History is replete with many instances of violence. Terrorism is a political violence which is considered wanton and unjustified. Terrorists are the actors in terrorism, often addressing themselves as ‘Freedom fighters’, ‘Jehadis’, ‘Mujaheddins’ or ‘Fedayeens’.
Terrorism involves the systematic use of ‘Terror’. Terror is unleashed in the form of violence causing indiscriminate killing or as a threat of violence. Though terrorism is an anti – state movement, the main targets in terrorism are civilians. Even in the instances of selective attacks on governmental establishments, the effect spill over to cost civilian lives.
Terrorism is the most vicious, cruel and outrageous of all the anti – state/government movements. Insurgency, rebellion, Guerilla movements or separatism are born out of grievances against the establishment. These also use violence or threat of violence to meet their ends. They exploit the ‘fear factor’ in the public mind to force the government of the day to acquiesce to their demands. But terrorism differs from these in the complete disregard for human life. Their goals would be political and religious often bordering the fanatic. Their objective is to intimidate the mainstream public. To this end, they perpetrate the most inhumane crimes. This, they believe would provide publicity to their cause, create public shock and outrage and ultimately unsettle the government.
The world still debates on what constitutes terrorism? But it is generally accept that terrorism leads to extermination of people. Also, terrorists are people indulging in terror who do not belong to any recognised armed force or do not adhere to any rules. This view endorsed by the United Nations, it is alleged, would allow certain nations to adopt flexible positions towards certain terror groups. For instance, United States often list rebel movements in certain nations as terrorist groups to suit its larger geo-political needs.
Organizations spreading terror are found in different nations. Few of these terrorist organisations have shed violence and are integrating themselves to the mainstream population. Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Irish Republican Army (IRA) have ceded to peace in their respective regions. Few others like Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) of Sri Lanka and Hamas of Palestine are engaged in peace talks with their governments. But there are many others active in many nations like Al – Qaeda, ETA of Spain and Al – Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade.
Terrorist violence took a sharp turn with the rise of Al – Qaeda and its leader Osama-bin-Laden. They are the new faces of a dangerous trend – that of Islamic terrorism. This is an explosive mix of fanatical religious beliefs and violence in pursuit of them. The roots of Islamic terrorism could be traced to Central Asia. Paradoxically, the very State which abetted and aided the growth of Islamic fundamentalism fell victim to its own mischief on September 11 2001. This form of terrorism is an off-shoot of cold war between US and erstwhile USSR. US had used Mujaheddins to neutralize Soviet presence in Afghanistan. Today, Al – Qaeda, an offspring of Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan addresses US as enemy no. 1.
India is one of the victim of transnational terrorism. The alleged source of terrorist violence, especially in Jammu & Kashmir, is in its immediate neighbourhood. The encouragement and aid that terrorists receive inn Pakistan are well-documented with proofs by India and international community. Yet the hostile government in Pakistan terms this as support to freedom fighters.
Terrorist groups are today fast becoming transnational organizations with international funds and networks. Governments of the world have strengthened counter terrorism measures. These include domestic intelligence and surveillance, pre-emptive neutralization, military intervention etc. International co-operation to fight terrorism has unmobilized terrorists and their funds.
Recently a controversy was raised over Samuel Huntington’s book on terrorism. It spoke about the clash of civilizations referring to Christianity and Islam. But religious faiths of the world teach peace and not violence. Evoking religion to commit violence is no faith. On the other hand true faith alone can lead man to the path of peace.