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Bangalore Blast: Challenges from Radicalisation

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The unexpected blast in a Bengaluru café on March 01, underlines the challenges from radicalization faced by India in the politico security space. Indian security establishment is aware of the possibility of indoctrination of Indian youth by global terrorist groups such as the Islamic State who have in the past launched a series of campaigns on the web to lure the vulnerable to revolt against the State. As Animesh Roul writes in the Jamestown Publication Terrorism Monitor Volume: 22 Issue: 4 headlined, “NIA Dismantles Remaining Islamic State Cells in India”, “India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested over 180 people in 2023 for involvement in jihadist terror cases, 65 of which were associated specifically with IS, as part of a broader strategy to disrupt IS’s influence in India”.

Roul writes that in December 2023, “the NIA conducted widespread raids across the country, arresting dozens of individuals linked to Islamic State (IS) networks and seizing weapons, explosives, and propaganda materials”.

In fact, on December 18, raids were carried out on an IS-inspired cell “IS in Ballari,” which covered Ballari and Bengaluru in Karnataka, State. Thus Bengaluru apart from Bellary in Karnataka which has been the home ground of  radical Islamist terrorists in the State have been on the NIA radar from some time.

Despite the intense scrutiny and police action to disrupt the indigenous potential terror networks, the possibility of escaping the dragnet in a country which is as large and diverse as India is evident from the Bengaluru blast.

At least ten people were injured in the blast at the popular Rameshwaram Cafe in Bengaluru. Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar indicated that the man who placed the bag containing the IED has been identified on CCTV. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah confirmed that the blast was caused by an IED and said a man placed a bag containing the device inside the cafe. "It was not a large-scale blast, it was an improvised explosive blast. Such things have happened earlier too, it should not happen. Let's see what it is. In recent times, such blasts have not taken place other than the incident in Mangaluru during BJP rule. This is the first such incident during our government," as per the Chief Minister outlining the political angle to the same.

As per the Hindustan Times, the managing director of Rameshwaram Café, Divya stated that tere were two explosions, less than 10 seconds apart. “The first explosion was near the cash counter and then there was chaos. I don’t know where the second explosion took place,” she said.

The Bengaluru blast thus indicates the possibility of a Lone Ranger who would be involved in the attack. Tracking individuals who are self radicalized is extremely difficult if not well nigh impossible. Fortunately, the individual in question did not have access to far more lethal bomb making material but could obviously set up a timer. Rigging up an IED is not difficult given the instructions that are available on the web. That he could not obtain more lethal material is a positive sign indicating the supply side challenges that are faced by such terrorists.

On the other hand, the “demand,” for radicalization and violent manifestation is something that the State would have to worry about. The creation of real or perceived grievance in a section of the population leading these to take up violent acts against the State has socio-political roots with information and misinformation dynamics which will have to be addressed.

The Times of India quotes a report by Washington DC-based research group, India Hate Lab on hate speech in India in 2023. Or the 668 instances the highest incidents of hate speech were recorded in Maharashtra, 118, followed by Uttar Pradesh, 104, and Madhya Pradesh, 65. Rajasthan was at fourth position with 64 instances, Haryana 48, at fifth position, Uttarakhand was sixth with 41, Karnataka 40, at seventh position, followed by Gujarat (31), Chhattisgarh (21), and Bihar with 18.

Controlling hate speech at a sensitive period with general elections due in a couple of months where polarizing rhetoric may become rampant will also assume importance.

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