WHAT EXACTLY IS POLITICAL TERRORISM?: A THEORITICAL DISCUSSION
Terrorism in its most important and general sense signifies a psychic state of fear or dread. The modern word - terrorism is derived from the Latin word -"terrere" which means to tremble or to cause to tremble. Etymologists claim that the modern English words terrorism , terrorist , terrorize , etc. didn’t come into use until the equivalent French words like terrorisme , terroriste , etc. had developed in the revolutionary period between 1793 - 1798 which were then used to denote those revolutionaries who sought to use terror systematically either to further their views or to govern in France or elsewhere. Today, terrorism is used to refer to those revolutionary movements which seek to use terror systematically for political motives for e.g. to express their views, to govern, to bring about a change in government, to redress grievances, to achieve secession, etc. Paul Wilkinson, a senior lecturer in politics, University College, Cardiff, defines terrorism as “the use of coercive intimidation or force by revolutionary movements , regimes , individuals, etc for political motives”(Wilkinson, 1974 :11). JBS Hardman in the encyclopaedia of social sciences edited by E R Seligman (1937)defines terrorism as the "method or theory behind the method whereby an organised group or party seeks to achieve avowed aims chiefly through the systematic use of violence ". V A Pai Pannikar, former director, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi specifies the essence of terrorism as "politics by violence"(as cited in Marwah, 1997: xiii). Ved Marwah defines terrorism as a "type of violence where the motivation for the commission of a violent act is not so much to cause physical damage as to cause psychological effect of creating terror ,not only for the intended victim ,but for the entire community”(ibid
5). Thus, terrorism is a sustained policy of waging organised terror either on the part of a movement or faction or by a small group of individuals to attain some political motives. Thus, an act of terror, e.g. the hijacking of an aeroplane, would be called a terrorist act only if the hijacker has political motive and not any personal motives .Political Terrorism creates a state of mind where fear and anxiety dominate people''s thinking and behaviour. Quite apart from the physical danger of persons who are not pre selected targets being hurt, there is an unavoidable side effect of wide spread fear that others might be harmed. As Raymond Aaron remarks aptly, "an action of violence is labelled "terrorist "when its psychological effects are out of proportion to its purely psychological result "(as cited in Wilkinson, 1974: 13). Thus terrorism is aimed at not just the victim but the whole society and all the people who are seeing the act being committed , reading about it in newspapers ,watching it on television or hearing about it from other people.
Terrorism is different from other forms of violence and intimidation. Whereas criminal terrorists and groups resort to terrorizing their victims with the sole objective of selfish material gains or other personal motives, political terrorists generally are motivated by some social or political aims. Political terrorism can also be differentiated from other forms of violence, agitation, intimidation, coercion etc on the ground that while the former is a long drawn, sustained, and a permanent phenomenon, the latter are only temporary in nature. Moreover, the former uses extreme and ruthlessly destructive methods which the latter do not do. Political terrorism is also different from intimidation or psychological warfare tactics. While the intimidator merely threatens injury or material harm in order to arouse fear of severe punishment for non compliance with his demands, the political terrorist not only threatens death or destruction but also execute the same. Terrorism is also different from all rms of civil violence, in view of its severity, unpredictability and amorality. Finally, it is also important to distinguish between political terror and political terrorism. Political terror may occur in isolated acts and also in the form of extreme, indiscriminate and arbitrary mass violence…but neither one isolated act nor a series of random acts is political terrorism. Political terrorism, properly speaking, is a sustained policy involving the waging of organized terror either on the part of a movement or a faction or a group of individuals or the state. There remains the important distinction between political terrorism and insurgency which are often frequently used to mean the same thing .Though the two are interconnected, they never mean the same thing, though both are a form of unconventional war waged to gain political objectives. Political terrorism is a broader term than insurgency which is included under political terrorism. Insurgency is more selective in choosing targets, generally security personnel, than political terrorists, and are more discriminating in the use of violence