Terrorism: A threat to humanity

Terrorism. Better minds have tried and failed to define terrorism. Indian government uses the following working definition of terrorism, same as one widely used by Western nations as well as the United Nations, proposed by Schmid and Jongman in 1988 so, let’s stick only to this.

“Terrorism is an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by (semi-) clandestine individual, group or state actors, for idiosyncratic, criminal or political reasons, whereby the direct targets of violence are not the main targets. The immediate human victims of violence are generally chosen randomly (targets of opportunity) or selectively (representative or symbolic targets) from a target population, and serve as message generators. Threat and violence-based communication processes between terrorist organization, victims, and main targets are used to manipulate the main target (audience(s)), turning it into a target of terror, a target of demands, or a target of attention, depending on whether intimidation, coercion, or propaganda is primarily sought.”

        — Alex Schmid and Albert Jongman

India has been a victim of terrorism since August 2, 1984 (Meenambakkam bomb blast, Chennai), and the recent attack was on July 11, 2017 (The Amarnath yatra attack in Anantnag, in Jammu & Kashmir). Today, India has a buffet of terrorist activities to deal with. Looking at the multiple challenges India faces, as per the Youth Survey conducted in 2016, terrorism is the second biggest challenge. But, for the entire world, it is the biggest challenge faced by mankind.

A major threat to humanity:

There are several reasons, why we think it is a major threat to humanity and world peace. But, what I think is major reason, is “Unemployment”

“The link between unemployment and terrorism”

I would like to tell a story about a small town kid. He lives in a small village. Drought drives the small village into poverty and to the brink of starvation. With nothing left for him there, he leaves for the big city, the capital of a state. When he arrives, there are no opportunities, no jobs, no way forward. He ends up living in a tent on the outskirts of a city. Maybe a year passes, nothing. One day, he’s approached by a gentleman who offers to take him to lunch, then to dinner, to breakfast. He meets this dynamic group of people, and they give him a break. He’s given a bit of money to buy himself some new clothes, money to send back home to his family. He is introduced to this young woman. He eventually gets married. He starts this new life. He has a purpose in life.

One beautiful day, under an azure blue sky, a car bomb goes off. That small-town kid with the big city dreams was the suicide bomber, and that dynamic group of people was, a terrorist organization linked to al Qaeda.

So how does the story of a small town kid just trying to make it big in the city end up with him blowing himself up? He was waiting. He was waiting for an opportunity, waiting to begin his future, waiting for a way forward, and this was the first thing that came along. This was the first thing that pulled him out of what we call waithood.

This story repeats itself in urban centers around the world. Now, why India should be worried most about this?

India is facing unemployment since last several years now. And as per the United Nations report, the unemployment rate in India is 3.4 % for 2017-18. As much as we like to call us as one of the youngest nations in the world, we need to think about this young population who are doing nothing but wait. The above story can be of anyone from our young society. In fact, the reports have shown that there has been a huge contribution to population itself for the most of the attacks.

Have we ever thought about, what these terrorist groups do when they are not shooting? These groups also do something else: they build stronger bonds with the population by investing in social services. They build schools, they run hospitals, they set up vocational-training programs or micro-loan programs. Terrorist groups also seek to win the population over by offering something that the government is not providing: safety and security. Unfortunately, in most of the cases, the provision of security came at an unbearably high price for the population. But in general, providing social services fills a gap, a governance gap left by the government and allows these groups to increase their strength and their power.

Filling that governance gap is the biggest challenge ahead of us. This also matters very much for peacemaking and peacebuilding in Border States which are always the first victims of terrorist attacks. To achieve these objectives, what we need is a long-term investment in filling that security gap, in filling that governance gap that allowed these groups to thrive in the first place.


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