After being widely known as the IT hub of India, Karnataka in general and Bangalore in particular has now become the destination point for a number of terrorist organizations. Adding to its agony is the fact that a lot of underground Maoist exercise is also going on in Karnataka since quite sometime now. The $22 billion information technology industry contributes 3.5% of India's Gross Domestic Product. Bangalore has about 1,500 technological firms with around 200,000 employees, among which around 2000 are foreigners, and it alone accounts for 40% of India's IT revenues. Post 9/11, economic terrorism has become the driving word for most terrorist organizations. Recent developments in Karnataka point towards the rising threat of economic terrorism in and around Bangalore.
Earlier in the month of January, one armed militant, Imran belonging to Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) was arrested in a Bangalore suburb. When arrested he was in possession of a satellite phone, mobile SIM cards and a map of the city indicating the locations of the airport and the offices of IT majors Wipro Technologies Ltd and Infosys Technologies. Interrogations revealed that a strong contingent of 50 LeT terrorists is already in the state, waiting to strike terror. Imran claims that he had prior information of the Delhi serial bomb blasts in 2005. Police sources also claim that he had links with the suspects of 7/11 blast in Mumbai and some other SIMI activists. Imran acknowledged that his key mission in the South was to recruit Muslim youth and he also confirmed that the LeT has successfully established its base in different localities of Gulbarga, Raichur, Hubli, Bijapur and Belgaum. Similar such incidents in recent past suggest that the proscribed organization of SIMI has been quite active in the districts of Gulbarga and Bijapur besides Bangalore City.
The December 2005 attack on the Indian Institute of Science confirmed that the city was indeed vulnerable to terrorism. Investigations and search operations that followed the attack indicated the existence of sleeper cells and a terror network in several towns of Karnataka. In July 2006, a software engineer - reportedly a former employee at Oracle India in Mysore - was taken into custody for alleged involvement in the serial bomb blasts on suburban trains in Mumbai. Again in October 2006, two men with suspected links to the Pakistan-backed Al-Badr were arrested in Mysore.
The achievements of IT sector in Bangalore have, therefore, attracted terrorist organizations. A case in point is the plans of the CPI (Maoist) to specifically highlight the issue of Kudermukh National Park and the issue of tribal exploitation. There are 2,028 families including 1,425 tribal families within the purview of Kudremukh National Park who are facing the threat of eviction since 1987. The Government is yet to finalize the settlement claims from farmers and tribal people living in the area and this weakness of the government has so far served as the most powerful weapon in the hands of Naxals. The CPI (Maoist) has been closely following the course of economic development in the state, and to gather support it generally draws a parallel between the transformation of Bangalore and the situation in the country side. Pavagada in Tumkur District, Karnataka, is infested with naxalites since 1979. Kolar, Bidar, Gulbarga, and Raichur districts have been witnessing Naxal activities since late-1980s. As of now, they have extended their presence to Bellary, Shimoga, Udupi, Chikmagalur and Dakshin Kannada, while Hasan and Kodagu are gradually slipping into the Naxal fold.
On 6 February, 2005, the then state secretary CPI (Maoist) Saket Rajan alias Prem was killed in an encounter in Chikmagalur district. On 17 May, 2005 a Congress party activist, Seshappa Gowda, was killed at Menasinahadya in the Chikmagalur District. Dinakar, a Naxal leader belonging to Netravathi Dala was killed in an encounter on 25 December, 2006 at Kigga near Sringeri. Karnataka was always there in the Maoist agenda; however, it's only recently that the state government admitted 13 of its districts as being Naxal infested. Beside the CPI (Maoist) state committee, Karnataka also has four Naxal squads with each squad generating not less than Rs one lakh a month. Recently, the Chief Minister admitted that Naxals in the state are equipped with Automatic Weapons, 8mm Rifles, 303 Rifles, Improved Explosive Devises and Hand Grenades besides two-way VHF communication equipment.
Growth of economic terrorism due to economic advancement and growth of red terror due to the failed mechanisms of equitable growth- Karnataka indeed offers a classic case of contradictions facing the Indian nationhood today. Given the fragile situation, it is necessary that the government safeguard its most valuable possession, the IT sector. At the same, it must ensure that the benefits of economic growth also reach the poor tribals who are facing the threat of displacement over several government projects like that of the Kudremukh national park. A multi pronged strategy aimed at minimizing the existing contradictions in the socio-economic growth of the state would, in turn, also minimize the risk of becoming the target of multiple terror groups.