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Seven days Bangalore may never forget

india Updated: Jul 09, 2007 15:41 IST
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Perhaps never in its nearly 500-year history has a week meant so much to Bangalore. It may take years to compute how much modern 'Bendakalooru' - widely believed to be its original name - has lost last week.

It took about a decade for Bangalore to become the IT hub of India from a pensioners' paradise. In the process, the city lost much of its old-world charm as it gained in terms of fame, wealth, population, swanky malls, elite multi-storied apartments and a roll call of presidents, prime ministers, Fortune 500 CEOs.

It has taken less than a week to peel off some of this sheen and to make the people - almost complacent about Bangaloreans not falling prey to any extremism - sit up and wonder whether the events that began in faraway Glasgow in Scotland on June 30 and found links here is a one-off affair or the beginning of a downhill journey for this much-loved city.

There have been problems in Bangalore before, everything else negative about the image of this city paled into insignificance last week when news splashed that three local men were suspects in a failed terror bid in Britain.

Two of them, Kafeel Ahmed and his younger brother Sabeel, lived in Banashankari, a middle-class locality in south Bangalore named after an 'avatar' of Parvati, wife of Lord Shiva. The 'avatar' of Banashankari is that of 'Shakti', the woman power that conquers evil, according to Hindu mythology.

Debate will rage on whether the three highly qualified young men, Kafeel, a mechanical engineer, Sabeel, a medical doctor, and their second cousin Mohammad Haneef, also a medical doctor detained in Brisbane, Australia, became radical before or after leaving the shores of India.

Whatever their motives, justification or beliefs, the three young men may never realise the severity of the negative impact on their city that everyone - including their fellow and future medical and engineering graduates - will have to live with.

Of course, Bangalore has had its share of violence before - over sharing Cauvery water with neighbouring Tamil Nadu state and communal as well. But these have been few and far between and have not lasted days like in some other parts of the country.

The crime rate - including murder - has gone up as the city expanded. Thefts and robbery are on the increase, not to speak of corruption at various levels of administration.

The city's techies are an easy target for muggers as these geeks work late, party late and return to their dwellings well past midnight and even in the wee hours of the morning.

The city's infrastructure is not keeping pace with the growing population, a huge section of which is migrant, coming from various parts of India in search of jobs or for better education.

The weather is no longer as salubrious as it was in the 1960s and 1970s, when having a fan at home was a sign of being upper middle class. Now it is a must in each room of most houses.

Water scarcity haunts the city if the monsoons fail. Roads are potholed but 1,000 new vehicles enter these roads daily.

Bangalore still remains a garden city and retains a fairly good green cover but both are being gobbled at an incredible pace by a well-organised land mafia, patronised by political and bureaucratic classes.

The city has also had its share of notoriety as a safe hideout for those running away from law.

The most famous of them was one-eyed Sivarasan, one of the main plotters of in the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991. He had holed himself up with his associates in Konankunte, then a village on the outskirts of Bangalore. He was killed in the attempt to flush him out.

But none of these jolted Bangaloreans in the non-Internet, non-Infosys, non-Wipro and non-Marks and Spencer's era.

The new, world wide webbed city, now home not only to Marks and Spencer's but all the sought after brands, came face to face with real terror for the first time when the hallowed Indian Institute of Science (IISc) was attacked in the last week of December 2005, killing a retired professor of Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, who was here to attend a seminar.

That woke up the Bangaloreans to the hard reality that the city was not just a safe haven for those running away from law but a soft target as well.

Now Bangalore may have to live with the image that it is not just a target but a possible origin of terror. The impact of such an image on a city that depends on its global connectivity for its very survival may be incalculable.

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