Over the course of thousands of years, modern man has constantly evolved his lifestyle and has shaped and re-shaped the society that he lives in. The current social scenario is the product of our predecessors’ trials to achieve a peaceful and prosperous society.
Although it still remains a distant dream, given the unstable conditions prevailing in nations across the globe, the positive aspect remains that our society has discarded the rule of the jungle and progressed to be more ‘civilized’.
Yet, there remain certain sects that operate beyond the white collar machinery to increase personal wealth or spread extreme ideologies in the society to attain political or social ambitions. These groups of people involve the use of violence and fear as their primary weapons and utilise highly confidential networking and man-power to work smoothly; away from the eyes of the law.
The very nature of these sectors is destructive towards the common folk, hence causing widespread loss of life and property — a low blow to the economy of nations and playing with the psychology of the people.
Today, our world is facing a rampant problem because of these malicious man-made phenomena, hence to prevent any more damage, it is important to understand the sectors of organised crime and terrorism – the two most devastating ‘phenomena’ of crimes against humanity and what links these two.
In order to establish the linkage between terrorism and organised crime, we need to understand what are they exactly and what is the current global and national status. Firstly- organised crime.
As per the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes, organised crimes can be defined as any activity which is performed by a group of three or more individuals not randomly formed and existing over a long period of time and enacted in concert with the aim of committing at least one crime punishable by at least four years’ incarceration; In order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or material benefits.
Basically, an organised crime group often referred to as a crime ‘syndicate’, is a group which follows a corporate structure to implement unlawful activities to obtain money. The people who indulge in this do not hesitate to utilize violence and fear to get their jobs done.
Organised crime sector has expanded to become a global phenomenon and influence economy at transnational level. Their primary objective as described by the Federal Bureau of Investigation is to acquire money through illegal activities.
These activities broadly include but are not restricted to the following crimes- Counterfeiting, Bribery, Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud, Money Laundering, Embezzlement of Union Funds, Obstruction of Justice, Murder, Assassination, Drug Trafficking, Prostitution and Sexual Exploitation of Children, Alien Smuggling, Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods, Kidnapping Gambling, Arson Robbery, Sports Bribery Extortion, Drugs, and Theft from Interstate Shipment/Interstate.
With the growing businesses, political pressures like licensing and the advent of technology, organised crimes have begotten a whole new dimension to operate and flourish in. It is one of the most researched subjects for sociologists, criminal psychologists and other researchers. Three major components have been identified, which serve as the benefactors of organised crimes- the criminal groups, the protectors and the specialist groups.
The first component indulges in criminal activity to generate income. It is well structured and liable to change of leadership over a long period of time. The protector rackets are involved with providing safety and securing unlawful activities which otherwise would have been on a government crackdown.
These sects tend to have high political and social influence in the region which helps them evade law. Finally, the specialist groups are those who are highly skilled and well networked in one of the many criminal activities. Sometimes, various specialist groups come together to form a larger conglomeration of organised crimes.
The most highly structured organisations include Mafias like the Russian and Chinese mafias or the Japanese Yakuzas. A bit lesser organised ones come in the form of street gangs and dacoits who are sometimes funded by the mafias to do the ‘dirty’ jobs.
The characteristic feature of such groups is the spontaneity in its members to readily use physical violence, which is the source of all intimidation and fear in the public and the government. It is widely used by crime syndicates to gain territorial and financial monopoly in regions across national boundaries which make organised crime networks even harder to apprehend.
On the same lines, terrorism too has its unique definition. The United States Department of states defines this term as- ‘premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.’
While this can be the most suitable definition of terrorism, the UN describes terrorism in simpler language, as activities that are intended or schemed to inculcate a state of terror is general public. It has been condemned as criminal and unjustifiable.
Terrorism is more ideologically instigated and aims to impact the socio-political aspect of a region, generally to gain power over that region or overthrow the ruling government and forcefully implement their own ideas on the subjects of the nation.
Technological advancements have helped the terror outfits to rely more and more upon new and modern equipment which they use to fight the government security forces. They engage the defense forces directly after inflicting damage to public life and property and unconditionally use violence to create fear amongst the common folk and spread their propaganda.
Terrorism is usually of four main types: state terrorism- where the act of spreading terror is done by the government itself; International terrorism- commenced by a terror outfit across various nations; domestic terrorism- terrorism restricted to one nation/state only; and religious terrorism- which incites hatred and violence between religious communities and spreads terror in the public.
Just like organised crimes, terrorism is also a worldwide phenomenon. Upon deeper examining, researchers found a deeper symbiotic relationship between these two sectors and are the reason behind the establishment, development and integrity of these unlawful organisations and their activities.
Similarities between Organised Crimes and Terrorism
With a common effect of disrupting national as well as international stability of communities, it is not surprising that there exist a number of linkages between organised crimes and terrorism. Prior to that let us view a few similarities between the two branches of unlawful activities.
Firstly, the hierarchical structure in organisation. There exists a system of ranks and files in crime syndicates and terror outfits. These can vary from highly corporate structure to military-like structure and in some cases, a combination of both. The degree of order in each separate organisation of course, varies from amateur street gangs to professional mafia.
Secondly, the use of violence is rampant in both the sectors. Guns and weaponry is a must for these organisations and most of their members are well adept users of such weapons. Crime syndicates and terrorist organisations never hesitate to take human lives to ensure smooth functioning of their illicit activities.
Humans have a very high value of life and violence can cause fear which not only helps the illegal parties involved in these sectors achieve their physical goals, but also effects the public psychology by generating fear and intimidation. Thirdly, they are highly secretive and operate from the underground with restricted membership.
This is an important feature that is common to both the groups as they are involved in criminal activities, hence to evade the law and safeguard their businesses, they prefer to stay low profile and enlist limited personnel who they find effective and trustworthy.
Additionally, on the larger scale, both affect the global peace, economy and development and are funded by corrupt officials who bring regional disparity that has a dominoes effect in the international level. And as mentioned, they achieve this by indulging in violent crimes like kidnapping, trafficking, assassinations and massacres.
Organised crime groups and terrorist organisations are similar in so many points, yet there is a principle difference that makes each one unique. Organised crime is undertaken by individuals with the main motive of obtaining money while terrorists aim at causing a socio-political imbalance in nations and gaining power in the affected territories. Money becomes a secondary aim to the terror groups.
The Linkage between Organised Crime and Terrorism
The people who are involved in organised crimes desire to live a lavish and comfortable life while the people involved in terrorism want to spread their ideologies over various regions and gain control of the territories.
To be able to achieve these aims, both the organisations need resources and in the present times, abundance of resources is only guaranteed by one factor- money. Since currency is considered as a lawful medium of exchange of goods and services (resources), these unlawful organisations do not have free access to it, which is why they indulge in criminal activities as a mode to acquire currency.
In general, the relationship that exists between organised crimes and terrorism stems from this access of money. As mentioned earlier, organised crime sector is mainly involved in committing crimes for financial gains, the terror outfits, which are more inclined towards gaining political and social control, utilise the crime syndicates to fund their activities.
While in return, the organised crime groups seek protection from lawful authorities while practising their business. This form of inter-dependence forms the roots of the linkage between crime syndicates and terrorists.
Additionally, both the organisations are constantly evolving and learning to use new technology. The masteries that each one achieves in their respective fields enable them to empower each other by using shared tactics and methods.
There are various aspects to how the linkage is implemented in practical terms. Weapon and human trafficking are one instance which provides both the parties with financial funds as well as firepower and manpower. Furthermore, narcotics and terrorism also go hand in hand as drug trafficking is one of the most profitable illegal activities.
This is because it generates quick money in the form of hard cash. Terrorist influence meanwhile, supports these activities and ensures flow of cash by the use of violent crimes like assassination, murder, kidnapping, extortion and similar enterprise. In totality, this gives rise to a criminal continuum having four general features including alliance, operational motivation, convergence and most importantly- the black hole syndrome.
As analyst Dr Tamara Makarenko describes it- The black hole syndrome is the natural progression of these two criminal groups gaining economic and political control over a territory or an entire state. A live example model of this will be the Afghanistan. Most of the Afghan territory is under the regime of Taliban which capitalised on the narcotics market in the country and turned the crime into a million dollar industry.
The Indian Scenario
India is surrounded by more than half a dozen of nations of which the dominant ones do not share a very friendly relationship with us. Furthermore, the various hotspots for terror factions have been able to export their terrorists on foreign soils of Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar which along with the existing threat from Pakistan and China and the escalating violence in Afghanistan, threatens the nation’s security from all the directions.
As money plays key role in supporting the terror and crime groups, there is little to no surprise that money laundering is an extensively undertaken crime by members of these outfits. This money is utilised for funding the terror missions directly or investing it in various other crimes as mentioned below which further generates more funds for them and reinforces the black market industries.
In terms of drug trafficking, it is a widespread problem in the Indochina region. The situations are made worse by the fact that India lies in the Golden Triangle and the Golden Crescent- the world’s major narcotics trade and exporting regions. To ensure their businesses are intact, terrorists and drug lords have joined hands which provides the latter the political and territorial influence and the former the funds and fluidity of transport and locomotion.
The second aspect comes in terms of illegal firearms trafficking. A 2006 report suggested that approximately 40 million illegal firearms are present in India and an additional 75 million already circulating in the global market. Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh are the hotspots of illegal firearms production.
This criminal trade is a critical point to tackle in the global war against terror. Since the terrorists heavily depend upon violence through weapons, they form an alliance with weapons brokers and firearm mafias to avail the guns, ammunition’s and explosives at a cheaper and more readily available source, which they require to carry out their missions.
This circumvents the national arms control regime and gears the terrorists up for clashes against security forces while the illegal arms dealers gain an international market to propagate their business.
Human Trafficking is also one of the most rampant illegal trades that have deep rooted networks in India. It helps the terrorist organisations to gain financial support as well as entry points in the country. Unfortunately, even in the 21st century, slave industry is still a billion dollar sector with human trafficking playing key role in promoting it.
Finally, one of the newest frontiers on which the mafias and terror groups have started to cooperate is the online world. Cybercrime and terrorism have formed a highly beneficial link on this platform for themselves which involve instigating wider population and spreading terrorist propaganda’s, raising funds for the illegal activities and terrorism, brainwashing and recruiting youth, encrypted communication, coordinating, planning and executing terror attacks, etc. Cybercrime is on the rise as more and more people become dependent on the computers for their day-to-day activities.
Effectively Combating Organised Crime and Terrorism
Letting these organisations run free will definitely have devastating effects on the world hence it is important to check the activities of these groups and remove their existence. There are various measures that are being taken and can be taken to efficiently counter such illegitimate works.
First and foremost priority should be given to the policies, law and order and their enforcement. Sadly, India does not have any laws against organised crimes. Even though there do exist laws that prevent the various crimes that these syndicates partake in, for example the Indian Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 targets illegal drug trades but there is no comprehensive laws that targets organised crimes which is a major loophole that the organised crime groups exploit.
Coming to the enforcement agencies that include both the investigative boards like the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), the intelligence agencies like R&AW and IB, etc. as well as the security forces including the military and the paramilitary forces under the Union and the states.
These organisations should be given more freedom in planning and executing raids and counter-attacks and should be well equipped with the latest weapons and operational equipment which can increase their efficacy in fighting terrorism and cracking down on organised crimes.
Proactive efforts should be made at the international level for cooperation in war against organised crimes and terrorism. As majority of the functions of these groups are transnational in nature, establishing intelligence network and utilising foreign help can help eliminate the disturbing elements for all the participating nations.
This can be achieved by improving political ties with other nations, conducting joint military exercises and training’s to gain their trust and investing in various infrastructural and social development projects to co-develop with other nations.
Enhancing regional awareness and spreading counter-propaganda to generate public awareness regarding the terrorist and criminal activities that are maligning the society and helping the citizens ensure their safety, making them self-reliable can strengthen the nation’s roots and prevent anti-national or anti-social ideologies from taking over the mentalities of the youth as promoted by the terrorist and criminal organisations.
Over the entirety of history, especially during the 20th century, the world witnessed a sharp surge in criminal activities and terror attacks. The conspirators behind these unjust activities have been working for a long time to achieve a well-established system of networks and resources to ensure that these organisations survive the trials of time and society. Hence there is no one-stop solution which can suddenly wipe these outfits off the face of this planet.
We have to take one step at a time to bring these outlawed individuals on their knees while simultaneously stay vigilant and take all precautionary measures to prevent these crimes from spreading. Such a procedure can be efficiently carried out only by the cooperation of the governments and the people at regional, national as well as global level.
Humanity has lost a lot in the hands of terrorism and has been brutalised by the organised crimes, hence as responsible citizens of India as well as keen human beings, we should all equally contribute in this war against terrorism and organised crimes and bring them to justice.