“It’s not the bullet with my name on it that worries me. It’s the one that says “To whosoever it may concern.”
Terrorism is not new, even though it has been used since the beginning of recorded history; it has been relatively hard to define. Terrorism has been described variously as both a tactic and strategy; a crime and a holy duty; a justified reaction to oppression and an inexcusable abomination. Terrorism has often been an effective tactic for the weaker side in a conflict. As an asymmetric form of conflict, it confers coercive power with many of the advantages of military force at a fraction of the cost. Due to the secretive nature and small size of terrorist organizations, they often offer opponents no clear organization to defend against or to deter.
That is why preemption is being considered to be so important. In some cases, terrorism has been a means to carry on a conflict without the adversary realizing the nature of the threat, mistaking terrorism for criminal activity. As quoted by Dan Brown in his masterpiece ‘Angels and Demons’, “Terrorism isn’t James Bond or Tom Clancy. Even al-Qaeda is looking old school these days–now it’s just some guy with a bomb. He walks the same roads as us. He thinks the same thoughts. But he’s got a bomb.”
There are two main causes of terrorism. This means that all the terrorist acts are motivated by two things: first one being the social and political injustice. People choose terrorism when they are trying to right what they perceive to be a social or political or historical wrong—when they have been stripped of their land or rights, or denied these. The second one being the belief that violence or its threat will be effective, and usher in change. Another way of saying this is: the belief that violent means justify the ends. If we listen closely to the explanations that are usually given as answers to the question, “What is terrorism?” we will find that they actually answer the question: “What are the conditions in which terrorism is most likely to take place?” Sometimes these conditions have to do with the people who become terrorists (they are described as having certain psychological traits, like ‘narcissistic rage’) and some conditions have to do with the circumstances they live in (a poor society etc). Although many people today believe that religious fanaticism “causes” terrorism; it isn’t true. It may be true that religious fanaticism creates conditions that are favorable for terrorism. But, we know that religious zealotry does not ’cause’ terrorism because there are many religious fanatics who do not choose terrorism or any form of violence.
Terrorism is a criminal act that influences an audience beyond the immediate victim. The strategy of terrorists is to commit acts of violence that draws the attention of the local population, the government, and the world to their cause. The terrorists plan their attack to obtain the greatest publicity, choosing targets that symbolize what they oppose. The effectiveness of the terrorist act lies not in the act itself, but in the public’s or government’s reaction to the act. For example, in 1972 at the Munich Olympics, the Black September Organization killed 11 Israelis. The Israelis were the immediate victims. But the true target was the estimated 1 billion people watching the televised event. There are three perspectives of terrorism: the terrorist, the victim, and the general public. Terrorists do not see themselves as evil. They believe they are fighting for what they believe in, by whatever means possible. A victim of a terrorist act sees the terrorist as a criminal with no regard for human life. The general public’s view is the most unstable.
India has had its share of terrorist attacks and is learning to live with it. Today, not only Mumbai and Delhi are high on list of terrorists but hi-tech hubs like Bangalore and Hyderabad have already begun to beep on the terrorist radar. If Mumbai was shaken by the serial blasts in the local trains which left hundreds dead and injured, Delhi was in shock at the serial blasts that took place in the Cannaught circus. Today, what is new is the act that the terrorists have become more sophisticated and know how to attack in places where it would hurt the most. Take for instance, the Mumbai blast orchestrating the seven blasts in a public transportation system is not the job of the amateur. The terrorist knows that India is globally emerging as an economic superpower in IT, BPO and even conventional businesses. There are three reasons for terror activities in high –tech centers:
Firstly, terrorists feel that they are sending signals to international investors that India may not be the safest place to be .Secondly, a significant number of US firms have operations here and when the militant tendency is to get back at the US, this is the one way of getting back. Last but not the least; security is not as tight as it could be.
The terrorists are looking at the other means of attack i.e. through technology. There are many companies here that are working on mission critical applications for US firms. To hit back at the US government, all they need is to cripple the operations through technology and data theft. We have in the last 15 years, seen 5 different kinds of terrorisms emerging in India. Of course the most significant one is the one we see on account of cross border conflict as in Jammu and Kashmir. The second is the type we saw in the 1980’s in Punjab and were fortunate to have been able to overcome. The third we saw was a severe problem in the south from the LTTE. Problems in the north east are continuing and the latest to join these categories is the kind of terrorism spread along the various parts of central India, the Maoist insurgency from Andhra Pradesh. In the four conventional wars that we have fought including the Kargil war, the total number of people who lost their lives i.e. security personnel is 9857. In last 15 years the number of civilians who have lost their lives to terrorism is 62,221. The security personnel killed in various terrorist actions is again over 9000. The total amount of money spent and this doesn’t include the amount that we spent on our security forces, army and so on, on merely relief and rehabilitation, on special Para military forces that we deploy for anti-insurgency the figure now crosses Rs45,000 cores. Strong anti terrorist measures and methods which are employed as part of counter terrorism, the end result is what is normally a phrase used in areas affected by terrorism, a sense of alienation. It is because when terrorists strike them, people don’t like investing, where jihadis are moving with guns, even tradition income avenues suffer, sense of security suffers.
International attention became focused on terrorism with the attack on World Trade Centre twin towers and Pentagon on September11, 2001. Since it was the first time that such attacks were experienced by U S A on its surface, it shook up the entire country. And for the first time terrorism became a four letter word in the U S A. The citizen on the street and the entire power structure of the U.S felt humiliated at the gall of the attackers. A similar incident back home was the attack on Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001.Here the situation was different in the sense that for the first time such a serious attack was mounted on the symbol of Indian Republic in the capital of the country. It gave the government a powerful argument in favour of ‘streamlining’ and ‘providing more teeth’ to the existing anti-terror laws.
In today’s world, anti-terrorism campaigns, especially those stemming from U.S.A., cannot be separated from globalization and the end aim turns out to be service of American economy.
At home we have to pause and think. We have to separate the grain from the chafe. Our political thinkers, academics, and the media have to strap themselves to examine rationally all the steps being taken to see how far they encroach on the Human Rights of the people. In such situations there is always a possibility of going back to June 1975. We have to remember that suspension of fundamental rights may not always be sudden and in one stroke. Every law restricts some rights. Some laws restrict even human rights as defined by the United Nations. True, some restrictions may be inevitable because society in the real world is not the one wherein everything is perfect or idealistic and all the citizens are selfless. The spirit of capitalism, today’s reigning philosophy, derives from selfishness of human beings. One person’s rights ends where the other person’s rights begin. We have to be clear and conscious; therefore, when we make a law and restrict the freedoms of the citizens, the restrictions have to be minimum, well defined, and open to justiciability. There have to be clear and strong safe guards and the restrictions have to be, especially in the case of human rights, temporary. In today’s scenario, we have also to see whether our laws serve our interests. The interests of an under developed country may clash with the interest of developed countries, though there will always be grey areas. Such a situation needs fearless and honest leadership. We have to beware that compelled by globalization or ‘need to curb terrorism’, we may not be surviving the interest of the developed world. Just as terrorism is temporary, curbs on human rights also have to be temporary as human rights are permanent.
“Fighting terrorism is like being a goalkeeper. You can make a hundred brilliant saves but the only shot that people remember is the one that gets past you.”
A history of colonial subjugation, slow economic development, and years of dictatorial rule has left many states in domestic disorder, both politically and economically. The rapid rate of globalization over the past several decades has worsened. Now coming over to the first category of human rights i.e. political rights. Citizens who are able to protest within their regime are less likely to resort to terrorism. The more open the political system, the less likely individuals are to go outside system to participate in political process. Conversely, a citizen in a state with limited political rights is less likely to have an opportunity to work within the system to effect change. The second category of human rights is security rights. When security rights are violated, an incentive is created for the people to seek extra- systemic means of political expression. When state uses violence against its citizens, opposition groups often feel justified in responding in kind. Red Brigade in Italy for example argued that their use of violence was justified because the state had resorted to violence. Another major category is life rights of the individual. Many a times states violate the basic human needs which most often refers to inability of the government to provide for citizenry and suggest not proactive abuse, but rather neglect. Combining violation of political rights, security rights and suboptimal levels of basic human needs, the conditions are ripe for terrorism. We need a powerful security regime as far as terrorism is concerned and finally we need a very strong and powerful legal regime.
Democracy implies respect for freedom of speech and expression, rule of law and right to life and personal liberty. In a fight to the finish terrorism, there will no doubt be some shaping down of the content and purport of these rights. Ruthless, relentless, remorseless — are the three R’s of any counter-terrorism strategy and it cannot succeed except on that basis. While certainly security of the State should be given precedence over protecting human rights, the mechanism to redress complaints of excesses should be seen to be effective and quick.
By: Surbhi Sood