This is following up to a recent promise to say something more here about the South Asia Terrorism Portal.
Especially after the recent bomb blasts in Delhi, the South Asia Terrorism Portal is a often-quoted reference on terrorism, not least because KPS Gill is part of this effort. SATP calls itself the "largest website on terrorism and low intensity warfare in South Asia", and true to that description, it carries all manner of figures and tables regarding terrorism.
Soon after the Delhi blasts, I read about SATP in a Times of India article. It quoted figures from SATP and concluded that India is among the "worst victims of terror" in the world. Naturally, this got me rushing to the nearest computer so I could visit the SATP site and look at these figures myself.
When I did so, three things came to mind.
1) The figures in that Times of India article come from a SATP page called India Fatalities. Between 1994 and 2005, this page says, 50,937 people died in terrorist violence. (The Times quoted that 50,937 figure). Of those, 19,662 were civilians and 7320 were security force personnel. The rest, 23,955 (nearly half the total) were ... terrorists.
Something nags gently at me here. Should dead terrorists be included in this total?
2) The page lists no sources for the numbers it quotes. In fact, no sources are listed for any of the figures on the India-related pages, all of which are linked from one page titled India Datasheets.
What you will find, instead of sources, are these statements: "Compiled from news reports and are provisional" (on the Fatalities in Left-wing Extremism page) and "Compiled from English language media sources" (on the ISI-related modules Neutralised outside J&K and the Northeast, 2004-5 page, the Bomb Blasts in Delhi, 1997-2005 page, and the Bomb Blasts in Mumbai, 1993-2005 page).
(If someone finds sources listed anywhere on the site, please let me know).
SATP uses press reports to compile its figures. In turn, the press quotes SATP's figures in its reports.
3) Nowhere in the India Datasheets -- nowhere -- will you find entries for such acts of terrorism as the killings in Delhi, 1984; the Bombay riots, 1992-93; the Godhra train fire, 2002; the subsequent killings in Gujarat, 2002 (among others). Why?
My first explanation was, SATP does not consider events like these -- call them sectarian violence -- to be terrorism. I cannot agree, but perhaps SATP feels that way and they are entitled to their opinion. It's their site, anyway.
But then I visited SATP's Pakistan DataSheet page, on which there is a link to a page called Sectarian Violence in Pakistan (1989-2005). There, various tables list a total of 1668 people killed and 3997 injured in such violence in Pakistan (source: "Constructed from media reports", of course).
Why would SATP list sectarian violence in Pakistan on its pages, but completely overlook sectarian violence in India?
Put it another way. Clearly, SATP considers sectarian violence in Pakistan to be terrorism -- that's why they list it on their site. Why would they not consider sectarian violence in India to be terrorism?
What would you make of a "largest website on terrorism" that lists no sources for its figures, and utterly ignores one whole kind of terrorism?