Flashback 2014: Sexual assault of school girls, terror blot on Karnataka

Bengaluru, Dec 17: India scripting space history with its mission to Mars in its maiden attempt marked the high point of variegated developments from Karnataka during 2014 that also saw a resurgent BJP and rising sexual assaults of minor girls in schools with the year ending on a terror tinge.

In a development causing worry to the security apparatus, engineer Mehdi Masroor Biswas, named by UK-based Channel 4 as the man behind terror group Islamic State's (IS) most influential Twitter handle was found based in Bengaluru and arrested.


On the corporate front, the country's IT capital was a witness to top-level changes in software major Infosys after exodus of senior executives, to bring the company back to its old glory.

Bengaluru also saw a watershed judicial verdict with a special court here sending AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa to jail in the disproportionate assets case that caused a political tumult with her losing chief ministership.

The early part of 2014 was marked by BJP bouncing back with an impressive show in Lok Sabha polls, winning 17 of the 28 seats in Karnataka, where ruling Congress fell short of its expectations ending up with a mere nine seats.

In a disconcerting trend, as many as five incidents of alleged sexual assaults of minor girls in schools were reported in the city in as many months, which have led to growing public outrage and concern over safety of girls.

On September 24, India joined an elite club of three nations when its low-cost spacecraft was successfully placed in orbit around Mars in its very first attempt.

The Rs 450-crore MOM Mangalyaan is the cheapest inter-planetary mission that, at just USD 74 million, costs less than the estimated USD 100 million budget of the sci-fi blockbuster "Gravity" and a tenth of NASA's Mars mission Maven that entered the Martian orbit on September 22.

European, American and Russian probes have managed to orbit or land on the planet, but after several attempts.

Only 21 of 51 missions sent to Mars by various countries being successful, the MOM feat has given a boost to India's global standing in space in general and Bengaluru-based Indian Space Research Organisation in particular.

Bengaluru erupted in protests over rising incidents of sexual offences on minor children, shockingly in schools. As many as five incidents of such alleged sexual assaults were reported in the city in as many months, raising concern over safety of girls in schools.

In the most recent incident, a three-year-old girl was allegedly sexually assaulted twice by the attendant in the premises of a private school here. The incident came weeks after the sexual assault of a six-year-old girl in a school by a Hindi teacher who was arrested.

In another incident in October, an office assistant in a school was arrested for sexual assault of a three-and-a- half-year girl. An eight-year-old girl was allegedly sexually assaulted by her 63-year-old teacher inside her school premises over a period of time with the offence coming to light in early August, barely a month after the rape of a six-year-old girl at 'Vibgyor High' school here.

The series of incidents led police to come out with safety guidelines for schools, which in many cases have been found to be observing them in the breach. Stung by these incidents, the Karnataka cabinet on December 6 decided to come out with child protection policy for safer schools in the state. During 2014, the country's IT capital saw major changes in the top echelon of Infosys.

In worrying development from the security angle, city-based Biswas, an alleged pro-ISIS Twitter handler, was arrested from his flat here and slapped with charges of "waging war" and unlawful activities. 24-year-old Biswas has "confessed" that he was handling the pro-jihad tweeter "@ShamiWitness" and became "a source of incitement and information" for new ISIS recruits, according to Karnataka DGP L Pachau.

Biswas had admitted to operating "@ShamiWitness" twitter account for the last many years and had more than 17,000 followers on Twitter, Pachau said. The arrest came after Britain's Channel 4 News had aired the report regarding the country's IT capital's link with the Twitter account that is followed by foreign jihadis.

Channel 4 News had said its investigation had revealed that the man operating the account is called Mehdi and he is an executive in Bangalore working for an Indian conglomerate. This is not the first time that Karnataka has been linked with global terror.

In 2007, London-based Kafeel Ahmed, a doctorate engineering student from the city, drove an explosive laden truck into Glasgow International Airport and died of injuries he received in the attack.

Riaz and Iqbal, brothers from the coastal town of Bhatkal in Karnataka, founded Indian Mujahidden which is blamed for about 21 terror attacks across the country with both remaining elusive. 


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