Terrorism, a threat to peace

What is Terrorism?

Terrorism meaning: While Member-States of the United Nations have not arrived at a consensus regarding the definition of terrorism; the UN’s ‘academic consensus definition’ given by Alex P. Schmid is perhaps the most widely accepted one.

According to him, 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 – in contrast to assassination – the direct targets of violence are not the main targets.

The short legal definition proposed by Schmid to the United Nations Crime Branch (1992) is that

Act of Terrorism = Peacetime Equivalent of War Crime.

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According to a former UN Secretary-General, terrorism is “any act meant to injure or kill the civilians and the non-combatants, to intimidate a population, a government, or an organization and incite them to commit an act against the perpetrators or on the contrary stop them from doing so”.

Terrorism in India

Terrorism as an offense does not figure in the Indian Penal Code of 1860 as amended from time to time.

In India, the first special law which attempted to define terrorism was the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, of 1987, which was followed by the Prevention of Terrorism Act, of 2002 (POTA).

With the repeal of the latter in 2004, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, of 1967 was amended to include the definition of a ‘terrorist act’.

Terrorism UPSC: Types of Terrorism in India

Terrorists are motivated by different goals and objectives. Depending on the objectives of the group/groups, the nature of terrorism also differs.

The major types of terrorist operations commonly identified globally include the following types.

Ethno-Nationalist Terrorism

Ethnic terrorism can be defined as deliberate violence by a subnational ethnic group to advance its cause.

Such violence usually focuses either on the creation of a separate State or on the elevation of the status of one ethnic group over others.

Terrorism motivated by ethno-nationalist and separatist aspirations became prominent only after the Second World War and dominated the terrorist agenda around the world for more than 50 years until religious terrorism came to occupy the center stage.

Examples: Tamil Nationalist groups in Sri Lanka and insurgent groups in Northeast India are examples of ethno- nationalist terrorist activities.

Religious Terrorism

Present-day terrorist activities around the world are motivated largely by religious imperatives.

The practitioners of terrorism motivated either in whole or in part by a religious imperative consider violence as a divine duty or a sacramental act.

It embraces different means of legitimization and justification compared to other terrorist groups, and these distinguishing factors make religious terrorism more destructive.

Ideology Oriented Terrorism

Left-wing Terrorism

Leftist ideologies believe that all the existing social relations and state structures in the capitalist society are exploitative and a revolutionary change through violent means is essential for a just society.

The ideological basis was provided by the writings of Marx and Engels, besides the later communists like Lenin and Mao Tse-tung (Mao Zedong).

Examples: Maoist groups in India and Nepal

Right-wing Terrorism

Right-wing groups seek to maintain the status quo or to return to some past situation that they feel is being forgotten today and should have been conserved.

Right-wing groups may force the government to acquire territory or to intervene to protect the rights of an ‘oppressed’ minority in a neighboring country (For example the Nazi party in Germany).

Sometimes, groups practicing rightist ideologies might assume ethnic/racist character.

Violence against migrant communities also comes under this category of terrorist violence.

Moreover, religion can play a supportive role in rightist violence.

Example: Nazism in Germany, Fascists in Italy.

State-sponsored Terrorism

State-sponsored terrorism, along with religious terrorism, has considerably altered the nature of terrorist activities around the world.

It is initiated to obtain certain clearly defined foreign policy objectives rather than grabbing media attention or targeting the potential audience, thus making it distinctive from other types of terrorism.

In a cost-benefit analysis, state-sponsored terrorism is the most effective means of terrorism from the perspective of the perpetrator.

State-sponsored terrorism was widely employed in Central Asia in the nineteenth century.

Russians supported their fellow Slavs in the Balkans.

Similarly, Bulgaria used the Macedonian revolutionary terrorists against Yugoslavia after World War I.

The Western powers too, under the auspices of the US, supported all kinds of nationalist and anti-communist rebels throughout the Cold War.

India has been facing the problem of state-sponsored terrorism from Pakistan since its Independence.


Narco-terrorism has been defined as the attempt by narcotics traffickers to influence the policies of the Government by systematic threat or use of violence.

Narco-terrorism combines two criminal activities: drug trafficking and terrorist violence.

Narco-terrorism is motivated mainly by economic reasons as it helps terrorist organizations raise huge sums of money with minimum cost for their activities, or even minimum media attention.

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