Practice  Question  – How is terrorism a new form of asymmetrical warfare ? What are some of the challenges in trying to win the war on terrorism ? [UPSC 2019]

Approach –  Introduction, Define terrorism, Emerging trend of asymmetrical warfare (unconventional strategies and tactics adopted by a force), Challenges faced while tackling terrorism, Suggest measures, Conclusion



‘Terrorism’ simply means deliberately and violently targeting civilians for political
purposes (Richardson, 2006). It has seven crucial characteristics: (1) a terrorist act is politically inspired; (2) if the act does not involve violence or threat of violence, it is not
terrorism; (3) the point of terrorism is not to defeat the enemy but to send a message; (4) the act and the victim usually have symbolic significance; (5) terrorism is the act of sub-state groups, not states; (6) the victims of the violence and the audience the terrorists are trying to reach are not the same; and (7) the most important characteristic of terrorism is the deliberate targeting of civilians.



“The calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.” (U.S. Department of Defense)

“Terrorism constitutes the illegitimate use of force to achieve a political objective when innocent people are targeted.” (Walter Laqueur)

“Terrorism is defined here as the recurrent use or threatened use of politically motivated and clandestinely organised violence, by a group whose aim is to influence a psychological target in order to make it behave in a way which the group desires.” (C. J. M. Drake)



Psychological Perspective – Those who engage in terrorism may do so for purely personal reasons, based on their own psychological state of mind. Their motivation may be nothing more
than hate or the desire for power. For example, in 1893 Auguste Vaillant bombed the French Chamber of Deputies. Prior to his conviction and subsequent execution Vaillant explained his motivation in terms of hate for the middle classes. Vaillant wanted to spoil the sense of economic and social success, by tainting it with his violence.

Ideological Perspective – Ideology is defined as the beliefs, values, and/or principles by which a group identifies its particular aims and goals. Ideology may encompass religion or
political philosophies and programs. Examples of terrorist groups motivated by ideology include the Irish Republican Army (IRA), in Sri Lanka the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and the Bader Meinhoff in Germany. The IRA is motivated by a political program to oust the United Kingdom from Ireland and unite Ireland under one flag. Similarly the LTTE seek to establish a separate state for their people, the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Strategic Perspective – Terrorism is sometimes seen as a logical extension of the failure of politics. When people seek redress of their grievances through government, but fail to win government’s attention to their plight, they may resort to violence. From this viewpoint, terrorism is the result of a logical analysis of the goals and objectives of a group, and their estimate of the likelihood of gaining victory. If victory seems unlikely using more traditional means of opposition, then one might calculate that terrorism is a better option. For example, in South Africa the African National Congress only turned to the use of terrorism after political avenues were explored and failed. Of course, not just individuals may feel let
down by the political process. States may use terrorists in the pursuit of their own strategic interests. States may sponsor terrorist groups, especially when the objectives of the state and the terrorist group are similar. For example, Libya used terrorists to explode a bomb aboard Pan Am 103 flying from London to  New York in 1988, allegedly in response to U.S. and British bombing of Libya.



A totalitarian state makes use of violence as a system of government. But a democracy resorts to it only selectively during a period of crisis, when they  even overlook the international convention that insists on respect for human rights. The gravity of situation is assessed by the government and such situation is prone to possible abuse. The term crisis implies a threat to the regime. In weak democracies also rulers resort to direct or indirect violence to continue in power. In order to stay in power, rulers who had reached a point at which
their follower is disowned them or because a minority, may overturn democracy. The military may help them behind the scenes. Every democratic constitution has provisions to enable the Government to assume special powers. Here again there is danger of abuse of power. Terrorism demoralises the population of a region or state. In some instances however it serves as an integrating factor. However terrorism itself always invokes problems of law and order. Yet it is not capable of disrupting the entire social system. Terrorism is not a revolutionary movement and so far terrorists have not succeeded in fulfilling their aims.



Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967
The UAPA was designed to deal with associations and activities that questioned the territorial integrity of India. The ambit of the Act were strictly limited to meeting the challenge to the territorial integrity of India. The Act was a self-contained code of provisions for declaring secessionist associations as unlawful, adjudication by a tribunal, control of funds and places of work of unlawful associations, penalties for their members etc. The Act has all along been worked holistically as such and is completely within the purview of the central list in the 7th Schedule of the Constitution.

Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1987 (TADA)
The second major act came into force on 3 September 1987 was The Terrorist & Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act 1987 this act had much more stringent provisions then the UAPA and it was specifically designed to deal with terrorist activities in India. When TADA was enacted it came to be challenged before the Apex Court of the country as being unconstitutional. The Supreme Court of India upheld its constitutional validity on the assumption that those entrusted with such draconic statutory powers would act in good faith and for the public good in the case of Kartar Singh vs State of Punjab (1994) 3 SCC 569. However, there were many instances of misuse of power for collateral purposes. The rigorous provisions contained in the statute came to be abused in the hands of law enforcement officials. TADA lapsed in 1995.

The Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999 (MCOCA)
Other major Anti-terrorist law in India is The Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, 1999 which was enforced on 24th April 1999. This law was specifically made to deal with rising organized crime in Maharashtra and especially in Mumbai due to the underworld. For instance, the definition of a terrorist act is far more stretchable in MCOCA than under POTA. MCOCA mention organized crime and what is more, includes `promotion of insurgency’ as a terrorist act. Under the Maharashtra law a person is presumed guilty unless he is able to prove his innocence. MCOCA does not stipulate prosecution of police officers found guilty of its misuse. .

Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002
With the intensification of cross-border terrorism and the continued offensive agenda of Pak ISI targeted at destabilizing India and the post 11th September developments, it became necessary to put in place a special law to deal with terrorist acts. Accordingly, the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 (POTA, 2002) was enacted. The POTA, 2002 clearly defines the terrorist act and the terrorist in Section 3 and grants special powers to the investigating authorities under the Act.

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