23 March 2017


Those carrying out an insurgency are “insurgents”. Insurgents engage in regular or guerrilla combat against the armed forces of the established authority, government or administration. Insurgents usually are in opposition to a civil authority or government primarily in order to overthrow or obtain autonomy or independence for a certain geographical area, a share in government, to further a separatist or revolutionary agenda, or improve their condition. In addition to military activity, insurgency organisations may use terrorist attacks to increase awareness of their cause as well as criminal activities such as weapons, drugs, commodity and human smuggling, counterfeit, fraud, illegal money laundering, cargo theft and other forms related to, and often in cooperation with, organised crime syndicates. Furthermore, insurgency groups in proximity of coastal areas and straits have been active in piracy as a financial tactic. 

Insurgency definition

“A protracted political-military activity directed toward completely or partially controlling the resources of a country through the use of irregular military forces and illegal political organisations.” 

Root causes for insurgency are almost as diverse as there are insurgencies around the world and even in one area there might be several insurgencies at the same time. An example is North India, which has several autonomous or isolated insurgencies, militancies and other movements. The roots of the problem vary from secessionism to demands for states or sub-states within India, or regional autonomy for ethnic areas within the states, or protection of ethnic areas within the states, or protection of ethnic and cultural identities. The economic and infrastructural backwardness, unemployment and lack of opportunities seem to be common causes in almost all cases.

In general, the lack of central state attention to the problems of the population in such areas can lead to insurgency. One of the typical root causes is a combination of ethnic marginalisation and economic grievances. This provides fertile ground for radicalised religious groups e.g. jihadists in Muslim countries/areas, or radicalised political groups e.g. Marxist-Leninist in other. In order to understand insurgency, these are among the important root causes to be analysed.