Jallad: Death Squads and State Terror in South Asia, Tasneem Khalil (London: Pluto Press, 2016)

Democide (murder of any person or people by their government), has often been legitimised under the slogan of, “sometimes bad things need to be done in order to keep worse things from happening.” Assassination for military and political purposes have a long history and has been argued in famous works such as Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Chanakya’s Arthashastra and Machivelli’s The Prince. Empires and states have thrived on democide carried out by specialised ‘death squads’ often paramilitary in nature, to maintain the status quo through extrajudicial killings, executions, and other violent acts against clearly defined individuals or groups of people. In other words, state-sponsored violence is not a new phenomenon. Totalitarian states resorted to extrajudicial killings to maintain state control in history. However, state-sponsored violence escalated since the beginning of the 20th century, and haunts the beginning of the 21st with the escalating violence and terrorism, and the beginning of the fourth generation war.

Death squads are common around the world in the Middle East, South and South East Asia and Russia. Most recently, these can be equated to the targeted killings through drones by the US. Death squads, or extralegal and paramilitary units tasked with carrying out extrajudicial executions, therefore, embody the eternal boot of tyranny.

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