Terror Hits Bangalore

On December 28, 2005, an anonymous gunman with an AK-56 fired at random on scientists leaving the Indian Institute of Science campus in Bangalore, killing a highly regarded retired mathematics professor from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, M. C. Puri, and wounding three other people, including Vijay Chandru, founder of the Indian-developed palm-computer, the Simputer. (1)

Number one on the list of theories about the crime is Islamic terrorism.

Here’s one scenario.

B. Raman, a terrorism expert, points out that the attack coincides with the shifting of Abu Salem, a member of a mafia group headed by Dawood Ibrahim, to Bangalore for forensic testing arising out of his alleged complicity in the Mumbai blasts in 1993, which killed 250 civilians.(2)

Ibrahim is known to have been trained and armed by Pakistan’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). While Raman admits that so far no evidence has connected the blasts to Salem, he goes on to list a number of pro-Al Qaeda terrorist groups operating in the south. The most active are the Lashkar e Tayiba (LeT) and the Harkut ul Jihadi al Islami, whose efforts in South India are controlled from Saudi Arabia & Dubai and Bangladesh respectively.

These groups, under Bin Laden’s umbrella, regard Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir, in Hyderabad (Andhra), and in Junagadh (Gujarat) as in need of liberation from India and incorporation into the so-called Islamic Caliphate advocated by bin Laden.

Why Bangalore?

Raman believes that General Musharraf who took power in Pakistan in 1999 wants to diversify its economy by developing Pakistan’s Information Tech (IT) capacity and attracting foreign software and outsourcing companies to Pakistan. He notes that Delhi police have been warning against terrorist attacks on IT companies in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai. That would fit well into the post-9/11 pattern of economic terrorism that characterized the strikes in Bali, Mombasa, and elsewhere. A successful strike in South India could affect foreign exchange earnings and frighten the IT outsourcing business from India, thus driving down the stock market and foreign investment.

Ramans’ theory is persuasive at several levels. Many will embrace it as eagerly as investors salivating over the prospective opening of the lucrative Indian market.

But it’s a cardinal error, as Sherlock Holmes said, to theorize without sufficient data.

Eschewing theory, then, here is an interesting assortment of facts that the Raman theory does not address:

(1) LeT has so far not taken responsibility for the attack and no evidence exists for connecting the shifting of Abu Salem to the attack. Evidence may surface, but it doesn’t exist so far. The same group has previously not been shy about taking responsibility for terror attacks.

(2) Exactly the same claim about LeT was made about the December 2001 attack on the Indian parliament building. No concrete evidence for that claim was made public either, although reportedly given to the US, but it did bolster the swift passage of the Prevention of Terrorism Act – India’s version of the Patriot Act – which gave extra-constitutional powers to the authorities.

(3)The attack was initially ascribed to the firing of an AK-47 rifle. This was later corrected to the AK-56, the weapon used in previous LeT attacks and the one also reportedly used in the Parliament attack. A mistake? Probably, but it warrants thought.

There are still other dots that dance around in search of a connection:

Bangalore is India’s Silicon Valley, home to some 1,500 tech companies and 200,000 of their employees and accounting for 40% of India’s IT revenues. The city also houses a number of leading research organizations, including the Indian Space Research Organization, the Indian Institute of Science, the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, the National Center for Biological Science, and the National Aerospace Laboratories. It is a center of R&D for the Indian air-force as well as a major manufacturing base for the public sector and the private.

A hit at the IISc campus would be seen as a bullet in the brain of the Indian economic resurgence. The threat of terrorism would likely make the influential professional and business classes in the south fall solidly behind an escalation of security in the region.

Bangalore is a center of outsourcing for American multinationals like Microsoft, Intel, GE, GM, Motorola, Cisco, and Google – not only for grunt work, but also increasingly for R&D for these companies as well as for Indian companies in the important pharmaceutical sector. Several American companies have started research programs at Bangalore, including General Motors (with IISc), and the biotech giant, Monsanto, which has become a lightning-rod for the anti-Genetic Modification (GM) movement.

So many big western players means that a hit at Bangalore is guaranteed to attract world attention and place a lot of pressure on the government to tighten security measures. It’s also sure to attract attention to any alleged terrorists.

Biotechnology is one of India’s fastest-growing industries and India’s share of the global biotech market could mushroom from 1 to 10 percent, say analysts. Bangalore is a leading center with 97 of the 240 or so BT companies in India. But the city also houses one of the most successful and vocal anti-GM movements.

A tightening of security would make protests by anti-GM, anti-WTO, and environmental groups as well as farmers and rural workers harder to organize and much more likely to be infiltrated by opposing groups . That’s what’s happened here in the US to environmental groups. Their protests have increasingly been labeled “eco-terrorism” and smeared by violence committed by agents provocateurs from corporations who pose as activists.(3)

So, it’s not enough to ask who killed M. C. Puri but what his killing could end up meaning. Whether it was the LeT or one of the many other jihadist groups around or some other secessionist group who did it, this will be a crime that poses an opportunity for some.

The War on Terra (Mater):

But as the Indian public digests this homegrown episode in the cosmic rerun of the Cold War that is the Global War on Terror, few notice that a major battle in the equally deadly Globalist War on Terra (Mater) just ended by signing a death warrant for tens of thousands of people, not just one.

The Hong Kong ministerial of the World Trade Organization talks held between December 13th and 18th dealt a severe blow to small farmers and retailers, landless laborers and marginal workers in poorer countries, squandering the gains made at Cancun in 2003 for lip-service unmatched by actions, and ensuring environmental and social chaos for years to come. And it was not lack of leadership but the co-option of the so-called leaders of the developing countries – Brazil and India – that caused this.

Strike one: the US and the EU side-stepped setting a firm date for a genuine end to farm subsidies but simultaneously battered down the door to third-world markets for agricultural and manufacturing products. Western governments, which wrung their hands about the nebulous threat of avian flu and stockpiled Tamiflu to the high heavens to the delight of bloated pharmaceutical companies, condemned millions to destitution coldly and deliberately. But they made sure to hide their venality in the deceptive language of a “free-trade” that is neither free nor trade but the imposed will of ruthless merchant-adventurers.

In Western Kenya, a quarter of a million families earn their living from sugar-cane farming and six million depend on it for their livelihoods. Cheap imports are likely to destroy the Kenyan sugar industry and leave many of these families destitute and starving.

In India, thousands if not millions of lives will likely be affected and India’s self-sufficiency in food destroyed, all for a few more H1B visas and some outsourcing businesses. And the sordid distinction of entry into the Big Boys Club of the WTO mafia.

Strike Two: Tariffs on industry were reduced and the coveted services sector was opened up like a brothel in Kanthipura. Public health, education, telecom, banks, water, all pimped by the state. And by failing to bring up TRIPS (The Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) for review and amendment, India – junior Big Boy – ensured that prices of patented drugs will continue to soar, affecting the common people in poor countries. The length of patents, the patenting of life forms, health and food security – all this might have been reviewed with ease. Not one was.

Strike Three: On the other side, the senior Big Boys got away with unctuous promises to ease out export subsidies by 2013 knowing full well that export subsidies are only a drop (2%) in the total subsidies to agriculture. Even the vaunted “Aid for Trade” is smothered in conditional loans contingent on further breaking open the markets of poorer countries. And what gains were made in market access in the developed world went largely to agri-exporters like Argentina and Brazil, not to poor countries.

And not to the lost leader of the third world.

None of this need have been. India might have stood with the Caribbean, South American, and African countries and galvanized the G 110. Cuba and Venezuela clearly drew the line on service liberalization and India might have joined them. But the current Congress administration, which took the place of the BJP with a mandate to resolve India’s growing agrarian crisis, has proved itself if anything less concerned with the country’s welfare. One could well ask if a nationalist BJP government would have had the ideological stomach to betray the heartland of India.

The Indian government’s cowardice at Hong Kong matches it’s cowardice over the Iraq war, which it could have opposed more vocally, and the vote against Iran, which it need not have joined. But the Cambridge-educated economist Manmohan Singh seems to have
decided to put opportunism before principle. For our elites, perhaps it’ OK just so long long as it’s Cambridge-bred, not Varanasi-bred. (4)

The betrayal of Hong Kong is the background against which events in Bangalore must be viewed. Having reneged on its public duties, the government of India is bound to release a flood of propaganda intended as a smoke-screen and a distraction from its own craven performance.

It’s also likely to tighten its grip in the face of mass protests or resistance as the implications of Hong Kong become more and more widely known.

At Hong Kong itself, union leaders, farmers, and workers protesting peacefully were attacked with water-cannons, pepper-spray, and tear-gas. 900 were arrested and 70 were hospitalized.(5)

Want to know what to expect in the coming year? Here’s the graffiti already on the wall in Indonesia, which currently occupies the presidency of the Human Rights Commission (though it has yet to ratify key international human rights treaties) and in November, 2005 became a full-fledged compadre of the US in the War on Terra.

On September 18, 2005, in Tanah Awuk village in central Lombok, around a thousand peasants gathered peacefully to protest development policies denying local people the ability to feed themselves, on which they blamed a severe problem of child malnutrition. Indonesia has abundant fertile land and all available land is cultivated for agriculture. The real problem is that policies favor elite profits over the hunger of peasants.

At about 9 in the morning, Indonesian police forces attacked the crowd with plastic and rubber (as well as some metal) bullets, tear gas, and truncheons. 33 were injured, 27 from gunshots, and the rest from assault. At least one child and two women were shot.
National TV footage showed unarmed women being dragged violently across rough terrain and police roughing up a man bleeding copiously from the head.(5)

That’s how you play the game when you join the US Terror team. Salaam, Bangalore.

LILA RAJIVA is a free-lance journalist and author of “The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the American media,” (Monthly Review Press). She can be reached at: lrajiva@hotmail.com

(1) “Professor Dies in Indian Gun Raid,” BBC, December 29, 2005.

(2) “Why terrorists struck Bangalore,” B. Raman, Rediff.com, December 28, 2005. See also, International Terrorism Monitor: Paper No. 8 – Terrorist Strike in Bangalore, B. Raman, South Asia Analysis Group, December 29, 2005.

(3) See “Eco-Terrorism: Cui Bono?” Michael Donnelly, Counterpunch, December 20, 2005 and “Environmentalists = Terrorists: The New Math,” Karen Charman, Tom Paine, May 8 2003. See also Pacific Lumber interoffice memo, April 18 1990 cited in David Helvarg, The War Against the Greens, Sierra Club Books, San Francisco, 1994, page 4.

(4) “WTO Meeting in Hong Kong, 2005,” Anup Shah, globalissues.org, December 26, 2005. See also “Deciphering the Language of Globalization,” Laura Carlsen, Counterpunch, December 17, 2005. Thanks also to Akash Agarwal for his input opn this subject.

(5) “900 Arrested at WTO Meeting in Hong Kong,” Democracy Now, December 19, 2005.

(6) “Police Open Fire on Peasants in Lombok, Indonesia,” Land Action Network, Znet, September 21, 2005.