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Terrorism: Weapon of the Weak?

P.R. Chari

By Dilip Hiro
Harper Collins, New Delhi, 2011, pp. xxviii + 443, Rs.699.00

By Tamara Herath
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2012, pp. xii + 242, Rs.595.00


A fallacy has gained currency that terrorism is a post 9/11 phenomenon. Undoubtedly, that catastrophic event raised its profile, leading to a flood of studies on this major threat to international and national security. But, terrorism has existed throughout history, marked by political assassinations, and covert acts of individual and collective violence. Terrorism is embedded in civil uprisings; it is impelled by popular discontent directed against an unresponsive State, but also against society, communities and groups. Terrorism is the weapon of the weak against the strong. Political terrorism has long been recognized as a theatre designed to convey a message to the spectators about the cause, macabre as this may sound. India’s freedom struggle, incidentally, had an extremist dimension that coexisted uneasily alongside Gandhi’s strategy of nonviolence and noncooperation. Finally, terrorism has several manifestations and many variants categorized as political, but also religious, revenge, millenarian, and catastrophic terrorism that envisage weapons of mass destruction being used to achieve the terrorist objective. The two books under review here are concerned with specific aspects of this phenomenon. The larger study by Dilip Hiro deals with the complex issue of jihad. It means ‘effort’ according to the author, but ‘struggle’ according to others, which illustrates better that true jihad is fought within the individual to resist temptation and remain a true votary of Islam. But, jihad is better understood by its popular meaning, which denotes the struggle being waged by believers to advance the cause of Islam and counter dangers to its pristine purity. The chapters in this book can be clustered under the various country heads in South Asia relating to the Taliban, Kashmir, Islamic fundamentalism and the struggle against terrorism. Some avoidable errors have occurred in the beginning where the author notes that the India-Pakistan border confrontation crisis began in May 2002 following a militant attack on military residential quarters (p.xix). Actually, it was triggered by the militant attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001. Sloppy copyediting is indicated. The author also commits the common error of conflating the Kashmir problem with Valley issues, and coming to large conclusions like: ‘Public opinion in Indian Kashmir has turned increasingly against Delhi’ (p. xix). His further assertion that 66 per cent of the population in the Valley want ‘complete freedom to entire Jammu and Kashmir as a new country’ (p. 358) fails to notice that the Jammu and Ladakh sub-regions in the state are ...

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