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One Man's Terrorist
Victims' Perspectives on Terrorism
S. Sanyal*

 

 

The success of a terrorist act depends on the reaction of the society towards it. As one commentator has remarked, terrorist violence is always 'propaganda of the deed.' [1] Paul Wilkinson notes that "Political terrorism is thus, par excellence, a weapon of psychological warfare… and the terrorists judge their own 'success' or 'failure' primarily in terms of political, psychological and propaganda impact rather than purely by traditional military criteria of death and damage caused." [2]

In addition to the immediate victims of terrorist violence, the target society of such acts of psychological warfare can be divided into three layers: those in the immediate vicinity, the country as a whole and the world at large. Terrorists seek support from the people among whom they live and act. Even the state’s strategies to counter terrorism fail when the public opposes such initiatives and aligns itself with the terrorists' goals. Terrorism also offers a variety of opportunities for building a positive image in the minds of the common people who may come to consider the terrorist as the poor man’s friend, or as a rebel against the oppression of the state. Such images, however, tend to be transient and vary according to the alignment of forces on the ground. Indeed, terrorism itself is perceived and explained in a different manner with every mile one moves away from a given region.

Existing attitudes and opinions among the victims, common people, various professionals, including the media and members of the criminal justice system, have strong determining influences on the states' counter terrorist policies and initiatives. The identity, goals and modus operandi of the terrorists adds a final dimension to these perceptions and pressures.

In recent decades, the escalation of global terrorism has drawn a sharp focus on the needs of the victims, the risks they undergo and the trauma that continues to torment them as an after-effect of their experience. Whether the terrorist himself can be thought of as a victim of economic deprivation, social injustice and discrimination is itself an issue, and this is the image that many apologists have sought to promote, even within the context of liberal democracies. It is, indeed, "easy to stereotype as brutal colonial oppressors a liberal democratic government which in fact enjoys wide support and electoral endorsement, in some cases including the backing of a larger number of their own minority group than they (the terrorists) themselves can command!" [3] This issue, however, must be debated separately. This paper focuses only on those who are hurt, injured, displaced, dispossessed, and those who absorb the brunt of terrorist attacks without any active participation or choice in the matter.

Such victims of terrorism experience a reaction that is unique and differs significantly from victims of any other circumstances to the extent that terrorism is itself a phenomenon that defies comparison, and by definition, implies the use of brutal and extreme methods. Its victims are, consequently, a group set apart from others. Critically, they are ordinarily unprepared for the shock of terror to which they are subjected, and are not mentally equipped to adopt any strategy before, during and after the incident, or to develop adequate mechanisms of psychological defence against its impact. Moreover, the wider the gulf between the public conception of morality and that of the terrorist organisation, the less likely is it that the public will understand how the terrorist organisation justifies its actions, not only to the world at large but also to its own members and supporters. In a sense, terrorism is a test of the moral fabric of the afflicted society. All individuals who are vulnerable to the risk of terrorist attacks need to prepare themselves both physically & psychologically.

 

The Mind of the Terrorist

 

Anyone who has to live with terrorism and to protect himself against it also needs to understand the character and motivation of the terrorist. Evidence world-wide has repeatedly suggested that the terrorist’s mind operates within the bounds of moral psychology rather than displaying signs of mental illness. Terrorists are intelligent, fit, usually well trained and highly motivated individuals. There is no standard personality which can be labelled as a terrorist personality type. "It is impossible to provide a psychogram or an Identikit (composite) picture of the typical terrorist, because there never was such a person." [4] Nevertheless, if a generalisation is possible, it would appear that terrorists are primarily people with disorders of affect (feeling towards others in particular), [5] but are far from the stereotypes of mental instability common to popular literature. Writing in a Western context, Paul Wilkinson draws up a profile that appears to place the terrorist among highly motivated, trained and committed individuals, and not the aimlessly violent: "The typical terrorist tends to be of above average intelligence and education, is highly resourceful, and is trained in weaponry and explosives. It is a serious error to underrate the terrorists' will to succeed and their destructive capabilities." [6] While Laqueur does identify certain patterns of abnormality that recur, he argues that it could easily be demonstrated that "most terrorists of the past were perfectly normal men and women and that their opting for terrorism was a rational choice rather than a mental aberration". [7] Moreover, their patterns of deviance are not unique: "One typical feature of most, if not all, such groups is a strong paranoid streak and the belief in omnipresent conspiracies. This they have in common with fascism, communism, and other extreme movements." [8] They are alienated individuals, drawn to a group that gives them their identity. Such group membership is fraught with overwhelming tensions, and the terrorist is expected to show absolute loyalty and submission to the group, which he learns to fear even more than he does the state's forces, since any deviation from group norms would lead to swift, harsh and arbitrary reprisals, even death.

The roots of terrorism can thus be discovered, not in any unique pattern of abnormality, but in man's innate propensity to violence, his propensity to war, to aggression and to brutality, the 'instinct' for destructiveness that Freud categorised under his notion of 'Thanatos'. There is no evidence of such an inherent tendency in the animal kingdom. Man, it appears, is the only species that kills its own kind in such numbers, with such cruelty and with such abandon.

 

Victim Profile

 

The traumas that a victim of terrorism undergoes are more painful, long lasting and detrimental than most other situations of violence. There is a substantial literature that suggests that victims of violent crime fit a certain narrow personality profile, but labelling a group as 'terrorism-prone' would require a gigantic exercise of assessing the factors that lead to such victimisation. The probabilities of any such consistent profile, moreover, are diminished by the very nature of terrorist crimes. Ordinarily, the probable victims of terrorism - such as minority groups in an area affected by religious terrorism - are better protected by the state's security forces, and often cordoned off, making attacks on them difficult and fraught with greater risk. Moreover, terrorists, in most of their actions, do not choose their victims, but rather their targets. They identify the situations that would allow their acts of violence to secure the greatest psychological, propaganda and political impact, and the potential targets that can most conveniently be hit under prevailing ground conditions. The specific identity of the victims, beyond a general profile of community / occupation etc. that may be part of the terrorists' secondary criteria, is often irrelevant. Ordinarily, the character of the act, the situation, location and time are chosen to maximise the intended damage in terms of lives or property, and specific individuals simply become the unwilling and unlucky victims of the incident. It is in the volume of damage and the number of deaths inflicted that the aim of the terrorist is realised, not, ordinarily, in the identity of the victims - though a high profile victim, naturally, has greater propaganda value, and certain categories of victims - women and children - may, at times, though not always, undermine the intended propaganda impact.

There is, of course, the distinct set of cases where an individual is specifically targeted because of his affiliations with a particular community, institutional mechanism, the government or security forces, or political parties and activities. Then again, a terrorist, may also be killed, tortured, or otherwise punished or victimised by his own or rival groups, as members of his family. However, there is a single common dynamic that unites all these victims, despite these very significant differences. At the time when he is transformed by the act of terror into a victim, there is, on the psychological plane, a sense of absolute defencelessness, of a loss of control, and of complete domination by the inimical other - that is, the will of the terrorist.

 


The Impact of Terror

 

Situations of severe stress and catastrophic experiences create abiding psychological trauma. Death, injury and destruction, situations of extreme physical and psychological threat, displacement, social chaos, separation and loss are the realities of war, and have created immense devastation and human misery. Studies of the psychological consequences of war, of extreme devastation, as in the case of Hiroshima, and of concentration camp survivors has made it clear that the consequences of such circumstances, i.e. the 'Survivor Syndrome' comprises chronic anxiety, depression, social withdrawal, nightmares, sleep disturbances, psychosomatic disorders, chronic fatigue, emotional liability, loss of initiative and general, personal and sexual and social mal-adaptation. A study of concentration camp survivors revealed that 83 per cent of the cases suffered from combinations of these symptoms. [9] A sense of pervasive terror is also the experience of each of these situations, with a corresponding disruption of social, economic, cultural and personal relationships at their very foundations. It would be expected that similar symptoms would characterise victims of terrorism, which is, in its essence, a campaign of psychological warfare with the civilian population as its primary victim. Studies carried out in areas of civilian violence, riots and civil wars, such as in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Malaysia, Cambodia and Lebanon indicated high levels of psychological morbidity among the victims. Psychosomatic complaints, fear, insomnia and other manifestations of anxiety and depression were common.

Another set of typical stresses characterises the terrorist-engineered hostage situation. From the enforcement perspective, these stresses vary from the first stage of defining institutional goals. If apprehending the offender is deemed more important than saving the hostage, demands for safe passage or other compromises may be ignored, and the emphasis may squarely be placed on resolution by force. If the release of the hostage is given priority, and the terrorist-demands are unacceptable, then all the actors in the conflict - police, the terrorists and the hostages - are often placed under extraordinary tension for extended periods of time. Such situations often end in the killing of all or some of the hostages, creating deep psychological scars in the survivors.

Three categories of hostages can be distinguished for the convenience of analysis. First, there is the person of special value who becomes the target of a particular terrorist group because of his identity, importance or affiliations, and to secure particular concessions, or in an act of vengeance - personal or institutional. In some cases such victims have been murdered in the very early stages of the hostage situation. Others may be released, sometimes after long periods of incarceration in highly unsettling circumstances. The second type of victim is himself of little value to the terrorist, except that he becomes a human asset in order to secure a terrorist goal. He is caught in a planned situation and is taken as an expedient hostage. In a third type of incident, an expedient hostage may be taken in an unplanned situation. This last pattern usually occurs in common criminal incidents, and is not a very frequent feature of terrorist operations. Research [10] indicates that the trauma of hostages tends to follow common patterns, except where the hostage situation arises unexpectedly. In this eventuality, the attitudes of the hostage takers tend to be more uncaring of consequences, and they appear to act in a state of 'emotional erection' - they are frightened, tense and excited, like animals cornered into a fight to death. The state is usually very transient, and the incidents ordinarily brief, resulting either in the release or the death of the victims.

The impact of all forms of terrorism on the victim tends to create subsequent psychological problems in adjusting to normalcy. The essence of an experience or threat of terrorist actions, whether bullet, bomb or kidnapping, is that it creates extreme apprehensions of indiscriminate and sudden brutality, and these apprehensions tend to persist well after the actual danger is past. This is the essential element of the tactic of terror, and a skill that terrorist groups have progressively sharpened. [11]

 

Chronic Anxieties in Kashmir

 

The State of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) has been experiencing terrorism for over a decade now. More than 25,000 persons have lost their lives in the strife over this period, [12] and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. With 63,387 terrorist incidents recorded in the State through the 1990s, [13] terror has become an everyday experience in the lives of its people. A report [14] on the impact of this protracted crisis states that major social changes have resulted from the persistent stresses and strains of the war-strife environment. A large proportion of the patients treated in hospitals exhibit symptoms of a fear-psychoses. Doctors indicate that the tensions have had deeply disturbing effects on the people, especially the elderly. Heart ailments are becoming increasingly common. The report quoted Dr. Tariq Ahmed, a cardiac specialist, who indicated that psychological pressures had increased the incidence of stomach disorders and diseases in the State. The impact on children has also been immense, as they witness scenes of frequent bloodshed, high levels of anxiety, and the constant presence of armed forces around them. The popular media has frozen many images of children playing with guns, and even their favourite toys and games today imitate the weapons and bloody rituals of war. Parents complain increasingly of disobedience and obstinacy among their children. This is understandable, as schools remain closed for much of the year, and children are forced by the pervasive threat of violence to spend most of their time confined within their homes. Boredom and a sense of suffocation create an increasing rigidity of character. The youth suffer equally from the impact of bloodshed, growing increasingly cynical, hardened and potentially violent, often falling prey to militant propaganda to join their ranks. It can be expected that, even if normalcy is restored in the State, these youth would find it difficult to return to the mainstream of society, and to adapt to a peacetime scenario.

 

Qualitative Assessment: Responses of Kashmiri Migrants

 

The present study seeks to evaluate the attitudes, perspectives and coping strategies of one group of victims of terrorism, the Kashmiri migrants who have fled their homes under the threat or shadow of violence. The groups who were studied had abandoned their homes, jobs, and most of their movable properties as well in the mass exodus of 1989-90, and had come to settle in Delhi thereafter. The study was conducted in five specific concentrations of Kashmir migrant settlements:

i.         Azadpur Sabzi Mandi

ii.        Mongolpuri

iii.      Lajpatnagar

iv.      Bapu Dham

v.       Loni

No prior calculation of sample size was made, because the available number of such migrants was not certain. While substantial official documentation existed at the time of the mass exodus, there has been a great deal of subsequent dispersal, and tracing out the addresses of the migrants was itself a challenge.

It was expected that, given the circumstances of their flight, and the hardships they have suffered in resettlement and adapting to a vastly different climate and culture, the migrants would uniformly express extreme hostility towards the terrorists and their activities, and that they would demand severe punishment for those who had destroyed the tranquillity of their lives. An attitudinal scale was administered to measure these reactions. A qualitative or descriptive analysis of the responses provides surprising insights.

Azadpur Sabzi Mandi: Only seven people could be traced to respond to the questionnaire, as the others had all changed their addresses. All the subjects were successful businessmen involved in the export of apples to various States. They responded with warmth to the proposal of a study to assess the stress they had faced, and their attitudes towards those who were responsible for their predicament. There was a surprising sense of bitterness towards the use of the word 'terrorism', which they did not wish to relate with their homeland. One of the respondents expressed an opinion which translated to the idea that "a great curse has fallen on my beloved Kashmir". While they all agreed that terrorism could not be justified, whatever the proclaimed reasons of those who resort to violence, there was an unexpected softness towards the idea of punishing the terrorists. The respondents expressed an opinion that terrorists were misguided and unemployed youth, who should be dealt with sympathetically rather than punished harshly. When confronted with the magnitude of damage inflicted by the terrorists, and the enormous suffering they had caused, the respondents said that the terrorists were themselves victims - indeed, doubly so, first, of Pakistan's nefarious designs, and then of the security forces who treated them as criminals. There was also significant criticism of the government and the forces' inability to prevent infiltration across the border, and of the state's counter-terrorism policy.

Mongolpuri: The second group to be interviewed resided in makeshift 'refugee camps' constructed to provide shelter to the families fleeing from Kashmir. There were two camps in Mongolpuri, situated at a distance of five kilometres. Despite initial apprehensions, both men and women joined in once the purpose of the study was explained. In contrast to the first group, the people at the camps were poorer and living in conditions that were far from acceptable. It was more than evident that the migrants were not happy with each family - a couple, their children, and often their aged parents as well - living in the 10'x10' rooms provided by the government, and the middle-aged and elderly people expressed their desire to return to their homes. However, returning to J&K made no sense unless a proper environment was restored there, and the threat to their lives and security was neutralised. The younger generation thought differently, dismissing Kashmir as a closed chapter. They had decided to settle permanently in Delhi, and many had set up small businesses, married, and got on with their new lives.

The attitudes of the people in Mongolpuri Camp I - in contrast to the businessmen at Azadpur - were absolutely hostile and bitter towards the terrorists. They felt that terrorism should be crushed through strong measures, and that the terrorists ought to be punished severely. They reacted sharply to the suggestion that the terrorists were unemployed or 'misguided' youth, and demanded to know what was happening to the innocent boys and girls who were equally poor or unemployed, and who became the victims of terrorist violence. Scathing references were also made to the government's 'soft' attitude toward the terrorists, and the release of hardcore terrorists from custody. Such actions, they felt, worsened the prevailing situation. The media also came in for significant criticism for giving an excessive and exaggerated coverage to the activities and leadership of the terrorists, even as their victims suffered in silence and anonymity.

At Mongolpuri Camp II, the situation was different. The group was large, and as many as 40 respondents to the questionnaire were selected, including 30 men and 10 women. There were 33 families residing in a small building. There was no electricity in the camp, and men, women and children were moving about restlessly. There was a sense of desperation and helplessness regarding the living conditions. However, the families assembled and were willing to talk about the situation in Kashmir. The use of the word 'migrant' to refer to them was strongly objected to. According to them, 'to call a person a migrant in his or her own country was wrong. They were not migrants just because they had been uprooted under the threat of terror'. There was, again, bitterness against the government's 'soft' policies, and the release of hardcore terrorists, as well as against the lack or inadequacy of relief to the victims of terrorism. All those present rejected any possible justification of terrorism, or the idea that no revolutionary change was possible without violence. The consensus was that all political violence was to be severely condemned, and that terrorists should be given death penalty. The media and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) came in for criticism for their biases that worked in favour of the terrorists, and their apathy towards victims of terrorism.

Lajpat Nagar: Although a significant number of Kashmiri migrants reside in this locality, they are not huddled together in a 'camp', but scattered in private residences throughout this large colony. With a few exceptions, most of those who were traced out were willing to participate in the study. A well-to-do carpet exporter refused to speak but gave clear and written answers to the questionnaire. His responses reflected an unambiguous condemnation of terrorism and political violence. A young boy who answered the questionnaire, disclosed that he was unhappy in Delhi, but that his father had sent him here for his safety. They boy had been studying at a college, but had to leave when violence broke out. There were many like him who had come away, but they were considered to be sympathetic to the terrorists and harassed by the security forces. He spoke of the time when all the communities resided in peace in J&K. He said that, while terrorism could never be justified, it was necessary to assess the reasons why these incidents were taking place. Once again, the idea of terrorists as misguided and frustrated youth was articulated. A total of seven respondents in Lajpat Nagar answered the questionnaire.

Bapu Dham: The President of the Kashmiri Pandits Association was present at the Bapu Dham camp, and the residents were very co-operative. The general idea expressed was that, while terrorism in all its manifestations was to be condemned, the government needed to adopt a diagnostic approach to its causes, and to understand the social fabric of the State in order to effectively combat the scourge. Hanging the terrorists, or other harsh punishments could not be a permanent solution to the prolonged tribulations of the State. There was deep-rooted hostility towards certain corrupt, nepotistic and fanatical groups and individuals who had collaborated with Pakistan's covert agencies to plunge the entire State into violence. There was an enormous sense of hurt among the migrants at the losses that had been inflicted on them, and the conditions in which they were presently forced to live. They expressed the hope that peace would soon return to their Valley, and that they would then be able to return. Twenty persons from these groups responded to the questionnaire.

Loni: This was a poor and congested settlement, and there was a heavy sense of apprehension, despair and bitterness among the residents. They complained that they were not even able to express their views regarding the conditions of the resettlement colony in which they were forced to live. They were extremely critical of the government's policy of releasing terrorists and seeking a negotiated settlement with them. They also stated that, if the government gave them jobs, rather than a financial dole, that would give them something to do, and would help cope with their circumstances. The term 'migrant' again drew sharp reactions. One of them vehemently stated that they were forced to leave their own land because they were a minority community, and here, at Delhi, they were called migrants. They expressed themselves to be uniformly in favour of a hardline against, and harsh punishment for, the terrorists. None of them accepted the notion that terrorists were 'misguided youth' who needed to be treated sympathetically. There were significant indicators of aggression and loss of identity here, far in excess of the situation in the other camps.

 

Qualitative Assessment: Responses of Kashmiri Migrants

 

A total of 50 samples were generated in the study, and the resultant clusters of responses were tabulated and their relationships analysed. The questionnaire contained 44 items, of which the most significant are discussed below:

 

Description of Items, Table I:

 

Item 13: Every terrorist, irrespective of his/her offence, should be punished.

Item 14: Terrorists are social misfits and are dangerous to the society, and it is best to execute them.

Item 16: Any person, young or old, who threatens the integrity of the country, should be punished.

Item 27: Rather than punishing them, they should be helped through sympathetic treatment.

 


Table I: Attitudes towards the punishment of terrorists

 

Item No.

SA

A

DK

D

SDA

Total

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

13

26

52

18

36

0

 

6

12

0

 

50

14

19

38

18

36

4

8

9

18

0

 

50

16

23

46

16

32

0

 

7

14

4

8

50

27

5

10

21

42

0

 

14

28

10

20

50

45

18

36

23

46

2

4

6

12

1

2

50

SA: Strongly agree, A: Agree, DK: Don't know, D: Disagree, SDA: Strongly disagree

 

Table I indicates that the majority of victims were in favour of severe punishment to the terrorists. Terrorists were thought of as social misfits, and as being a danger to society. However, there were dissenting voices, and at least some people also believed that terrorists could be changed through sympathetic treatment. Nevertheless, the general affect of the victims was hostile and negative. A number of respondents thought that hardcore terrorists should be executed.

 

Description of Items, Table II:

 

Item 1: Terrorism is never justified.

Item 2: Terrorism means a fight against tyranny, or the killing of a tyrannical person, and so it should be supported.

Item 8: Political violence is necessary for social change.

Item 11: Terrorism cannot be regarded as a rational method of dealing with national problems.

Item 31: Terrorism is the worst form of senseless violence, and must be condemned.

Item 24: Terrorism is basically unjustified, but is necessary in the present context.

 


Table II: Opinions regarding violence and social change

 

Item No.

SA

A

DK

D

SDA

Total

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

1

23

46

20

40

2

4

1

2

4

8

50

2

2

4

2

4

7

14

13

26

26

52

50

8

9

18

9

18

3

6

15

30

14

28

50

11

19

38

18

36

2

4

7

14

4

8

50

31

25

50

18

36

2

4

4

8

1

2

50

24

3

6

6

12

2

4

25

50

14

28

50

SA: Strongly agree, A: Agree, DK: Don't know, D: Disagree, SDA: Strongly disagree

 

There was no difference of opinion regarding the justification of violence as a means of social change. As many as 44 of the 50 respondents condemned terrorism as senseless and fruitless disruption of the tranquillity of society. Even those who thought that terrorists should be treated sympathetically agreed that there was no justification of terrorism as a rational method of problem solving. Both the Hindus and the Muslims who responded to the questionnaire expressed the opinion that, in a democratic country like India, there was no space for political violence.

 

Description of Items: Table III

 

Item 3: Terrorists are misguided youth, and the government should consider their demands sympathetically.

Item 5: Most of the terrorists are hardcore criminals. They should be punished.

Item 6: Terrorists disregard Constitutional rights. They should be treated as traitors.

Item 10: On the whole, terrorists are honest.

Item 29: Terrorists are separatist groups and want to weaken the unity of the country.

Item 34: The terrorist is a frustrated man and has a right to rebel against the state.

 

Table III: Idea of Terrorism

 

Item No.

SA

A

DK

D

SDA

Total

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

3

7

14

15

30

1

2

9

18

18

36

50

5

35

70

5

10

0

 

9

18

1

2

50

6

22

44

20

40

3

6

5

10

0

 

50

10

2

4

4

8

3

6

16

32

25

50

50

29

28

56

9

18

3

6

7

14

3

6

50

34

3

6

11

22

1

2

20

40

15

30

50

SA: Strongly agree, A: Agree, DK: Don't know, D: Disagree, SDA: Strongly disagree

 

Here again, an overwhelming number of responses were extremely hostile. It was obvious that victims of violence would reject the idea that its perpetrators were honest persons, and the poor man's friends. The victims expressed the belief that any grievances and sense of frustration that the terrorists may have could be dissolved through dialogue, and not by spreading violence in the State. Terrorists, in their opinion, were men who took the law into their own hands, and destroyed, plundered and killed innocent people. The responses were so clearly skewed that no further explanation is required.

 

Description of Items, Table IV

 

Item 9: I have friends who adhere to an extremist ideology.

Item 15: It would not bother me if my friends were terrorists.

Item 22: The Herculean tasks undertaken by the terrorists frequently attract me.

Item 32: I worry a lot about terrorist activities.

Item 42: I feel anguish when some people advocate the ideologies of terrorism.

Item 44: I firmly support the philosophy of non-violence.

 


Table IV: Self-relation to the concept of terrorism

 

Item No.

SA

A

DK

D

SDA

Total

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

9

1

2

1

2

3

6

25

50

20

40

50

15

3

6

8

16

2

4

17

34

20

40

50

22

15

30

4

8

4

8

15

30

12

24

50

32

10

20

6

12

3

6

20

40

11

22

50

12

23

40

20

40

2

4

5

10

0

0

50

13

27

54

17

34

0

 

3

6

3

6

50

SA: Strongly agree, A: Agree, DK: Don't know, D: Disagree, SDA: Strongly disagree

 

What the terrorists did frequently attracted the attention of the respondents, and some appreciation existed for the courage and motivation manifested in their struggles against the government. However, overwhelming support was expressed for non-violence, and the fact that friends with an extremist ideology were to be avoided. High levels of anxiety and apprehension regarding terrorist violence were reflected in the responses.

 

Conclusion

 

The qualitative and quantitative data gathered in this study tends to confirm the general expectations of hostility, resentment, frustration and fear among victims of terrorism towards its perpetrators. However, there were significant variations. One of the important factors revealed through the study was the linkage between the present circumstances of the respondents and the extremity of their affective response. The poorer respondents, living in squalour and conditions of significant deprivation, reacted much more harshly against the terrorists, and tended to be far more impatient with the government's counter-terrorism policies. The relatively better-off respondents inclined towards greater 'sympathy', even as they condemned the actions of the terrorists and terrorism as a political strategy.

One thing that emerged forcefully through the interactions of this study is the fact that, traumatised victims of terrorism have an urgent need for an understanding of their physical, mental and spiritual needs, and that counselling and family / community support is an integral - though missing - component of their rehabilitation. In many cases, far more serious, post-traumatic stress reactions occur, and specialised care and prolonged therapy is necessary. It is essential that these needs be recognised at the earliest, so that the consequences of chronic stress and anxiety can be arrested before they develop into serious patterns.

 



The present paper is based on an extensive study of attitudes towards terrorism among various social groups, and develops on themes that were explored in S. Sanyal, "One Man's Terrorist: Law Enforcers' Attitudes Towards Terrorism", Faultlines, 3, New Delhi, November 1999, pp. 168-81.

* Dr. S. Sanyal is a Reader at the National Institute of Criminology & Forensic Sciences. She has been teaching senior functionaries of the law enforcement and criminal justice system for over 25 years and specialises on women criminals and on terrorism. Among her extensive writings are two books: Female Criminals in India (1986) and Open Prisons: A Comparative Study (1991).

[1] H.J. Horchem, “Terrorism in Germany: 1985”, in Paul Wilkinson and A.M. Stewart, eds., Contemporary Research on Terrorism, Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1987, p. 144.

[2] Paul Wilkinson, Terrorism and the Liberal State, London: Macmillan, 1977, p. 81.

[3] Ibid., pp. 85-86.

[4] Walter Laqueur, The New Terrorism: Fanaticism and the Arms of Mass Destruction, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 79.

[5] Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents, cited in Daya Somasundaram, Scarred Minds: The Psychological Impact of War on Sri Lankan Tamils, New Delhi: Sage, p. 92.

[6] Paul Wilkinson, "Terrorism versus Liberal Democracy: The Problems of Response", in William Gutteridge, ed., The New Terrorism, n. p.: Institute for the Study of Conflict, n.d., p. 4.

[7] Laqueur, The New Terrorism, p. 93.

[8] Ibid., p. 95.

[9] Somasundaram, Scarred Minds.

[10] E. Morris & Alan Hoe, Terrorism: Threat & Response, London: Macmillan, 1987.

[11] S.K. Ghosh, Terrorism: World Under Siege, New Delhi: Ashish Publishing House, 1994, p. 277.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Rashid Ahmed, "Focus", India Today, New Delhi, August 11-16, 1996.

 

 

 

 

 
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