TODAY -

Revolution's Violent Spills-Over versus Terrorism

JC Sanasam *

Bomb blast at Moirangkhom, near Hicham Yaicham Pat, Imphal at around 6:20 am :: 30 October 2013
Bomb blast at Moirangkhom, near Hicham Yaicham Pat, Imphal on 30 October 2013 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam



Definitions of terrorism vary. According to the US Department of State terrorism is '... premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents usually intended to influence an audience.'

Sporadic violent eruptions in Manipur and the North East have been lasting more than half a century now; may not be as heavy a toll yet as were seen in Northern Ireland for twenty years, East Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan, 11/9 incident in New York, bomb explosions in Oklahoma City or elsewhere in the recent history. However, it is time for the social scientists, psychologists and people related to it of this state or this region to come out and study it to the depths, and let it be known to the public in general.

Charles DiMaggio and Sandro Galea put forth a very meaningful paper on the aftermaths of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings and attacks of September 11, 2001 revealing the mental health and behavioural consequences of the acts of terrorism that surfaced during the days following these incidents.

Terrorism is psychological warfare, and behavioural disturbance is the primary intent of terrorists. Lenin stated 'The object of terrorism is to terrorise.' Long ago in the 4th century before Christian era Sun Tzu had declaimed, 'Kill one to terrorise ten thousand.'

Definitions of terrorism vary. According to the US Department of State terrorism is ' premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents usually intended to influence an audience.' Public health practitioners propose a broader definition, 'The intentional use of violence real or threatened against one or more non-combatants and/or those services essential for or protective of their health, resulting in adverse health effects in those immediately affected and their community, ranging from a loss of well-being or security to injury, illness, or death.'

None of these definitions is good enough to capture the sense of chilling brutality usually associated with what is commonly known as terrorism. There was an evocative description of terrorist violence in Northern Ireland, 'One atrocity provoked another, equally inhumane and gruesome, and the whole 20-year history got pockmarked by some particular incidents of quite indescribable cruelty as man has visited his inhumanity upon his fellowmen in some utterly barbaric ways.' Prior to 1964, Northern Ireland was 'one of the most peaceful societies in Europe', with one murder reported in Belfast between 1960 and 1964.

During French Revolution a French citizen asked one leader of the revolution, 'What is the difference between Revolution and Terrorism?' The leader answered, 'That is a very good question. I'm not even sure there is any difference at all '

However, it is the opinion of many that revolution and terrorism are not related at all; it is like people and computers. A person can use a computer but they refer to very different things. A revolutionary can use terrorism to achieve his goals. But terrorism and revolution are in no way the same thing. Terrorism generally refers to the use of 'terror'.

The goals can be freedom, liberty, and justice or for popularity and influence. Very often it comes to the involvement of extreme violence such as mutilation, assassination, and so on to gain attention and force authorities to concede and come to the bargaining table. For example, capturing and mutilating government officials on television generally makes other officials very afraid for their lives and families and therefore willing to appease the terrorists. It is no wonder that both revolutionists and state actors on missions of their own may take up this kind of measures.

Revolution, however, refers to the complete overthrow of a government by citizens. It is supposed to invoke the ideas of the social contract. A revolution can be bloodless as in the 'The Glorious Revolution in UK' or it can be extremely gruesome with mass murders and prolonged warfare. It also generally implies successful overthrow of the government. The winners write history. When the government wins revolutionists get labeled as rebels and criminals. When the revolutionists win, they call themselves revolutionists.

People in general have a concept, in terms of a beautiful view, of revolutions as great moments where people strive to achieve magnificent goals such as liberty in the face of extreme hardship. This is also true that revolutions tend to be the most gruesome and bloody type of violence with sides not clearly defined. Rarely do revolutions have amazing leaders as was the case in America and Russia where there was a whole set of similarly minded and well gifted individuals who followed their beliefs. Most leaders who were excellent in gaining popular support and praise turned out later to be terrible governors and rulers which led to long periods of instability and general break down of law.

2,795 people were killed at the World Trade Centre as a result of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks; an additional 7,467 persons were injured. They had 17,642 family members. Another 17,859 rescuers got involved as were 32,361 employees and their 87,383 family members. Thus 164,710 persons were directly involved or exposed to the aftermath. For every individual killed an additional 59 persons were traumatized. An additional 4,800,000 residents of the surrounding 10 counties coped with the events in ways large and small. So much of loss of human lives, time, energy, money and many a thing to do with living in the society for nothing, for no palpable result.

Analogously, the 467 terrorist deaths in the Northern Ireland in 1972 directly or indirectly affected an additional 27,000 people or 18 per 1000 population. The 472 deaths in Israel attributed to the intifada in the 19 months between 2000 and 2003 affected 4 persons per 1000.

The late aftermath of all these violence events undertaken during revolution or terrorist activities worldwide, on large or small scale, is affection of hundreds of thousands of individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a serious and sometimes severe psychiatric disorder which may cause a threat to mankind sometime in the years to come.

Have the social scientists or departments concerned of the government in Manipur assessed anything like these surveys for the sporadic violent eruptions and activities that started way back since the late 70's in Manipur as is done in other parts of the world?


* JC Sanasam wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition) as part of 'JCB Digs'
This article was posted on December 04, 2013.


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