The blast in Mangaluru in Karnataka on November 19 is a troubling sign of the radicalisation among a section of Muslims. Mohammed Shariq, who was allegedly carrying the improvised explosive device (IED) in a pressure cooker in an autorickshaw, may be linked to the Islamic State, at least ideologically, according to investigators. The police have searched at least seven places in Karnataka and are investigating his possible links with Jameesha Mubin who was killed in a blast in his own car in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu on October 23. Shariq had travelled to several places in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, and according to the police, experimented with a bomb in Shivamogga district on September 21. His two accomplices were caught but he managed to evade the police and resurfaced in Mysuru where he continued to build an explosive device. The police believe that the accused — he suffered severe burn injuries in the blast — will survive and reveal more information. The accused was in touch with multiple handlers who may have been involved in the Coimbatore blast too. Investigators had recovered 75 kg of explosives from the house of Mubin. The real extent of the capacity, the intent and the connections of these two incidents remain a matter of investigation, but what is known so far itself is enough cause for worry.
Coastal Karnataka, where Mangaluru falls, has been in the grip of competitive communalism, where Hindu and Muslim outfits have upped the ante in recent years. The Centre has noted a countrywide decline in terrorism incidents in recent years, particularly of ‘jihadi terrorism’, a category that was introduced in the report of the National Crime Records Bureau, in 2017. Government data say terror incidents have been contained in Jammu and Kashmir, the North East and Left Wing Extremism (LWE)-affected States. In fact, there have been no incidents of terrorism in any part of the country outside of these conflict zones for several years now. Vigilance and the efficiency of investigative agencies can prevent terrorist incidents, but maintaining peace and social harmony is a larger political challenge. The operational links between the blasts in Coimbatore and Mangaluru are being probed, but regardless of the findings on that count, they are certainly linked to the extent that both point to the underlying security challenges before the country. Political rhetoric over the Coimbatore and Mangaluru blasts does more harm than good, but the fact is that India, now under a Hindu majoritarian government, has an Islamist challenge.