues
Failed or weak states lack the capacity or will to exercise territorial control and maintain a monopoly of violence. This leaves a power vacuum that terrorist organizations may exploit to maintain safe havens, training facilities and bases for launching terrorist operations. At the same time, terrorists may also find safe havens and carry out support functions in strong and stable democracies, due to the greater liberties that residents enjoy.
Lack of democracy, human rights and the rule of law is a precondition for many forms of domestic and international terrorism. Moderate levels of coercive violence from the government or occupying power tend to fuel the fire of dissent. Dissident activities may in some circumstances be suppressed by governments willing to resort to extreme brutality. However, such draconian force is beyond the limits of what democratic nations should be willing to use. And, as discussed below, reprisals may actually help to sustain terrorism.
Illegitimate or corrupt governments frequently give rise to opposition that may turn to terrorist means if other avenues are not seen as realistic options for replacing these regimes with a more credible and legitimate government – or a regime which represents the values and interests of the opposition movement.
Failure or unwillingness by the state to integrate dissident groups or emerging social classes may lead to their alienation from the political system. Some groups are excluded because they hold views or represent political traditions considered irreconcilable with the basic values of the state. Large groups of highly educated young people with few prospects of meaningful careers within a blocked system will tend to feel alienated and frustrated. Excluded groups are likely to search for alternative channels through which to express and promote political influence and change. To some, terrorism can seem the most effective and tempting option.
3) Socio-Economic Factors
Rapid modernization in the form of high economic growth has also been found to correlate strongly with the emergence of ideological terrorism, but not with ethno-nationalist terrorism. This may be particularly important in countries where sudden wealth (e.g. from oil) has precipitated a change from traditional to high-tech societies in one generation or less. When traditional norms and social patterns crumble or are made to seem irrelevant, new radical ideologies (sometimes based on religion and/or nostalgia for a glorious past) may become attractive to certain segments of society. Modern society also facilitates terrorism by providing access to rapid transportation and communication, news media, weapons, etc.
The experience of social injustice is a main motivating cause behind social revolutionary terrorism. Relative deprivation or great differences in income distribution (rather than absolute deprivation or poverty) in a society have in some studies been found to correlate rather strongly with the emergence of social revolutionary political violence and terrorism, but less with ethno-nationalist terrorism.
The experience of discrimination on the basis of ethnic or religious origin is the chief root cause of ethno-nationalist terrorism. When sizeable minorities are systematically deprived of their rights to equal social and economic opportunities, obstructed from expressing their cultural identities (e.g. forbidden to use their language or practice their religion), or excluded from political influence, this can give rise to secessionist movements that may turn to terrorism or other forms of violent struggle. Ethnic nationalisms are more likely to give rise to (and justify) terrorism than are moderate and inclusive civic nationalisms.
Contrary to widely held belief, however, there is only a weak and indirect relationship between poverty and terrorism. At the individual level, terrorists are generally not drawn from the poorest segments of their societies. Typically, they are at average or above average levels in terms of education and socio-economic background. Poor people are more likely to take part in simpler forms of political violence than terrorism, such as riots. Moreover, the level of terrorism is not particularly high in the poorest countries of the world. Terrorism is more commonly associated with countries with a medium level of economic development, often emerging in societies characterized by rapid modernization and transition. However, poverty has frequently been used as justification for social revolutionary terrorists, who may claim to represent the poor and marginalized without being poor themselves. Although not specifically a root cause of terrorism, poverty is a social evil that should be fought for its own reasons.
4) Ideological and Cultural Factors
A culture of violence. Historical antecedents of political violence, civil wars, revolutions, dictatorships or occupation may lower the threshold for acceptance of political violence and terrorism, and impede the development of non-violent norms among all segments of society. The victim role as well as longstanding historical injustices and grievances may be constructed to serve as justifications for terrorism. When young children are socialized into cultural value systems that celebrate martyrdom, revenge and hatred of other ethnic or national groups, this is likely to increase their readiness to support or commit violent atrocities when they grow up.
Extremist ideologies of a secular or religious nature are at least an intermediate cause of terrorism, although people usually adopt such extremist ideologies as a consequence of more fundamental political or personal reasons. When these worldviews are adopted and applied in order to interpret situations and guide action, they tend to take on a dynamic of their own, and may serve to dehumanize the enemy and justify atrocities.
The presence of charismatic ideological leaders able to transform widespread grievances and frustrations into a political agenda for violent struggle is a decisive factor behind the emergence of a terrorist movement or group. The existence of grievances alone is only a precondition: someone is needed who can translate that into a program for violent action.
All this, of course, is not to say that terrorism, in particular suicide terrorism, is caused by religion (or more specifically Islam) as such. Many suicide terrorists around the world are secular, or belong to religions other than Islam. Suicide terrorists are motivated mainly by 4political goals—usually to end foreign occupation or domestic domination by a different ethnic group. Their “martyrdom” is, however, frequently legitimized and glorified with reference to religious ideas and values.
In this context it should also be pointed out that terrorists are not insane or irrational actors. Symptoms of psychopathology are not common among terrorists. Neither do suicide terrorists, as individuals, possess the typical risk factors of suicide. There is no common personality profile that characterizes most terrorists, who appear to be relatively normal individuals. Terrorists may follow their own rationalities based on extremist ideologies or particular terrorist logics, but they are not irrational.
Factors Sustaining Terrorism
Terrorism is often sustained for reasons different from those, which gave rise to it in the first place. It is therefore not certain that terrorism will end even if the grievances that gave rise to it, or the root causes, are somehow addressed. Terrorist groups may change purpose, goals and motivation over time.
Cycles of revenge. As a response to terrorist atrocities, reprisals are generally popular with broad segments of the public. However, this tends to be the case on both sides, which may try to outdo each other in taking revenge to satisfy their respective constituencies. Deterrence often does not work against non-state terrorist actors. Violent reprisals may even have the opposite effect of deterrence because many terrorist groups want to provoke over-reactions. Policies of military reprisal to terrorist actions may become an incentive to further terrorism, as uncompromising militants seek to undermine moderation and political compromise.
The need of the group to provide for its members or for the survival of the group itself may also cause a terrorist group to change its main objectives or to continue its struggle longer than it otherwise would have - e.g. to effect the release of imprisoned members or to sustain its members economically.
Profitable criminal activities to finance their political and terrorist campaigns may eventually give terrorist groups vested interests in continuing their actions long after they realize that their political cause is lost. Alternatively, some continue even if many of their political demands have been met.
No exit. With “blood on their hands” and having burnt all bridges back to mainstream society, some terrorist groups and individuals continue their underground struggle because the only alternative is long-term imprisonment or death. Serious consideration should be given to ways of bringing the insurgent movement back into the political process, or at least offering individual terrorists a way out (such as reduced sentences or amnesty) if they break with their terrorist past and cooperate with the authorities. Such policies have in fact helped to bring terrorism to an end in several countries.