Suicide protests are not unknown in history. As recent examples, one could cite the self-immolation of many Tamils in Tamil Nadu in the 1960s to express their opposition to the introduction of Hindi as the official language , similar self-immolation of Buddhist monks in South Vietnam in the 1960s and the early 1970s for expressing their opposition to the war and the attempted or actual self-immolation of some young people in New Delhi in 1990 to oppose the introduction of increased reservation of jobs for the youth of the backward classes in the Government departments.
He consciously commits suicide in such a manner as to cause the deaths of others too either as an act of reprisal or because he feels that the impact of his action on the public mind would be more if there are other deaths.
A suicide protester believes so strongly in his cause that he motivates himself to resort to suicide. Self-motivation uninfluenced by any master-mind seeking to use the readiness of volunteers to commit suicide for achieving the objective of an organisation is the underlying factor. He seeks to draw attention to his cause by killing himself without physically harming others.
In the case of a suicide terrorist, on the contrary, self-motivation as well as externally-induced motivation by an organisation or its leader play an equally important role. He consciously commits suicide in such a manner as to cause the deaths of others too either as an act of reprisal or because he feels that the impact of his action on the public mind would be more if there are other deaths.
A suicide protester as well as an organisation which practises suicide terrorism use suicide as a psychological weapon to shock the conscience of the public and to create an awareness of perceived acts of injustice committed by a society or a State, or another community against them. But, a suicide protester does not use suicide as a weapon of intimidation or reprisal. For him, suicide is an act of passive resistance.
As against this, an organisation practising suicide terrorism seeks to use suicide not only as a weapon of protest, but also as a weapon of intimidation to coerce the State and the society to concede its demands and as a weapon of reprisal to punish the members of the targeted State or Society for perceived wrongs done to his community or religion. It seeks to demoralise the functionaries of the State and create in them a feeling of helplessness and to project the State in the eyes of its citizens as incapable of protecting them.
When a suicide terrorist undertakes an operation, he knows he will not return alive, if the operation is carried out, successfully or unsuccessfully.
A desire to make others emulate his example by similarly committing suicide is not an underlying factor in the case of suicide protesters. Terrorist organisations practising suicide terrorism glorify and exploit individual acts of suicide terrorism for creating in others a desire to emulate. The publicity surrounding an act of suicide terrorism is one of the tools consciously used by them in their drive for the recruitment of more volunteers willing to commit suicide.
Suicide terrorism and suicidal terrorism are not synonymous. An act of suicide terrorism is one in which a terrorist kills others by killing himself. Acts of suicide terrorism are directed against hard (well-protected) as well as soft ( ill-protected) targets. When a suicide terrorist undertakes an operation, he knows he will not return alive, if the operation is carried out, successfully or unsuccessfully.
“¦an organisation practising suicide terrorism seeks to use suicide not only as a weapon of protest, but also as a weapon of intimidation to coerce the State”¦
As against this, in an act of suicidal terrorism, a terrorist undertakes a high risk operation, in which though he does not consciously kill himself in order to kill others, the chances of his surviving the operation and returning alive are very low. Acts of suicidal terrorism are generally directed only against hard targets.
As examples of suicide terrorism, one could cite the various acts committed in Israel, Chechnya, Turkey, Iraq and Afghanistan by organisations fighting for an independent Palestine, Chechnya and Kurdish State and for the withdrawal of the coalition troops led by the US from Iraq and Afghanistan as well as Al Qaeda’s terrorist strikes in different parts of the world. Other examples are those of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), including its assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, former Indian Prime Minister, in May,1991, at Chennai (Madras), South India.
They looked upon the successful functioning of Indian democracy as a corrupting influence on the minds of the people of Pakistan.
While many of these suicide terrorists killed mainly political leaders targeted by their organisations and combatants against them (members of the security forces), some also killed hundreds of innocent civilians. While deliberate targeting of civilians by suicide terrorists has been frequent in Israel and Chechnya and has been the rule than the exception in acts perpetrated by Al Qaeda, it has been more an exception than the rule in other parts of the world, including India. In India, as in other parts of the world, there have been innumerable acts of terrorism deliberately targetted against civilians, but these were not by suicide terrorists. Organisations perpetrating them often try to maintain the deniability of their involvement in the intentional killing of civilians and this is difficult if suicide terrorists are used.