Terrorism and Insecurities of Minorities in India and USA

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Topic: “Terrorism has become a festering wound. It is an enemy of humanity.” Enlighten the statement in context to India and USA


Until the 1990s, terrorism was considered to be a security concern of the second order, often being ignored by books on international politics. However, the events of 11 September 2001 changed this dramatically, encouraging a major reappraisal of the nature and significance of terrorism. Terrorism has become the principal security threat in the early twenty-first century, reflecting the fact that, in conditions of globalization, non-state actors (mainly terrorist groups) had gained important advantages over states.

Terrorism is not a modern phenomenon. Early examples include the Sicarri (‘dagger men’), usually seen as an extreme splinter wing of the Jewish Zealots, who, in the first century, used killings and kidnappings in their campaign against the Romans in Judea and against Jews who collaborated with the Romans. Similarly the Thugs in India, a cult which carried out ritual killings supposedly in honor of the goddess Kali were seen in the nineteenth century.

The central feature of terrorism is that it is political violence in order to fulfill its objectives through creating an atmosphere of fear and apprehension. It uses violence not aiming to bring about death and destruction but to create unease and anxiety in order to achieve their objectives. The actions have an element of surprise made to have uncertainty in the environment. These attacks were not only aimed at civilians but also at businessmen, government officials and politicians. [1: Goodin 2006]

Different Views on Terrorism

Realist View

They view terrorism as a violent challenge to the state by a non-stage actor in order to bid for power. The realist view politics as a sphere of power seeking competition thus even the non-stage actors get their desire for power. From this point of view, terrorism can be seen as strategic in character. Groups use violence and target the civilians because of their lack of strength so as to weaken the government and overthrow it.

Liberal View

Liberals are of the view that the reason behind terrorism is not only power seeking motives but also different ideology. A reason behind these activities can be the different ideology mainly religious ideologies. They view terrorism as an attack on liberal institutions of openness, choice, debates, and toleration and so on.

Critical Views

There are two main critical perspectives on terrorism. The first reflects the views of radical theorist that terrorism amounts to the killings of civilians by stage and non-stage actors. Terrorism is hence a mechanism by which violence is used by states against citizens either to maintain them in power or to extend their political power or to extend their political influence. The alternative aspect shows these groups as using illegitimate violence. India

The 8th report on terrorism in India published in 2008 defined terrorism as equivalent of war crime. An act of terror in India includes any intentional act of violence that causes death, injury or property damage. This definition is similarly to that of UN proposed by Schmid and Jongman in 1988. SATP (South Asia Terrorism Portal) has listed 180 terrorist groups that have operated in India over the last 20 years. Some of the major terrorist cases in India:-

Mandwi Massacre

Mandwi massacre refers to the massacre of the Bengalis of Mandwi village near Agartala in the Indian state of Tripura on 8 June 1980, by tribal insurgents. According to official figures 255 Bengalis were killed in Mandwi. On the night of 6 June, separatist group lay out a blueprint of mass destruction. From the night of 6 June, armed individuals began to prevent access to the non-tribal localities. From the morning of 7 June, news of arson violence and murder began to spread. The Bengalis who stayed deep in the tribal pockets felt intimated and started to leave for safety. From the afternoon of 7 June, the situation worsened.

The Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi

The assassination of the former Prime Minister of India, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi took place as a result of a suicide bombing in Sriperumbudur, Chennai, in Tamil Nadu, India on 21 May 1991. At least 14 others were killed. It was carried out by Thenmozhi Rajaratnam, also known as Dhanu, member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a militant organization from Sri Lanka; that time India had ended its involvement in the Sri Lankan Civil War. [2: Assassination in India; Rajiv Gandhi is assassinated in bombing]

Rajiv Gandhi was garlanded by many well-wishers, Congress party workers and school children. The assassin, Dhanu, approached and greeted him. She then bent down to touch his feet and detonated an RDX explosive-laden belt tucked below her dress at exactly 10:10 PM. Rajiv, his assassin and 14 others were killed in the explosion that followed, along with 43 others who were severely injured. [3: “A look back at Rajiv Gandhi assassination: Rare images from the past”. The New Indian Express]

November 2008, Mumbai attacks

The attacks were a series of terrorist attacks that took place in November 2008, when 10 members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamic terrorist organization operating in Pakistan, carried out 12 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks which lasted four days across Mumbai. The attacks, which drew widespread global attention, began on Wednesday 26 November and lasted till Saturday 29 November 2008. At least 174 people died, including 9 attackers, and more than 300 were wounded. The attacks occurred in South Mumbai at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai Chabad House, The Oberoi Trident, The Taj Palace & Tower, Leopold Cafe, Cama Hospital, The Nariman House, the Metro Cinema, and in a lane behind the Times of India building and St. Xavier’s College. There was also an explosion at Mazagaon, in Mumbai’s port area, and in a taxi at Vile Parle. By the early morning of 28 November, all sites except for the Taj Hotel had been secured by the Mumbai Police and security forces. On 29 November, India’s National Security Guards (NSG) conducted Operation Black Tornado to flush out the remaining terrorist; it resulted in the death of the last remaining attackers at the Taj Hotel and ended the attacks.

Anti-terror Laws in India

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Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, known as TADA, was an Indian anti-terrorism law which was in force between 1985 and 1995 (modified in 1987) under the background of the Punjab insurgency and was applied to whole of India. It came into effect on 23 May 1985. It was renewed in 1989, 1991 and 1993 before being allowed to lapse in 1995 due to increasing unpopularity after widespread allegations of abuse. It was the first anti-terrorism law legislated by the government to define and counter terrorist activities.

The Act’s third paragraph gives a very thorough definition of ‘terrorism’:

Whoever with intent to overawe the Government as by law established or to strike terror in the people or any section of the people or to alienate any section of the people or to adversely affect the harmony amongst different sections of the people does any act or thing by using bombs, dynamite or other explosive substances or inflammable substances or lethal weapons or poisons or noxious gases or other chemicals or by any other substances (whether biological or otherwise) of a hazardous nature in such a manner as to cause, or as is likely to cause, death of, or injuries to, any person or persons or loss of, or damage to, or destruction of, property or disruption of any supplies or services essential to the life of the community, or detains any person and threatens to kill or injure such person in order to compel the Government or any other person to do or abstain from doing any act, commits a terrorist act.


According to a 2017 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, ‘of the 85 violent extremist incidents that resulted in death since September 12, 2001, Far-right politics violent extremist groups were responsible for 62 (73 percent) while radical Islamist violent extremists were responsible for 23 (27 percent). The total number of fatalities is 106 for far right violent extremists and 119 for radical Islamist violent extremists over the approximately 15-year period. However, 52 percent of the deaths attributable to radical Islamist violent extremists occurred in a single event—an attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida in 2016.’ [4: ‘COUNTERING VIOLENT EXTREMISM: Actions Needed to Define Strategy and Assess Progress of Federal Efforts’ (PDF). United States Government Accountability Office. Retrieved November 30, 2018.]

Some of the major attacks include:

The September 11 attacks

The September 11 attacks (also referred to as 9/11) were a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda against the United States on the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. The attacks killed 2,977 people (excluding the 19 hijackers who also died), including 6000 others who were injured, and caused at least $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage.[5: Institute for the Analysis of Global Security. Retrieved April 30, 2014]

Four passenger airliners operated by two major U.S. passenger air carriers (United Airlines and American Airlines)—all of them departed from airports in northeastern United States bound for San Francisco and Los Angeles—were hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists.

Two of the planes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, were crashed into the North and South towers, respectively, of the World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan. Within an hour and 42 minutes, both 110-story towers collapsed. Debris and the fires thus resulted in caused partial or complete collapse of all other buildings in the World Trade Center complex, including the 47-story 7 World Trade Center tower, as well as significant damage to ten other large surrounding structures.

The third plane, American Airlines Flight 77, was crashed into the Pentagon (the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense) in Arlington County, Virginia, which led to a partial collapse of the building’s west side. The fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, was initially flown towards Washington, D.C., but crashed into a field in Stonycreek Township near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after its passengers thwarted the hijackers. 9/11 is the single deadliest terrorist attack in human history and the deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement officers in the history of the United States, with 343 and 72 killed, respectively.

Anti-Terror Laws in USA

The USA Act (Uniting and Strengthening America Act of 2001) is an expansion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978.The primary difference between these two is the definition of terrorism. In FISA, terrorism is limited to acts that are ‘backed by a foreign power.’ The phrase ‘foreign power’ is commonly referred to a foreign government. Focus on Al Qaeda after September 11 raised the issue that there are terrorists who are not backed by a foreign government and even those who may act completely alone. In the USA Act, terrorism was redefined to be activity that appears to be intended to (a) intimidate or coerce the government or civil population AND (b) breaks criminal laws and (c) endangers human life.

UN on Terrorism

UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy Adopted by Consensus in 2006

The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy on 8 September 2006. The strategy is a usual global instrument to enhance national, regional and international efforts to counter terrorism. Through its adoption that all Member States have agreed to a common strategic and operational approach to fight terrorism, by sending a clear message that terrorism is unacceptable in all its forms and manifestation but also resolving to take practical steps individually and collectively to prevent and combat it. These practical steps include a wide range of measuring from strengthening state capacity to counter terrorist threats to better coordinating United Nations system’s counter-terrorism activities.

The adoption of the strategy fulfilled the commitment made by leaders of different countries at the 2005 September Summit and building many of the elements proposed by the Secretary-General in his 2 May 2006 report, entitled Uniting against Terrorism: Recommendations for a Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy. 2016 marked the 10th anniversary of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

The Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy is in the form of a resolution and a Plan of Action consisting of 4 pillars

  1. Addressing the conditions possibly to the spread of terrorism
  2. Measures in order to prevent and combat terrorism
  3. Measures in order to build states capacity to prevent and combat terrorism and to strengthen the role of the United Nations in this regard
  4. Measures to ensure respect for human rights and the rule of law as the fundamental basis for the fight against terrorism.
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