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|September 12, 2001||
Scourge of terrorism: Time to act!
The dastardly killings of innocent Americans on September 11 has forced world attention on this, the greatest disease.
India has been facing this cancer for centuries, massacre of pilgrims, killings of shepherds and innocent villagers has been common. The Durban conference on racism forgot the thousands of Hindus enslaved and taken to Central Asia, giving the name to the mountains they passed as 'Hindukush' or sigh of the Hindu!
Terrorism is not new to mankind. The 'thugs' find mention in accounts of India written by Greek historians who accompanied Alexander in 332 BC. The Shia sect of Islam had their 'assassins'.
Ancient terrorist violence was often confined to small areas. Thus, one was safe if one lived outside the boundaries of 'unsafe' zones. But today at the beginning of the 21st century the world is shrinking. Information superhighways, tourism and world trade together make millions of individuals travel to all corners of the world every day. This has given terrorists a wide choice of soft targets on one hand and on the other hand, their actions have not merely a local but worldwide effect through disruption.
The information revolution is also helping terrorists with increasingly up-to-date technology. Most technology today, from pesticides to remote control toys, is of dual use. This has made the terrorist virtually omnipotent. As the world gets increasingly closely wired up, fear of terrorist attacks may well emerge as the single biggest constraint in the 'globalization' of human welfare and prosperity.
The Paris declaration of July 15, 1989 is the basis for most human rights movements. That document emphasized the oppression of the individual by the State and sought to protect an individual against an 'over mighty State.' The focus of all the important human rights groups like Amnesty International or World Watch, have been the actions of the governments. While this is quite right and appropriate against dictatorial regimes, it is wholly wrong when applied to democracies that are attempting to preserve a liberal and plural State. Many of the so-called 'freedom struggles' today are attempts by local majorities to establish unifocal societies.
American Ambassador Morris B Abram in his farewell address to the Human Rights Commission in Geneva on February 26, 1993, said, 'Some of the saddest scenes in today's world occur under the claim of self determination, originally the banner of worthy opponents of colonial rule. Today, this cry has been abused by those who would dissolve long-established political units and, in some cases, tear them apart in religious and ethnic disputes waged with torture, murder, arson and rape.'
The human rights movement by concentrating exclusively on government agencies, in effect, have encouraged terrorists. The greatest failure of human rights groups has been their inability to distinguish between an innocent victim and killings that occur in an armed struggle. To label the killings of Kalashnikov wielding insurgents in a fire fight by soldiers as a human rights violation, while ignoring other victims of violence by terrorists, has made these bodies lose their credibility in the eyes of the vast majority.
Easy travel has made most terrorist organizations trans-border outfits. Due to this factor, the control of terrorism has become a global, rather than a national, problem. No nation, even the mighty US, is able to effectively control terrorism on its own. In this sense the attempt to find a national solution to the problem posed by terrorist violence will be as futile as efforts to save ecology or deal with the problem of acid rain with a single nation's resources.
Some years ago, during the Cold War, the United Nations did attempt to find a global consensus on this issue. The attempt floundered on the rock of Cold War rivalry and the typical attitude of double standards. The difficulty as expressed by one delegate at the UN was, in his words, 'One nation's terrorist is another nation's freedom fighter.' All nations have been guilty of double speak and double standards on the issue of terrorism.
The world needs to arrive at a consensus that whatever be the cause, any organization that indulges in the killing of 'innocent, unconnected and unarmed', must be banned worldwide. Any nation that gives sanctuary to these organizations should be isolated economically, politically and militarily. All nations must enact legislation that makes capital punishment/life imprisonment mandatory for any individual indulging in 'acts' of terrorism and a minimum of 10 years prison sentence for any one for being a member of such an organization. The focus must shift to 'acts' and methods rather than the so-called 'cause' that is used to justify violence.
The other side of the coin, State repression, can be taken care by a mandatory formation of a 'human rights commission' with powers to check and initiate proceedings against government agencies for violation of human rights.
Will the world pay heed and act or continue to dither (like on the issue of ecology)? This will largely determine the future of mankind in the 21st century.
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