Whither Terrorism? 28
What is terrorism to one, may be a freedom struggle for a noble cause to another.
What is terrorism for one may be a
freedom struggle for another.
Terrorism has received the widest publicity since the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and the global war on terror that America launched against Al Qaeda. But terrorism, per se, has been a much older phenomenon, used as an expression of revolt against real or perceived injustice - principally, political or economic.
Today, India, Pakistan and the Middle East – especially Iraq, are its hotbeds but Britain and America, as well, live under its shadow. Al Qaeda has proved to be a hydra for the United States. President Obama may have defeated it in Afghanistan but it has been reborn in Yemen and the Maghreb. In India there are the Naxalites and the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). The former is fighting against economic exploitation of major Indian corporations and local corrupt officials. The latter seeks to establish a sovereign Assam through an armed struggle.
In Pakistan, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is responsible for many terrorist activities including attacks on military installations and causing much loss of life. The demands for which it is fighting with the state include that Pakistan withdraw its support to the US war against Taliban and enforce Sharia in the country. Another outfit in the recent past was the LTTE in Sri Lanka. It almost held the country to ransom from 1983 to 2009. Among its most significant terrorist acts were the assassination of Sri Lankan president Premadasa and India’s ex-prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi.
Still earlier, there was the Baader Meinhoff Gang, also known as the Red Army Faction ( RAF) in West Germany and the Red Brigade in Italy. Founded in 1970, the RAF was the country’s most prominent leftwing militant <http://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/Terrorist> group. It engaged in armed resistance against the state was deemed to be fascist. In almost thirty years of its activities, it was involved in numerous terrorist acts. The Gang’s Revolutionary Cell (Revolutionäre Zellen, RZ), was held responsible for “296 bomb attacks and arson and other attacks between 1973 and 1995.”
Launched at about the same
time, the Red Brigade was another leftist group that sought to create a “revolutionary” state through armed struggle and take Italy out of NATO. In the process it carried out numerous terrorist activities, including the assassination of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) was yet another terrorist organization responsible for more than sixty terrorist attacks in London between 1971 and 2010, planting bombs all over the place that killed people at all places from pubs and post offices to the House of Parliament.
Going back in time, there were Jewish and Indian terrorist organizations as well. Before Israel’s emergence as a state, the Jews had formed two militant organizations - the Irgun in 1931 and the Stern Gang or Lehi, in 1940, when Britain governed Palestine under its League of Nations mandate. They attacked British military and civil personnel. Two operations for which the Irgun earned the worst notoriety were the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on 22 July 1946 and the horrible Deir Yassin massacre. The latter was carried out together with the Stern Gang on 9 April 1948. The Stern Gang or Lehi also repeatedly attacked British personnel not only in Palestine but also beyond its borders. Two of its members assassinated Lord Moyne, the British minister of state in the Middle East, in Cairo in November 1944. Later, the Stern Gang attacked airfields, railway yards and other strategic installations in Palestine. Lehi also assassinated United Nations mediator Folke Bernadotte, for which the United Nations Security Council called the assassins “a criminal group of terrorists.”
In India Jugantar and Anushilon were formed to resist the partition of Bengal in 1905 and promote the cause of India’s independence through violent means. Young men and women, imbibed with the passion of liberty from the British Raj, attacked and killed British officers. Benoy Basu, Dinesh Gupta and Badal Gupta killed Bengal’s Inspector General of Police, Lowman and the IG Prisons, Col. Simpson, in a daring raid into the Writers’ Building that housed the Bengal secretariat. Khudi Ram Bose, a young lad from Midnapore in Bengal, went to Muzaffarpur in Bihar to kill Kingsford, a British judge. By mistake he killed the family of a local British lawyer, Mr. Kennedy. He was only 18 years, 7 months and 11 days old when he was hanged.
That was the first phase. In the second phase of revolutionary terrorism (1929 to 1934), Bhagat Singh assassinated John Saunders, a British police officer (1928). Surya Sen carried out the Chittagong Armoury raid in 1930. Lethal attacks were made on the governors of Bengal – Sir John Anderson in 1932 and Sir Stanley Jackson in 1934, respectively. In the latter case, it was Bina Das, a student of the Calcutta University, who fired the pistol that Jackson parried.
But what is terrorism for one may be a noble cause for the other. The Irgun and Lehi were terrorists for the British. Yet Irgun was the political predecessor to the Likud Party, now represented by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His father, Prime Minister Menachem Begin was also an Irgun leader and Yitzhak Shamir, another Israeli prime minister was a leader of Lehi. In 1980, Israel instituted a military decoration as “award for activity in the struggle for the establishment of Israel,” “the Lehi ribbon” and, in India, likewise, the “so-called” terrorists are extolled as national heroes and martyrs. .
However, terrorism seems to cease when either the organization has lost its steam (Baader Minhoff), or is successfully put down by police action ( Red Brigade, Indian revolutionary actors), or by military force (LTTE), or as a result of dialogue (IRA), or when it achieves its purpose (Irgun, Lehi).
As to the future, in India, it may continue. In Pakistan it may cease if Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s policy of a dialogue with TTP and punitive action as an alternative, is successful.
As to the United States it is going to remain pitted with Al Qaeda for some time because it is not in a mood to consider any alternative to defeating its bête noire.