By M.K. Ashoka
Bhatkal, a sleepy coastal town in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka, is largely infamous as breeding ground for terrorists. The youths who disappeared from this city were later found to be associated with terror acts that shook the nation.
But now, it seems that the shadow of terrorism has spread to the entire coastal region of the state.
Bengaluru, also known as the 'Silicon Valley of India', has also come under radar of terrorists, posing great security challenges to central and state agencies.
The names coastal districts of Karnataka surfaced at the global level for moral policing, active ISIS modules, attacks on churches, communal tensions and cases of love jihad.
Yasin Bhatkal, named in the NIA's most wanted list until his arrest, and Shafi Armar, whose photographs as ISIS commander in Syria had surfaced earlier, also hail from the coastal region of the state.
The hijab crisis, boycott of Muslim traders, changes in school syllabus, 'hardcore Hindutva stands of ruling party leaders', anti-cow slaughter law and anti-conversion law are some of the recent developments which brought the state under the radar of global terrorist outfits, sources in agencies explain.
Al-Qaeda chief Ayman-Al-Zawahiri, who was reportedly killed in US air strikes, had even praised Bibi Muskan Khan, who came to limelight amid the hijab row for shouting 'Allah hu Akbar' slogan while confronting a mob outside her college premises.
The agencies had arrested Hizbul Mujahideen commander Talib Hussain from Bengaluru in July. The investigation revealed that he managed to hide in Bengaluru for three years.
The security agencies are on their toes with the Islamic Resistance Council (IRC), an unknown Islamic outfit which claimed the responsibility for the November 19 Mangaluru auto blast, issuing a threat for another attack in future.
The investigations into Mangaluru blast case revealed plans of exploding deadly cooker bombs during Chief Minister's programme, children fest and at famous Kadri Manjunatha temple in Mangaluru city.
The statement by IRC on dark web stated, "Mangaluru has turned into a fortress of saffron terrorists. Though our attempts this time have failed, we will get ready to carry out another attack by giving slip to state and central investigating agencies."
Sources say that besides Bhatkal, other cities of the state are also being used for the sleeper cells.
The BJP government in Karnataka, which derives strength from the coastal region, is in no mood to budge. Party sources explain that the BJP is all set to fight the upcoming assembly elections on a Hindutva plank.
"No question of appeasement," say BJP insiders. The investigating agencies "are capable of handling such situations like they are managing other metro cities including Mumbai and Delhi and ensuring security for people".
Home Minister Araga Jnanedra has stated that the state would get the unit of National Investigation Agency (NIA) soon to tackle the such situations in the state. While, the Karnataka Congress has blamed ruling BJP for delay in bringing the NIA unit to the state.
With elections being round the corner, both - the BJP and the Congress, are equally engaged in fierce competition, as internal surveys have suggested a simple majority in Karnataka.
The BJP is preparing to induct new faces with staunch Hindutva philosophy, while the Congress leaders belonging to the minority community have announced the building of the largest statue of Tipu Sultan in the state.
Experts say that the state is entering a chaotic stage and the security concerns must not be sidelined at this juncture.