The word “terror” appeared in headlines on newspapers’ first pages in Kashmir for the first time last year. Until then, the practice had been to use the term “militants”.
Often, terms like terrorists, militants, and insurgents are used interchangeably, but these terms have distinct meanings and carry different connotations, particularly in a conflict zone like Kashmir, where various quarters see the conflict and its participants differently.
What’s the difference between terrorist, militant, and insurgent?
While a section of Kashmiris has called them “freedom fighters” or “mujahid” – Islamic religious fighters -- the Kashmiri press has over the years referred to people fighting the Indian state as “militants”. The three words, however, have different meanings
Terrorism does not have a universally accepted definition but broadly refers to the targeting of civilians for the fulfilment of their objectives. They target civilian lives and infrastructure for the state’s attention and to put pressure on them.
Militancy confronts the state and targets state infrastructure and its representatives, such as a country’s police and military.
Insurgency is the long, protracted armed struggle by a section of the population against the state because of several reasons such as ideology, ethnicity, linguistic differences, or out of fundamentalist and extremist tendencies, according to the Indian sub-conventional doctrine. An insurgency often thrives with foreign support, such as with Pakistani support in Kashmir.
Selective targeting of civilians, such as religious minorities, would therefore qualify as acts of terrorism, whereas attacks on security forces such as the Pulwama attack or Uri attack would qualify as a militant attacks.
The larger movement against the state or established authority, such as by a section of Kashmiris against the Indian state or by groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda against the US presence in Iraq and the US-backed government in Iraq after Saddam Hussain was overthrown, would be considered an insurgency.
Insurgents can employ both terrorist and militant methods for the fulfilment of their objectives.
Moreover, militants can include any individual or group that takes to violence against the state and this need not only include terrorists and insurgents, but also religious extremists that take to violence to further their beliefs, according to Vivek Chadha, a research fellow at Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.
The usage of these words in Kashmir is complicated as journalists there do not just cover the conflict but live through it and it’s a question of their safety, notes a Newslaundry article.
Journalists in Kashmir have faced the ire of both state and groups fighting the state. While journalists have faced harassment and arrests by state actors, journalists like Rising Kashmir’s Shujaat Bukhari have been killed by terrorists as well.