Thursday, 27 December 2018

Essay on Terrorism for UPSC in English

Essay on Terrorism for UPSC in English

Terrorism for UPSC
Terrorism is difficult to define as a concept because of its pejorative connotation & its relationship with violence. The meaning of terrorism changes within different social & historical contexts. Walter Laqueur defines terrorism as the illegitimate use of force to achieve a political objective by targeting innocent people. Although the word terrorism dates only from the time of French revolution, the acts it embraces go back to Biblical times. Robespierre installed a dictatorship to stabilize France & justified his methods as necessary in the transformation of monarchy to a liberal democracy. His sentiments laid the foundations for modern terrorists, who believe violence will usher in a better system. The history of terrorism is as much European, as Middle-Eastern and as much secular as religious.

Terrorism comprises four crucial elements- it is an act of violence, it has a political motive or goal, it is perpetrated against innocent persons, it is orchestrated to create fear, suspicion in the minds of people.

All acts of terrorism are motivated by two factors, social and political justice, and the belief that violence or its threat will be effective in bringing change. Research and media suggests that the forces that lead people to militancy, include experiences of injustice, discrimination, marginalization, corruption, or physical violence by the state against the innocent civilians. A lack of political inclusiveness in states or grievances against a certain political order may cause individuals to join or create terrorist groups. Different categories of terrorism are domestic, international, non-state actors, state-sponsored, politically motivated, right-wing, left-wing extremism. Most of the people affected by the terror attacks come from countries that rebelled against dictatorial and authoritarian regimes such as the Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen, as well as the countries that suffered lack of democracy and good governance such as Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries.

In the 19th century and 10th century, terrorism was associated primarily with the assassination of political leaders and heads of state. This was symbolized by the killing of the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand by a 19 year old Bosnian Serb student, Principe, in Sarajevo in 1914 which led to the outbreak of First World War. After the Second World War, terrorism broadened well beyond assassinations and terrorist movements developed with two distinct purposes. The first was to put pressures on the colonial powers such as Britain, France, second was to hasten their withdrawal and to intimidate the indigenous population into supporting a particular group's claim to leadership of emerging post-colonial states. Sometimes these strategies succeeded, but not always. The 1920s and 1930s saw the emergence of yet another form of terrorism, right-wing fascist terror, as Hitler's brown shirts and Mussolini's black shirts used murder and violent intimidation to achieve political power and attack specific elements in the population.

The 1960's and 1970's saw the emergence of a new type of nationalism called separatism. This describes indigenous ethnic groups who have long lived in a province but want to separate from their host nations and start their own country. Examples include Quebec, the Basques, and portions of Indonesia. International terrorism became a prominent issue in late 60’s, when hijacking became a favored tactic. The ISI of Pakistan has been heavily involved in covertly running military intelligence programs in Afghanistan even before the Soviets entrance into Afghanistan in 1979. In the 80's the Intelligence services of Pakistan in Operation Cyclone coordinated the distribution of arms and financial means provided by the USA’s, CIA to some factions of the Afghan Mujahedeen to counter the Soviet’s invasion in Afghanistan. States have always used sponsored terrorism outside their own frontiers and used terrorism as a weapon against their own citizens.

For many decades the roots of modern terrorism coming from the Middle East has been due to European Imperialism, the acts of trying to westernize the Middle East and its citizens. The fight for oil and other resources played a small part as well. But one of the most important aspect of Imperialism has been the creation of Israel post Second World War Muslims turned to radical ways because they were forced to the pressures of westernization. In 1990's a new face of terrorism emerged with Osama bin Laden becoming a leader of a small fanatical Islamic movement called Al Qaeda. Its public statements were an odd mixture of religious extremism, hostility to US dominance and insensitivity to the effects of terrorist actions. Groups that justify their violence on Islamic grounds- Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah started mushrooming.

In the event of Sep. 11, 2001, 3,000 innocent lives were lost when civilian aircraft was hijacked by Al Qaeda, demolishing a symbol of the US economic way of life: the World Trade Centre. The importance of 9/11 lies not in the loss of life but in global dimension of an attack on the US hegemony, reflecting a threat to world order. Though it was an attack considered unprecedented in history of terrorism but terrorism as a tactic has been deployed by extremist groups in the global South many times before. For eg, hard-line Hindu activists demolished the Babri mosque in Uttar Pradesh, India in 1992, an attack that was followed by Muslim riots that killed a number of people similar to that of 9/11. Terrorist tactics have also commonly been employed by the LITE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam) in the North eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. The political repercussions of 9/11 have led to an erosion of human rights, civil liberties and democratic values within the US and many other nations. In the aftermath of 9/11, domestic terrorism laws were enacted in the name of 'national security across many nations. Examples of laws in Germany, Italy, Japan and UK include funding of security and law enforcement agencies, freezing of the assets of suspected terrorists.

Islamic state (IS) came into the global media spotlight in June 2014 and since then their group has terrorized en masse those that do not comply with its violent and extremist worldview. The recent attacks claimed by ISIS in France, Brussels, Turkey, Germany, Egypt, Istanbul, etc. since 2014 have killed thousands of people around the world. The purpose of these attacks is to instill fear and anxiety among the voters in western democracies to pressurize their governments to stop military engagements against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. It also intensifies the already existing friction between Muslims and non-Muslims, especially in Europe.

We must recognize and address the specific political contexts in which terrorism occurs, whether by states or non-state actors, whether in Kashmir or Israel-Palestine, by searching for politically just solutions in these cases. Also, we need to work for effective international laws and institutions with the powers to punish all wrongdoers, no matter how powerful, and to broaden our national laws to weaken prospects of successful refuge for leaders/people most responsible for criminal acts and campaigns.

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