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Increasingly, in the last decade or so, violence has pervaded Indian politics. It has found various forms-from shrill and abusive language and character assassination of opponents to casteism and communal violence and from booth capturing to physical attacks on the oppressed (agricultural laborers, daltis, tribals and women) who try to raise themselves and actualize the promises of equality and equal opportunity embodied in our Constitution. But, above all violence has taken the form of organized and large-scale terrorism.Terrorism has become endemic in India since early 1980s. We have not been able to check it or contain it. What is worse, we have failed to make it politically illegitimate. When a major assassination occurs, we use words such as brutal, barbaric and heinous to describe the act, but in more normal times, we treat it as if it is business as usual.In our approach to terrorism we fail to distinguish it from the use of violence or armed struggle in a revolutionary situation. There is a vast difference between violence in a democratic society, where venues of peaceful protest as also political change through electoral processes exist, and an authoritarian dictatorial society where the people have no choice but to overthrow the political regime through use of weapons. But even in the latter society, violence takes the form of mass upsurge or armed struggle based on massive political support and mobilization.Terrorism at a serious and dangerous level arises in a democratic society when an organized group is convinced of its own political righteousness and yet finds itself unable to acquire political power democratically because it is unable to persuade the majority to back it either in terms of mass mobilization or, ultimately, in terms of electoral support.
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