Friday’s serial blasts in Bangalore are a chilling reminder that we continue to live dangerously not only with terrorism but also with terrible complacency. The blasts that tore through crowded areas and bus stations of the Garden City have left a city, usually considered outside the arc of such attacks, more than just rattled. From all accounts, timers seem to have been used to set off the low-intensity explosives, with the intention of traumatising the local population. Terror attacks serve two purposes: one, to create as much human and material damage as possible; and two, to terrify a populace. In the case of Friday’s attack, terrorists seem to have succeeded in the latter. It is too soon to say who was responsible for the blasts. But it is quite clear that the authorities were caught unawares.
But was this a bolt from the blue? It is no secret that terrorists are spreading their tentacles in South India. Increased terrorist activity has been tracked in Karnataka in general and Bangalore in particular. Intelligence agencies had even warned of the possibility of the high-profile tech city turning into a hub’n’haven for those waging a war against the State. Bangalore is not just India’s IT hub, but is also home to a high concentration of sensitive defence, scientific and industrial establishments. This should give any security agency sleepless nights, considering the presence of extremist groups like Students Islamic Movement of India (Simi) and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (Huji) in the city and its suburbs. Even the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) is believed to have set up camp in Bangalore — its only major base outside Kashmir.
With most of the country’s security and intelligence focused on tackling terror in J&K and the northeast, there is an alarming absence of security vigil in peninsular India. This makes it easy for sleeper cells to mushroom. It may not always be possible to prevent such attacks on ‘soft’ targets. But there is little excuse for the police and the intelligence apparatus not to develop adequate technical intelligence capabilities to monitor the activities of suspect networks. And even the police and intelligence authorities know that.