Post 9/11, ‘terrorism’ is perhaps the most prominent political on the world stage, making its
presence felt in increasingly darker and starker forms. While the need to understand terrorism is
urgently vocalized, the often inordinate focus on bare facts rather than on socio-political
conditions defects the purpose of the whole exercise, literature, on the other hand y
historicizing and humanizing the phenomenon helps in our understanding of terrorism.
The Other side Terror brings together writings based on terrorism from India, Nepal, and Sri
Lanka. Including short stories essays poem and excerpts form novels, both original writings in
English as well as translations, the volume addresses issues of wide interest. The Maoist
insurgency in Nepal and the Tamil militancy in Sri Lanka, the Indian manifestations ranging from
the militant wing of the independence movement to the various post independence terrorist
movements such as separatism in Kashmir the insurgency in Assam, and the Naxalite movement in
Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh are all represented.
The range of authors-including Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Rabindranath Tagore and Sarat
Chandra Chattopadhyay to Bhagat Singh, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Aurobindo Ghose, Khushwant Singh
Pankaj Mishra, Mahashweta Devi, Anita Agnihotri, jean Arasanayagam and Tenzin Tsundue, represents
a gamut of writing covering this terrain.
In a detailed introduction Nivedita Majumdar traces terrorism across south Asia explores
important aspects of the phenomenon from its effects, and reflects and reflects on moral and
ethical issues and counter-terrorism.
Timely and relevant this collection will interest general readers keen on learning more about the
phenomenon of terrorism in all its forms. Students and researchers of cultural studies history
and literature will also find this anthology appealing.
Nivedita Majumdar is Assistant professor of English at John collage, city University of
I would like to express my gratitude to the people and institutions that have helped generously
in the realization of this project. The grants form the professional staff congress of the City
University of New York and the office for Advancement of research at John Jay collage have been
immensely helpful. I owe a special word of thanks to Ira Raja for her interest in the project and
for taking it to Oxford University press. I am grateful for the many conversations with friends
as well as the occasional advice from strangers whom especially like to thank Amritji Singh,
Saros Cowasjee, mini Krishnan, Uravashi Butalia, Joseph Mathai, Snehlata Gupta, Elliot Podwill
and Avis Lang. my gratitude extents to Avis also for her invaluable editorial help with the
introduction. My friends and collages in the English Department at John Jay collage provided an
exceptionally warm and supportive work environment. The usually deadening process of me to get in
touch with writers I admire. Samart Upadhyay, Pankaj Mishra, Jean Arasanayagam and A. Sivanandan
were encouraging with the project and kindly extended the permission to reproduce their pieces.
To A. Sivanandan I am indebted in a deeper way. His magnificent novel, when memory Dies with its
profound experiential rendering of history, is the inspiration behind this book. I was fortunate
to work with an editorial team at Oxford University press that was unfailingly prompt efficient
and helpful, as always, I am grateful to my parents for their love and support: I dedicate this
book to my mother who first instilled in me the love of literature and whose courage and grace in
the face of adversity now strengthens me Finally, I thank Vivek for his love support and
inspiration which give meaning to my endeavours love support and inspiration which meaning to my
endeavours and my little Ananya for being there.
I do not regard killing or assassination or terrorism as good in ant circumstances whatsoever. I
do believe that ideas ripen quickly when nourished by the blood of the martyrs, but a man dies
slowly of jungle fever in service bleeds as certainly as one on the gallows. And of the one who
dies that deserved to ripen.
At the level of individuals violence is cleansing force. It frees the native form his inferiority
complex and form his despair and inaction; it make him fearless and restores his
self-respect…illuminated by violence the consciousness of the people rebels against any
pacification. The action which has thrown into a hand-to-hand struggle confers upon the masses a
voracious taste for the concrete. The attempt at mystification becomes in the long run
Terror that most primitive of human emotions as well as its relative terrorizing a most ancient
political strategy have undergone a strange a strange metamorphosis within the past decade.
Decade up in modern garb, that have turned into ‘terrorism’, suddenly the single most prominent
political phenomenon on the world stage.
Late us provisionally accept the prevailing definition of terrorism as the use of violence to
achieve political ends, taking note the fact that political ends are generally claimed and also
acknowledge to be legitimate ends. As per this definition, Terrorism is certainly not a strictly
recent phenomenon. For millennia terrorism has lurked within the heart of war itself an extreme
and comprehensive form of politically motivated violence enacted both on land and at sea with the
aim of gaining land, slaves, food, and opportunities. But beyond the armies, navies mercenaries
and privateers that ruthlessly carried out the commands of kings for the sake of consolidating
power and territory, there were very early on many small cohesive groups that acted as agents of
terror-sects, pirate crews, parties to suicide pacts. Seafaring raiders from sects pirate crews
parties to suicide the cities of the Levantine coast and terrorized the inhabitants of coastal
Egypt late on the second millennium BC. The zealots arose in palatine in the first century AD,
the Assassins arose in Persia and Syria in the eleventh century. As for tactics tyannicide was
considered noble in ancient Greece. Poison, fire the Trojan horse and ither deadly or clever
instrumentalities played their part in achieving the desired ends.
In recent history terrorism as a systematic strategy towards revolutionary aims were prominent
indeed notorious under the brief rule of the Jacobins notably Maximilien Robespierre and the
committee of public Safety, during the so-called Reign of terror pf 1793-4. The use if terror is
seen in some of the writings of the Russian populists, socialists and revolutionaries of the
mid-to late nineteenth century the same period saw the emergence of anarchists and Irish
terrorists. Terrorism however has a special resonance in the twentieth century with its
anti-colonial movements and state offensives across world including in Palestine South Africa
Ireland and India. Even as terrorism has constituted an aspect of modern political consciousness,
a times more visibly than at others, its contemporary pre-eminence is a novel phenomenon.
It was the attack on the world Trade Center In September 2001 that served to push terrorism to
the centrestage of world politics. And yet what was unique about that attack? Surely not the
destruction of property or even the loss of some 3000 lives. Ghastly and indefensible as the
attacks were our weary world has ultimately become immune to destruction and loss of this scale.
Was it, then the sheer spectacle of the planes, the flames the leaping bodies and the
disintegrating buildings that attracted worldwide attention? All that was surely part of the
reason for the sense, whether intuitive or manufactured or both that 9/11 seemed different from
other attacks. But there was still more to it than that. The world Trade center in New York
symbolized the success and glory of a unipolar capitalist world and yet it was not only attacked
but swiftly destroyed by a few unarmed non-citizens. The morning of 9/11 showcased the
vulnerability of power against the rage of the powerless.
Post 9/11 state polities has been a narrative of power re-asserting its legitimacy through force
and ideology. Unarguably the show of force has been spectacular. After declaring a war on terror
the mightiest country in the world has proceeded to destroy two of the poorest nations on the
planet. Frighteningly in this so-called war on terror more than 16 times as many people have been
killed than the 46986 people killed in all terrorist attacks worldwide since 1968. in Iraq alone
a recant study shows more than 650000 people have died since march 2003 as a consequence of the
invasion- and it must be remembered that this is a country with a population of less than 30
million, in march economic sanctions imposed in 1991 had already caused more than million to
perish from preventable disease prior to the in invasion. To the death toll in both Iraq and
Afghanistan, one must also add the severe toll taken by the devastation of civilian
infrastructure sewage system electrical grids, roads bridges hospitals schools homes markets a
bakery on one street a clinic on another.
The deadly war on terror has another face –reserved for its home population the one being
protected form the terror. The people at home face an attack on their rights and liberties. While
the wounded nation attacks other nations ostensibly in order to bring democracy to their people
it steadily undermines democratic institutions at home. War and study claims Iraq’s “Express”
death Toil has reached 655,000, David Brown, Washington post 11 October 2006, Page A12; Mortality
After the 2003 Invasion of Iraq; A Cross-sectional cluster Sample Survey’, Gilbert Burnham,
Riyadh Lafta, Shannon Doocy, les Roberts, the Lancet 11 October 2006.
Warlike situations offer one of the most effective ways of consolidating power: squelching
dissent. The past century is replete with instances of ruling classes worldwide taking advantage
of such opportunities. In the month after 9/11 the US government and passes the USA PATRIOT act
(the acronym stands for Uniting and strengthening America by providing Appropriate tools Required
to Internet and Obstruct Terrorism) providing sweeping powers to law enforcement authorities, and
undermining basic principles of checks and balances. The act threatens fundamental freedoms by
for instance, enabling government surveillance of and access to medical records, tax records
telephone bills, credit card statements and library loans without informing the residents a
manoeuvre known in legal circles as the ‘sneak and peek’ search warrant. Under the new regime,
non-citizens have been rounded up and detained many for month or even years, without being
charged with a crime or given the opportunity to meet a lawyer. In Guantanamo Bay, prisoners
suspected to be terrorists are held as ‘unlawful’ combatants- a term that holds no meaning in
international law. In order to obtain confessions these prisoners subjects to what the US
government including its Department of Justice euphemistically calls enhanced interrogation
The state uses a tested strategy to legitimize its excesses: it counterposes security to
liberties. The country is under attack therefore, extraordinary measures are called for. Security
and safety are primal needs understood and valued by nearly everyone. To many people, in contrast
civil liberties are an abstraction that can be relinquished with little or no sense of loss
traded In for safety. The counterposition is of course deeply fallacious for civil liberties one
a form of security- security against the state.
The deadliest ideological poly in this alleged war on terror is the resurgence of rhetoric
derived from and consonant with Samuel P. Huntington’s clash of civilization or cultural. The
fault lines of civilizations, Huntington asserts, are the battle lines of the future. This
The clash of civilizations? Samuel P. Huntington, foreign Affairs, summer theory has been
exploited to the full for the purpose of moulding the public response to terrorism. Following
Huntington’s thesis terrorism can be viewed as the new mode of battle of one kind of civilization
against another. Two months after the attack on the world Trade center president George W. Bush
Our nation faces a threat to freedoms and the stakes could not be higher. We are the target of
enemies who boast they want to kill-kill all Americans, kill all Jews and kill all Christians.
We’ve seen that type of hate before –and the only possible response is to confront it, and to
defeat it. This new enemy seeks to destroy our freedom and impose its views. We value life; the
terrorist ruthlessly destroy it. We value education the terrorists do not believe women should be
educated or should have healthcare or should leave their homes. We value the right to speak our
minds for the terrorists free expression can be grounds for execution.
The terrorist here is identified by his supposed cultural beliefs specific to his religion and
his region-in others words, Huntington’s civilizational fault lines. Akin to faith In racial
categories the theory of civilizational divide holds that cultures situated on different sides of
these deeply incised boundary lines have characteristics which mark them as irrevocably
different, alien, oppositional. In another twist the entire issue is cast in a millennial light
as a struggle between good and evil speaking in the context of the 9/11 attacks the Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon declared:
This is a war between good and evil-between humanity and those who thirst for blood. The way of
the wicked will the defeated, the way of those whor profess evil not prosper. The way of the
righteous the humane and the free will be victorious.
The problem with civilizational perspective is not that it posits a difference in cultures. By
definition, different cultures are different. It is the nature of the difference attributed to
different cultures that is thoroughly objectionable. It is assumed for instance by proponents of
a culturalist, Huntingtonesque perspective that values such as freedom.
In Address to the nation world congress center, Atlanta, Georgia, 11 August 2001.
PM Sharon Address the Knesset’s special session, Jerusalem 16 September 2001 and tolerance, or
ideals of liberty and equality are intrinsic attributes of the western civilization. The
civilizational perspective rejects the notion of the universality of certain values and is
incapable of acknowledging that cultures may adopt several historical trajectories in their
attempts to realize certain goals ideals.
In the discussion on terrorism the emphasis on cultural difference performs an insidious
function. At the outset, it is claimed that the terrorist embodies an irreconcilably different
set of values from those held by the targets of his attacks. Civilization rhetoric thereby denies
the possibility that the terrorist could have political and economic grounds for his action. The
idea that terrorism could be the outcome of specific socio-economic and political causes is
simply not taken into account. The civilizations worldview is inimical to the recognition of
political and economic grievances grounded in universal principles of fairness and equality.
Thus, the culturalist perspective renders hollow terrorism of all political meaning.
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