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     Volume 4 Issue 29 | January 14, 2005 |

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When most of the rest of the world refers to 'terrorism' and measures of countering that vein of violence, the focus is usually on the activities of one or more groups which desire political, socio-economic, ethnic, religious and cultural freedom. The aspiration of the aggressor and the viewpoint of the victim offer credence to the adage "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter".

That is precisely why there are groups, small and large, claiming responsibility (often falsely) of a terrorist attack soon after it is perpetrated, as the primary purpose of an attack on a stronger opposition is to draw public attention and sympathy to the cause of the weaker, by whatever measure.

In Bangladesh, the series of brutal bomb (grenade) and other form of attacks on political meetings, cultural gatherings and journalists, and now a university professor that may be bracketed as terrorism have not, barring hoax calls and fictitious fax messages, had any serious claimer. Furthermore we have also upgraded ordinary dacoits and extortionists to the rank of terrorist. While doing that we are often doing serious injustice to freedom fighters (dubbed 'terrorists' for the sake of convenience by the tormenter) who are opposing oppression of some form or another in some country or region.

With no group, even if clandestine, coming forward to make known why they attacked any particular public meeting or a cinema hall or a press club in this country, the acts can at best be attributed as cowardly attacks of a few individuals with no strong or popular agenda. The failure of our law-enforcing bodies to unearth even the tip of the volcano has only encouraged the repetition of such gutless acts that have claimed dozens of innocent lives. The nation needs to know who did it and why, if only so that the situation may be addressed from all necessary corners.

Terrorism, if it may be called that in today's perspective, began as a struggle for freedom 2000 years ago in Judea as a resistance movement of a Jewish sect the Zealots, who opposed the occupation by Roman rulers of their land, the modern day Israel. The Zealots killed the intruders and their Jewish collaborators in public, often during the day in busy places so that people knew who did it and why. One thousand years later Syrian Muslim freedom fighters called Assassins opposed and killed Christian invaders to draw maximum publicity for their just cause.

By the above bill, can the grenade hurlers, financial extractors, roadside chitkaas and others, who have been terrorising (oops!) Bangladesh for long, be called terrorists? They are dacoits and robbers, large-scale pocket pickers.

Terrorism has been defined as violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that intimidate or coerce a civilian population, influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion, or affect the conduct of a government by assassination or kidnapping.

The violence here does not fall into that classification. Moreover, in most cases, it is locally effected against the affluent, business houses, creditors, family members, 'friends', and political opponents. But we shall never know for sure because we are never provided with the identity of the attacker/s, neither with the motive. We only assume. We can be wrong.

One of the dangers of the continuing surreptitious activities is that personal vendetta may be disguised as a terrorist attack. A political opponent, a business partner, a person caught in a love triangle may each be murdered in so-called terrorist activities.

Again, there are unfortunate incidents of street muggers and pickpockets being killed and burnt in public wrath. How do we know that some opponent/s of the victim had not set up the whole drama? A gang of five-six persons can very easily act as 'public' and get the rest of the crowd involved.

The police shall have apparently no one to catch because the act has been labelled as 'terrorism' or 'public rage'.

The one positive aspect of terrorism, as known to the outside world, is that terror campaigns have usually targeted democratic countries. That should make us a very democratic country indeed.

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