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This paper attempts to examine the extent to which rights of citizens in modern nation states are denied and violated in the context of war and conflicts. A vast collection of literature on ‘war on terror’ indicates that many democratic nations such as India has drastically violated the human rights of its citizens in the name of security. The state violence is the least discussed area in human right discourses. The paper investigates the genealogy of ‘human rights’ based on the works of Talal Asad and its transformation for a better conceptualisation of its violation in modern nation states. Terrorism and war can be considered as the major issues related to which human rights are demanded and discussed. This study is an exploration into the role of state violence on the human rights violation in today’s era. Key words: Human rights, Talal Asad, War, Terrorism


Human rights are those inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion or any other status. It includes the right of life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, etc. As human beings, we all have these rights and they have to be protected without any violation. But some of the human rights have been completely violated so far. War and terrorism take a big room in the list of phenomena which violate human rights. War, which is generally characterised by extreme violence, aggression, destruction and morality using regular or irregular military force, is a state of armed conflict between states, governments, societies or informal paramilitary groups. The use of intentionally indiscriminate violence as a means to create terror among masses of people, or fear to achieve a financial, political, religious or ideological aim is termed as terrorism. The violation of human rights is very clearly marked by the literatures on ‘war on terror’, the campaign launched by United States of America in response to the September 11 attack against organisations designed with terrorism.


In international law, individuals choose to commit violations. But social scientists have focused on the economic, political and cultural context of violations and have largely ignored individual choice and responsibility. Scholars are being engaged in mapping the general social, political and economic landscape of countries where governments have committed widespread violence against people under their control. These give sign to the fact that economic well-being leads to fewer human rights violations. The statistical evidence for the relationship between general poverty and violent governments is not more consistent, as relatively wealthy societies may degenerate into violent conflict while poorer societies may be less violent than one would have thought. Although democracies by definition, permit freedom of association, even leaders in democracies will decide to violate the rights of their citizens under certain conditions. Where opponents use violence on citizens by legally rewarding politicians who exercise restraint. Democratic governments have supported governments that commit extreme violations and cruelties in other countries, and they have equipped and trained the security forces that do the violence.


A new impulse to moralise the use of violence as an instrument of state policy has appeared in liberal democracies since 2001. The American idea of War against Terror along with the European notion of challenging a global terrorist threat, has merged with a discourse on humanitarian military actions: the political/moral ‘responsibility to protect’ is no longer to be confined to one’s own citizens. The roots of the concept of ‘just war’ lie in medieval Christian theory. Today, the term ‘just war’ is used to persuade those who might be sceptical about the use of internal violence that it is in fact both necessary and moral. Many critics of George Bush administration stressed ‘the need to get inside the mind of the enemy’, something they said the US had neglected in favour of direct military action. Thinking about the justification of war, we can see that all states use favourable interpretations to justify their own behaviour in legal terms, but victorious states are in the enviable position of being able to hold their defeated enemies accountable for violating the rules of just war and to dismiss those reportedly committed by their own citizens. It is not only the construction of war that is instrumentalised but also the construction of terrorism and the sensibilities that go with it. Indeed, the latter has become crucial in reinvigorating the idea of ‘just war’.

Coming to the concept of terrorism, we have to think about an age of ‘new war’, in which militants use transitional networks and modern technology, and adapt a strategy of sowing fear and hatred to create a climate of terror (Keldor 2002,22). As per David Rodin, terror attacks do not usually create continuous terror among ordinary people who tend not to think about the matter unless prodded to do so. It is not only terrorists who create that climate. ‘Terrorism is not primarily about the people and objects attacked; it is about the construction of threat, the identification of its sources, and the response that is suitable to it. Legislatures, police, judges, scientists, intellectuals, media, etc also create climates of terrorism. Coercive interrogation of prisoners, is also a type of harming which is a part of the reign called security, which in turn is part of the ‘just war’ against terrorism. Nowadays it is implanted in a system of surveillance by the liberal state. It actually takes place as part of the apparatus of national security that is integral to liberal democracies. However effective surveillance requires discriminating control over an entire population within the national territory in which part of the War on Terror is fought. According to US state Department, ‘Terrorism is premeditated politically-motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents’(Department of State 2002,xvi). According to this definition, terrorism is not simply political violence but political violence that is performed without licence from the state and especially when it is directed against ‘our state’.

We can find the roots of ‘just war’ principles of necessity and proportionality in medieval Christian theology. But some breaks in the evolution of relevant doctrine are interesting. In the early Middle Ages all killing, even in a war having church’s support, were considered homicide. It was killing or maiming humans as event not as motive that mattered. But in modern welfare, where armies are embedded in the structure and functioning of society, the very idea of killing noncombatants ‘intentionally’ has become complicated.The category of ‘just war’ is not merely an expression of organised violence, but the powerful nations are able to decide for themselves whether an event is to be treated as a ‘war crime’. In modern hostilities, the direct destruction of civilians and their means if life is considered as a routine event. Many vital things like electricity, food storage, road, railways, etc are also essential to the enemy’s army. But destroying such resources the enemy’s capacity to fight is being destroyed. The aerial bombardment which has become normalised by the Second World War, has also been employed as a military tactic in US bombing campaigns in Vietnam,Laos, Cambodia, Iraq, Afghanisthan and Somalia. Suicide bombing can be considered as the most dramatic form of terrorism. A suicide attack is any violent attack in which the attacker expects their on death as a direct result of the method used to harm, damage or destroy the target. The destruction of human beings and their ways of life has been essential to the formation of the modern state.


According to an article of Julian Lindley,’the distinctions between peacekeeping, peacemaking and war-fighting are becoming rapidly meaningless in the context of a “three-block” war, that is war involving humanitarian activities, stabilisation, and highly intensity war-fighting’(Lindley-French 2005).The role of state violence on the human rights violation is very crucial. Some of the human rights are partially or completely violated for some poor human beings by war and terrorism. According to American foreign policy, there are two groups in the world as those who proclaim the peace and those who encourage terrorism. By the second group’s(those who encourage terrorism) activities, the human rights as per Indian constitution, namely, the rights to life(Article 2), the right of life, liberty and security of person(Article 21), the right to freedom of opinion and expression(Article 19-22) are being harmed.

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