Author|Books|Articles/Lectures|Foreign Translations  Ecomonitors Latest News |New Release


Introductory Remarks

 Throughout recorded history, except for a brief interlude in the 20th century, the only law that prevailed during conflicts – internal or external - was the law of the jungle. It brought into the lexicon the well-used aphorism “might is right”. Conflict has always been nasty and brutish, though not always short. The law of Nature, or pure Darwinism: “nature red in tooth and claw”. It is only towards the close of the 19th century, when live reporting on war and the photographs related to the suffering were brought home to the drawing rooms of London and Paris, capitals of the two world powers of the time that a thought was given to the plight of the civilians caught in the turmoil and soldiers during captivity. Before that, the motto that was generally followed was “no quarter expected or given”. The history of the last few thousand years is replete with tales of sacking of cities, laying waste of the countryside, rapine and plunder and, added to that, the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians. It must be clearly understood that in the first half of the 20th Century before the colonial masters were deprived of their colonies, those humanitarian norms were meant primarily for the European or white people. The European nations seldom cared to apply them to the natives of the subject nations in Asia . It is only later after the telegraph connected the world more closely and England and France brought in soldiers from their colonies to fight in European wars – mainly against the Germans - that the humanitarian protocols were extended globally.

The changing nature of war, more so after 9/11, has put paid, in practice, to the humanitarian conventions on which country-specific legislations are based. The humanitarian considerations have generally been allowed to fall by the wayside when framing laws internally in practically all the countries afflicted by terrorism. India remains the exception. The reason for other countries having legislated far more draconian laws is not because the western democracies have turned their back on humanitarian concerns or that their press and civil society have not been vociferous in their opposition to the most draconian features. The reason is that all these states – almost without exception - put greater value on the lives of their own countrymen; a prime sovereign responsibility of any government. They understand that the security agencies that have to bear the brunt of the fight against terror to protect the state and its citizens must not be so disadvantaged by humanitarian concerns as to render them ineffective. The result of this fundamental difference in perception is there for everyone to see. The US and the western democracies have been able to considerably curb (as in the case of the US ) or drastically reduce the potential of the perpetrators of terror after it became a global phenomenon after 9/11. In the case of India the less said the better. The blame for this sorry state of affairs rests directly with the political class – with their perpetual goal scoring against each other at the cost of the security of the nation. The judiciary too must take a portion of the blame. Undoubtedly every now and then grave wrongs are committed in bringing the terrorists and their supporters to book. However, seeing the scale of the operations in a country the size of India , added to its diversity these transgressions represent a percentage that is miniscule. An example will suffice. Take the case of rapes attributed to the Indian Army. If the total number of cases are taken in any calendar year in a force that numbers well over a million, and from that number are deducted the proven false allegations, often orchestrated by organisations supporting the insurgents or terrorists, it would be found that they are much below the number of rapes committed in the capital city of India in one month, which has the highest density of law and order forces. What is more where rape is proven the army acts speedily to bring the perpetrators of the rape to justice. Were one to go by the media hype and the propaganda drummed up by interested parties the world is led to believe that the Indian Army is lax in preventing rapes.      

 The media in India, instead of pointing out the one-sidedness of Amnesty and other such Western organizations hell-bent on India-bashing and more purposefully Indian Army- bashing, faithfully reproduces these condemnations far and wide, providing wider internal dissemination than warranted by the mostly ill-founded or one-sided investigations.


 Simply put the dilemma in enacting laws dealing with terrorism is essentially the need of providing overriding security to the citizens of a state while ensuring that human rights are not thereby violated. This is a dilemma that will keep taxing the minds of jurists, human rights activists, human rights commissions and the states themselves. To put it plainly these exercises in jurisprudence for safeguarding the fundamental freedoms are essentially limited to practising democracies. Much the larger number of nations still function under totalitarian regimes maintaining a façade of democracy. In all such cases where there is neither the true freedom of the ballot nor of the press or the judiciary the concept of human rights and natural justice do not even enter into consideration in any meaningful way. A few of these non-democratic states, take China for example, have been able to keep a lid on internal unrest by giving the go by to the concept of basic freedoms of the individual and through the exercise of extreme state violence. Of course, no terrorism has taken place in Tibet . In the case of minorities the problem in the long-term has been settled by the expedience of demographic swamping as has happened in Tibet and Xinjiang. The dilemma is compounded for India by the fact that the country which has been exposed for the longest period of time to the scourge of terrorism has the least severe laws when compared to other practising democracies like the USA and west European countries, including UK , France and Germany .

A news item in one of the dailies had expressed the frustration rather pithily: “The Key is the confidence with which a society goes after those who assault it: today, as we have noted (above), we cannot investigate cells, we cannot pursue suspects: the hand of security forces are tied in encounters; we can’t stem Bangladeshi infiltrators; we are not able to hang Afzal Guru even after the Supreme Court has confirmed the death sentence for attacking Parliament. The nature of discourse is such that the State apparatus is perpetually on the defensive”. (Unquote).

The press in the western countries while clamouring for greater respect for human rights is conscious of the difficulties faced by the security agencies in trying to keep the country protected from terrorist outrages. The excerpt is from a UK newspaper:

“Equally, however, let us not soar so high above the lethal ground upon which our intelligence agencies have to operate that we make their work impossible. It may satisfy some to watch the spooks squirm. But be careful what you wish for. A nation which turns moodily on those responsible for its security is actually practising nothing more sophisticated than self-harm.

(The Spectator. Reproduced in The Asian Age New Delhi Wednesday 19 Aug, 2009 Page # 7).


“I am strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes. The moral effect should be good... and it would spread a lively terror..." (Winston Churchill commenting on the British use of poison gas against the Iraqis after the First World War)

From the statement just read out, attention is invited to the words ‘the moral effect should be good and it would spread a lively terror’. The words, uttered in the halcyon days of the Empire, as the British ventured into Mesopotamia after the defeat of Turkey in the First World War, provide a glimpse into the mind of the great English statesman, whose sentiment expressed over 80 years ago has apparently lingered. As envisioned by

Churchill, the use of deadly, inhuman weapons – in the present case depleted uranium (DU) - did spread lively terror in Iraq - even if the rest of the world failed to see the ‘moral effect.’

American pilots bombing and strafing, with depleted uranium weapons helpless retreating Iraqi soldiers, who had already surrendered, exclaimed:

"We toasted him…. we hit the jackpot….a turkey shoot….shooting fish in a barrel….basically just sitting ducks… There’s just nothing like it. It’s the biggest Fourth of July show you’ve ever seen, and to see those tanks just ‘boom’, and more stuff just keeps spewing out of them… they just become white hot. It’s wonderful."  (L A Times and Washington Post, February 27, 1991). In the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US dropped 15,000 PGM, 7500 unguided bombs and aimed 750 cruise missiles at Iraq in about 21 days, plus a colossal amount of artillery, tanks and attack helicopter fire, not to mention mortars and small arms fire.

US policies are being increasingly condemned in practically every forum around the world that is not linked in some way to the present US administration, including all those who stand behind the US administration and benefit from its policies. There is hardly any global conference where denunciation of US policies does not take up much of the speaking and discussion time. Such universal opprobrium, which would have made most countries wince, does not seem to have made the slightest difference to the make-up of people at the helm of affairs in Washington . If anything, their resolve seems to have strengthened; the only change has been a change in tactics. For the US government the overriding concern is the protection of their citizenry from further acts of terror. To that extent it has to be conceded that whatever the encroachment on civil liberties the US administrations have successfully ensured that not a single act of terror has taken place on their soil after 9/11/2007, in spite of the fact that the USA remains the most targeted nation for the jihadist forces worldwide.

Across the border, Canadian Defence Chief General Rick Hillier was said to have declared of the Canadian Forces, “We are not the Public Service of Canada, we are not just another department, we are the Canadian Forces and our job is to be able to kill people.” This is a complete turnabout in military doctrine from the days when Canadian forces were sent abroad ostensibly to prevent the killing of people.”

The war on terror is leading to market forces now dominating the military scene, blurring the distinction between private and public armies, even countries, as in Iraq and Afghanistan . Wherever there is a shortfall in regular soldiers, private security agencies have been filling the gap. Nevertheless, they may still fall short of expectations when confronting stateless shadowy persons. Not being able to pin down the enemy or seize the initiative from the adversary results in more savage bombing and destruction of the infrastructure. 

The shadowy aspects of warfare have taken a frightening dimension. According to a very senior Indian diplomat, the CIA publicly acknowledged, for a Canadian television documentary, that they trained the Khalistani bombers, who planted the bombs on Kanishka and the second Air India flight to Japan at the request of Pakistan 's ISI. The training was provided at an official CIA facility in the US itself. When challenged on its morality, they retorted: "some people's terrorists are other people's freedom fighters". The documentary film was never actually shown, but the Government of India reportedly managed to acquire a copy. The Canadians had steadfastly declined to co-operate with India on the arrest of the mass murderers, presumably at the behest of the CIA, until 9/11.

Until that moment, they constantly raised technical objections, refusing to accept wiretaps on the grounds that they required prior judicial authorisation. There are many who wonder whether the US clandestine agencies do not still support some Pakistani actions, including terror, murder and rape.

On January 25, 2002, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, who is now America’s Attorney General, sent a Memorandum to President Bush in which he wrote, “The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians.” 

The way the United States fights is a little different from other people. We have this document called the Constitution, and it governs everything we do in the United States – including the way the military fights. (Maj. Gen. Thomas Fiscus, Judge Advocate General of the US Air Force in an interview with the electronic edition of Stars & Stripes).

Whereas Muslim states all over almost never hesitate to enter mosques to shoot terrorists hiding inside, be it Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or other countries, in India the security forces are obliged to get their own men killed so that the Courts do not pass strictures on them. In fact, such is the extreme nature of what appears to be the bias of the courts that several years ago in Kashmir when the security forces had surrounded a mosque where insurgents were holed up the court directed that food be carried in for them. The human rights of security forces in India are invariably sacrificed at the altar of ‘appearing to more fair than any other nation in the world’. The result is that known terrorists are routinely released for want of insufficient evidence. The caption on the front page of The Indian Express datelined New Delhi August 21, 2009 confirms the super fairness syndrome. The caption reads “Two years in prison, top Hizbul man walks free, red faces in J&K”. The point is that the courts have to take note that in recapturing the individual several more personnel of the security forces may have to lay down their lives. Even the political leaders seem to be oblivious of the need to protect the lives of Indian soldiers. In Assam the ULFA was twice brought to the verge of extinction in ‘Operation Bajrang’ and ‘Operation Rhino’.

On both occasions the Indian Army was prevented from delivering the coup de grace so that politicians could get into the act of showing to the world their magnanimity and statesmanship. More recently, when a battalion of ULFA was surrounded by the Indian Army similar intervention took place. ULFA was again given breathing space to regroup so that more civilians could be killed; the army would again face a rearmed ULFA taking a heavier toll of Indian soldiers. The question must be asked as to whose side are these leaders on?   

                                                            DEALING WITH TERRORISM

 Disproportionality Factor

The thesis on the "Disproportionality Factor" was first unveiled a few years ago at a keynote presentation at the Technical University of Eindhoven in The Netherlands. It was published and circulated by the university. Details on site

In taped interviews to an Afghan interrogator, two Afghans and three Pakistanis who were among 21 people arrested earlier in 2006 described their roles in the attacks, which killed at least 70 people, most of them Afghan civilians but also international peacekeepers, a Canadian diplomat and a dozen Afghan police officers and soldiers. In the tape, the men described a fairly low-budget network that begins with the recruitment of young bombers in the sprawling Pakistani port city of Karachi . The bombers are moved to safe houses in the border towns of Quetta and Chaman, and then transferred into Afghanistan , where they are provided with cars and explosives and sent out to find a target. {HT World, Thursday, February 16, 2006, Page 12. (The New York Times), Pak Blind Eye to Afghan bombings}

  Disproportionality works against the forces tackling terrorism, especially terrorism of the type taken up by radical Islamists in several countries. By now most people are fairly well acquainted with the terror breeding facilities that were set up in Pakistan and Afghanistan right up to the allied invasion of Afghanistan , following the 11/9/2001 attacks on the USA . While the Jihad factories might have collapsed in Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul in October 2001, there was hardly any let up in selected areas of Pakistan , which continue to churn out fanatical, zombie-like students in large numbers in their madrassas. The numbers of potential Jihadis can now be reckoned in the hundreds of thousands, if not in the millions, because these institutions have since spread to many other parts of the subcontinent and beyond.

The streamlined production facilities for churning out young, radicalized, possibly misanthropic students in large numbers is not a costly exercise seeing the ready availability of young recruits from families, which although impoverished, produce children in large numbers. The average size of such families being six or seven, they are ever ready to send one, two or more children to the madrassas where they are clothed, fed and taught elementary counting besides writing in Urdu and Arabic in order to learn the Quran by rote. Not all of the products coming out of these madrassas would make high caliber terrorists. After very strict weeding out even if two or three were to be found fit for undertaking the type of terrorist strikes, including suicide missions that the world has come to dread the final count would still be impressive. With variations for time, place, or the country where Jihad factories are located the cost of training one potential terrorist is not likely to exceed forty thousand rupees, especially in the poorer districts of Pakistan . This works out to less than US $ 1000 per recruit at the production site. Thereafter, translocation to other countries and proper kitting out for the task could add to the cost by several hundred or even a few thousand dollars. Except for very exceptional cases the total cost would not exceed US $5000.

Taking the case now of the countries that are involved in the battle against global terrorism it will be seen that as compared to the training of an average Jihadi for carrying out terrorism acts the cost of training the average soldier involved in combating this menace would be far higher. In the case of the armies of most of the countries in Asia, for example India , The Philippines or Indonesia it could be a factor of 10 or 20. That is to say that if the cost of training an average Jihadi for undertaking terror missions works out to $5000, the cost of training an average combatant in the countries mentioned could work out to between 50,000 to 100,000 US dollars. In the case of the USA and some of the western democracies, however, the cost increase could be a factor between 50 and 100, especially when training of Special Forces is taken into account. These cost differentials continue even for persons rendered hors de combat. To elaborate, an injured Jihadi would be taken clandestinely to some sympathetic medical practitioner and operated upon in the most rudimentary fashion. In case of death the burial costs would be minimal. Terminal benefits to the family of the deceased would be a few hundred thousand rupees, equivalent to $4000 approximately. For impoverished families in Pakistan , that offer up their children for such activities even half that amount would be considered a windfall.

  Match this amount of approximately $4,000 in case of injury or death for the Jihadi with the cost that would be incurred for a US soldier who becomes a casualty. For serious injuries the cost of evacuation (normally by helicopter) to an advanced field hospital and subsequently to a facility in Europe or USA , plus the cost of treatment would work out to a differential factor upward of 1,000. For serious injuries or death the pensionary and terminal benefits would be an order of magnitude higher than those in the case of an injured or dying Jihadi.

  The next item to be considered in this category is the cost of maintaining a Jihadi in the field as compared to a US or western soldier. Taking the Afghanistan theatre the cost of maintaining a Jihadi in the field for one year would seldom go beyond $1000, whereas the cost of maintaining a western soldier for the same period would go up by a factor of about 100 or so depending upon the location of the soldier or his unit. Here again, Special Forces come into a separate category.

So far the comparisons worked out related only to the training and deployment of the adversaries. We now have to consider the cost differential relating to combat scenarios.

Combat Scenarios

   We move next to the cost evaluation disparities in ‘live’ engagements between terrorist teams and the US or NATO forces combating them. The disparity resulting from suicide missions will be taken separately at the end. Sporadic engagements between Jihadi type elements and the US forces and allies are taking place practically every day in Afghanistan . A typical incident could take any of the following forms: an IED being set off along a route where the US or International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) teams have to pass; a mortar attack at an installation or small-sized post; ambush; or hit and run operations launched from terrain that would be difficult to negotiate by foreign forces. The difficulty in terrain negotiation in mountainous country stems both from lack of the type of familiarity that local inhabitants have as also from the type of equipment used by foreign forces. In a typical ambush or hit and run operation a handful of Jihadis fire a few rockets and mortar rounds on a US convoy or position. The latter could be a temporary halting place or post occupied by a platoon-sized force. The initiative almost invariably being with the attacker (the regrouped Taliban) the opening shots in the form of various type of Small Arms (SA) would be fired from well-selected positions on the mountainside overlooking the convoy or the post. By now the retaliation procedure having also been perfected to a fine art by the US forces, the retaliation is swift. There is immediate fire in very heavy volumes by the post or the convoy attacked with integral weapons. Simultaneously the call goes out for armed helicopters and aircraft strikes. Without going into further details, tabulation can be made of the cost of the exchange to the two sides. In the case of the attackers, surprise being with the attackers, few, if any casualties would be suffered by them, because after letting off their initial volleys the Taliban escape to a more sheltered position or simply melt away. The cost of the attack on US forces to the Taliban would not normally exceed $100. It must be noted here that there is no dearth of arms and ammunition of all types in Afghanistan . Weapons and munitions had been dumped or sent in by the Russians, Americans, Iranians and the Pakistanis in huge quantities over the years. Even now the pipeline in manpower and war-materiel from Pakistan is intact, Pakistan ’s frontline status in the war on terrorism notwithstanding. The cost of response to even the most elementary form of attack by a handful of Taliban fighters on a US convoy or post could exceed several million dollars.

The retaliatory US exchange would normally include the following: thousands of rounds of automatic fire, dozens of rounds of rocket and mortar fire, several rounds of tank fire, hundreds of rounds of artillery fire, plus munitions and missiles unleashed from the attack helicopters, and bombs and munitions dropped by aircraft. To this not inconsiderable fire power of all types that would have been expended has to be added the fuel cost for the helicopters and aircraft called in for close support. Even without taking into consideration personnel or vehicle casualties that may have resulted in the US force - generally caught off guard, the initiative being with the enemy - the cost disparity might work out to about one is to one or several million. It could become much higher should some persons become casualties or if a tank or helicopter were to be destroyed.

  Suicide missions belong to a separate category for several reasons. To begin with retaliatory fire is neither possible in most cases nor would it be required because the target self-destructs along with whatever other carnage that might have taken place by way of the number of people killed or wounded and the other damage resulting from the detonations caused by the suicide bomber.

   The analysis given above clearly brings out that over a period of time the elements indulging in terror attacks against US and Western forces and more recently against Indian forces (especially 26/11) are able to extract phenomenal costs from their

adversaries, which purely in US dollar terms result in adverse ratios of one is to several million and often tens of millions. Of late the number of incidents, which were already high in Iraq , increased in Afghanistan and India as well. Besides manpower losses which the Western democracies can ill afford, and their opponents afford ad infinitum, the financial bleeding that takes place is something that the US and its allies and India can ignore only at their peril. It does not mean that technological superiority is given the go by. It indicates, however, a change in military as well as geopolitical strategy. At the operational level it requires a radical re-think in local level initiatives and the tactics adopted by US forces and their allies in the field in Afghanistan . The same is applicable to India .

  It should not be forgotten that every time an allied soldier is killed the chances are that he or she would have been the only child of its parents or one of two siblings. In the case of the Taliban fighter who is killed, he is most likely to be one of several children, possibly one out of 6, 7, 8 or even 10 or 12. Something similar is happening with the Indian Army. Increasingly the officers killed in fighting the intruders are the only child or one of two siblings. Increasingly the soldiers in the Indian Army come from small-sized nuclear families. It is an aspect that is generally lost sight of: the heightened emotional devastation of families of US and NATO forces back home whose wards are killed in Afghanistan .  

In examining disproportionality ratios between the dispensers of global terror and the forces deployed to counter them worldwide, added security costs that have gone up considerably in several domains have to be factored. These relate to heightened surveillance at airports, railways and bus terminus, ports and dockyards, nuclear plants, vital bridges and installations, water supplies and so many other areas of enhanced vulnerability for civilian populations. Around the world, increased security has been provided to persons considered vulnerable to targeting by terrorists or their agents. Many businesses have seen their expenses go up considerably due to increased insurance costs. The case of airlines and shipping lines has been well documented. If all the costs that have gone up due to terror strikes, especially after 9/11 and 26/11 are taken together the total cost worldwide could conceivably run into tens of billions of dollars, possibly exceeding hundred billion dollars annually. It has also to be noted that these are recurring costs that are likely to continue till well into the future. Putting it all together the adverse ratios that were already very high for governments and security forces dealing with terrorists go up by several orders of magnitude, if the entire spectrum of enhanced global security is taken into account. Terrorists win on two counts: massive damage to civilians and property by the acts of terror plus the disproportionality alluded to in the earlier paragraphs.

Breaking the Definitional Impasse

 Inhumanity will henceforth become the order of the day. The advent of the machine on one hand and fanaticized jehadi-type terrorists on the other, have made it possible to evade reciprocity and responsibility. Collateral damage is being increasingly accepted as a consequence. A feature that is becoming common to both terrorism and

counter terrorism is increased violence. Violence in the new wave terrorism, and its riposte in the form of counter terrorism, is marked by the recourse to methods that enhance the lethality of the vectors to increase casualties. The violence inflicted upon unsuspecting people by terrorists may appear to be random in nature – as the throwing of a grenade in a market place. It is, however, precise to the extent that the terrorist is able to decide on where and when to cause the explosion for maximum effect. Precision is, in fact, the hallmark of the most sophisticated terrorist operations. The targeting of the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon are testimony to it. The precision of the attack based entirely on human aptitude, devoid of any precision guided munitions, was no less sophisticated than the super precision aids available to the most technically advanced nation in the world. The US retaliation in Afghanistan was also based on precision targeting, notwithstanding the collateral damage in the initial phase of retaliation. Therefore, if precision is to become the hallmark, including when the terrorists choose the precision mode of attack, it could have an important bearing on the fight against terrorism in the years ahead.

People around the world were horrified at the collateral damage that took place in the wake of the American intervention in Afghanistan ; and which continues to take place each time the Israeli punitive thrusts are launched into Gaza and the West Bank . Regardless of the concern expressed around the world by ordinary people not directly involved in the conflict the fact remains that heavy collateral damage will hereafter become the norm in dealing with shadowy organisations that send forth suicide bombers to cause terror and mayhem amongst innocent civilians. Their very anonymity and ability to merge back into the crowd from which they emerge to visit death and destruction on the targeted communities makes it inevitable that whatever the form of retaliation collateral damage becomes an operative condition when dealing with organisations that train people for such operations. It is the latter who are equally responsible for the collateral damage that is visited upon their communities due to the retaliation carried out by the other side. Some would go so far as to say that they bear prime responsibility to the extent that it could constitute deliberate provocation for inducing massive retaliation of a type that would further alienate the population against a strong foe.  

There are as many dimensions to terrorism as there are for the causes of terrorism. Like in the case of national security where dimensions other than the military - like economic strength, internal cohesion, governance modes, regional and international environment and so on  - have to be taken into account, similarly the term terrorism has loosely come to embrace in people’s minds other forms like state terrorism and economic terrorism. The latter, it is said, is being perpetrated by the haves on the have-nots and, more importantly, by the Western nations on the developing nations. There is merit in these arguments. However, in accepting the merit of the argument care has to be taken that it does not obfuscate the issue to the extent that the fight against global terrorism, as manifested in the September 11 attacks or the attack on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi December 13, 2001 and Mumbai in November 2008 (26/11) is compromised thereby.

There is no doubt that millions around the world have died of starvation and hunger due to natural calamities as also manmade economic policies – at the national as well as global levels; resulting in many more deaths and retarded growth than all the acts of terrorism put together. It is, however, not the same thing as wanton violence against innocent civilians for pursuing political ends. Direct, palpable violence leading to death and destruction due to the wantonness and callousness of the act attributable to a set of individuals cannot be bracketed with the suffering endured by the deprived sections of society due to policy decisions taken by governments over a period of time, especially if the governments happen to be elected governments functioning under democratic dispensations. Such policies may become the cause of social unrest, which in turn could lead to terrorism as the means to effecting changes in these policies. Nevertheless, they do not justify terror induced through acts of violence on civilians and innocent bystanders.

While enacting legislation to deal with acts of terrorism an insuperable problem to date has been the lack of acceptability of common definition of terrorism, at the national and the global level. This writer had attempted to overcome this lacuna by constructing a shunt around the definitional impasse because it would be virtually impossible to get unanimity on this count, not only at the international level but within the country as well. How does one explain that while a certain type of legislation to deal with security threats has been enacted in one state and sanctioned by the government and signed into law by the President, it continues to be rejected when sent to the Centre for ratification by another state ( Gujarat ). How can the Supreme Court remain a silent bystander to such obvious political discord between parties, as they lose sight of the overriding concern for national security. The book Dealing with Global Terrorism: The Way Forward has a chapter ‘Finding a Way Through the Definitional Labyrinth’. It could be examined by the legislative bodies in the country in order to give greater teeth to the law enforcement agencies for dealing with a menace that seems to grow worse with each passing year.   

The Judicial Perspective

   One can begin by posing a simple question to the eminent justices of the Supreme Court and the High Courts. The Maoists in the red belt have been using IED and planting land mines to blow up vehicles. They have been indulging in other acts of terror. Similarly, the jihadis from across the border and their affiliates within the country have indulged in equally gruesome acts. While the laws of the land do not differentiate between the first category and the second should the yardstick for dealing with them be the same. This is a question that merits consideration. When the laws are applied to the perpetrators of these crimes there may not be any great differentiation on the face of it. However, there is a fundamental difference. The Maoists in the red belt are home grown opponents who have an alternative vision for the development of the adivasis and backward classes on whose behalf they have taken up an armed struggle against the state, essentially the government of the day. They would like to bring about a change in government through the bullet, if necessary. They are not anti-India per se. They do not have any desire to see India destroyed. In the case of the jihadis their motto has been ‘death to the Hindus and non-believers, i.e., Jews and Christians. They seek the destruction or diminishment of India . Therefore, when dealing with these two categories of violators the difference in their motivation should not be lost sight of. There can be grounds for leniency in the category falling under the Maoist umbrella. The aspect of human rights might find some favour in this category. On the other hand human rights cannot be a major consideration for elements whose raison d’etre is the killing of kafirs and the destruction of the Indian state.      

Inaction, passive resistance, or waiting for something to happen before retaliating, even when sufficient instances of the deadly nature of the peril have already come to light allows the enemies of society to choose their moment, i.e. time, place and the target. It is tantamount to perpetually ceding the initiative. When the former have all the time in the world to choose the target and the time and place for striking, the chances are that they would be able to succeed, irrespective of the security measures adopted.

Therefore, the call for preventive action will become more persistent in one state after another that is being subjected to terrorist attacks, especially when these attacks are motivated by religious differences on a global scale, as opposed to limited actions confined to a particular region or between one state and its neighbouring state.


Whatever the transformation in recent years and regardless of the polarization between religions and ethnic divides that is taking place, humaneness as the deeper instinct prevails more in Indian society than in many other societies. For example, the type of mass exterminations which were carried out during the Muslim invasions in many parts of Asia and during the era of the Christian colonization of the world, have never been attributed to Indian expansionism. Even the atrocities attributed to Indian security forces pail in comparison when compared to the scale of the atrocities committed by the armed forces of other nations. Any number of examples can be given: Pakistan, in East Bengal where the Pakistan army slaughtered over a million people and raped half a million women, all of them Pakistani citizens since East Bengal was still a province of Pakistan when these atrocities were committed; the US excesses in Vietnam; the Chinese excesses in Xinjiang and Tibet; and so on. The legislators and the judiciary in India would be well advised to keep in mind that the enactment of laws and their implementation should not impair the effectiveness of the very instruments of the state whose primary function is to safeguard the security of the country and its people.

(Talk delivered by Maj.Gen (rtd) Vinod Saighal at the India International Centre on August 22, 2009)

Contact Us Terms & Conditions Privacy Policy FAQ       site development and maintained by activa softech