Homeland Security

A Future View of Terrorism
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Issue Courtesy: Aakrosh | Date : 21 Nov , 2011

We can no longer overlook the fact that terrorism has come to stay in our midst and that the actors of terrorism are none other than some of us who suddenly decide to step out and move away from the rest to meet their needs differently in a different method and thus become different. Acknowledging the fact will help the state understand the causative factors of terrorism and its long-term effect on society. What is needed is a holistic approach to this phenomenon and developing strategies to reduce, if not prevent, the massive human and economic losses inflicted on society.

“¦certain parts of the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan are turning out to be the main power centres for terrorism. Decades of lawlessness and corruption have seen Islamist terrorist groups fill the power vacuum in this region”¦

Thinkers in the academic circles are pondering the lifespan of terrorism, and some believe that terrorism will become an accepted fact of contemporary life—commonplace, ordinary, banal and, therefore, somehow tolerable. Jenkins1 made alarming forecasts that terrorists will escalate their violence and their attacks will become more indiscriminate. Terrorism will become institutionalised as a mode of armed conflict for some, no less legitimate than other modes of conflict. The media will increase its ability to cover terrorist incidents; we will see even more terrorism. Besides, the extraordinary security measures to combat terrorism will become an integral part of our life style. Jenkins believes that a time will come when terrorism will no longer attract comment.

In spite of all these assumptions, it is difficult to predict the time and the manner of occurrence of the next terrorist incident. Terrorism knows no boundaries. It can happen any time at any place. Terrorists are fond of inflicting surprises on the public with the help of the media, which every morning carries the news of innocent people being held hostage even at places of worship, on vehicles or at market places, where people and even the security personnel are caught unawares. Should we call them dissidents, rebels or terrorists is anybody’s guess. The terrorists call themselves freedom fighters and friends of the wronged.

The magnitude of the impact of terror is so intense that it eludes simple analysis. Day after day, when the early news talks of nothing but the next terror attack in one country or another, public anger and despair turns towards what is felt as the failure of the government. On the other hand, countermeasures always carry with them the ominous possibilities of compromising civil liberty and dissent is repressed, often ruthlessly, by unscrupulous governments. Even for their well-meaning counterparts, each terror attack calls for higher allocation to step up security, thus diverting much-needed funds from development efforts like healthcare, education, food security and the like in poor countries. It is everybody’s dream and hope to stay away from the war of terror and live peacefully, but the future remains uncertain.

Each country has its own perception of terrorism moulded to classify and present it to its own political convenience.

Thus, when we talk of the future of terrorism, it is necessary to concentrate on the salient features which may determine the type and pattern of terrorism of tomorrow, i.e., its aim and intention to destabilise a system; we need to understand terrorism in totality to arrive at a definite conclusion as to where exist the lacunae and the cause of our failure to prevent this war of terror and give the right to life to the common man.


Rebels, insurgents, separatists, guerrillas, insurrectionists, freedom fighters, fundamentalists . . . who among them are the terrorists? Or does terrorism occupy its own exclusive niche? These are questions many people—victims and victimisers—alike ask. It is a global question that has remained unanswered because the countries have failed to come to a common definition. The UN has been striving for decades to find a definition to narrow “all its forms and manifestations” into specific circumstances that can be labelled as terror. In the absence of a universally accepted definition of terrorism, the possibility of getting it tried in the international court gets blocked. Each country has its own perception of terrorism moulded to classify and present it to its own political convenience. There are instances when seizing on the absence of such a definition of terrorism, governments have waged with impunity the relentless repression of political opponents, ethnic minorities and oppressed groups’ legitimate aspirations in the name of counterterrorism or national security.2

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

S. Sanyal

 S.SANYAL, former Reader NICFS (MHA) consultant UVCT & research fellow of Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund.

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