The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Campuses count cost

Dec. 29: Stunned by last evening’s attack in Bangalore, the country’s premier campuses today prepared to beef up security while pondering the cost to their lifeblood: an atmosphere of openness and freedom.

The directors of many of India’s premier institutions gathered at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIMA), amid apprehension that their campuses, too, could be “soft targets”.

“We discussed what happened in Bangalore' and its implications for us,” said IIMA director Bakul Dholakia, who chaired the meeting.

What especially worries academia is that the attack on the Indian Institute of Science, which killed IIT Delhi professor M.C. Puri and injured four others, came during an international conference.

One implication could be that the focus during seminars and meetings ' a way of life on campuses ' could now shift to security in a large way, spoiling the ambience.

“Certainly, high security in academic institutes' is bound to dampen spirits,” Dholakia said. “(But) it will be a nuisance we cannot live without. Academic atmosphere is all about freedom and openness and minimum restriction.”

Tamil Nadu, which borders Karnataka, has already stepped up security at institutions like IIT Madras, Anna University and the Institute of Mathematical Sciences. Students were frisked at the gates and visitors’ cars checked.

At IIT Delhi, officials met and surveyed the campus to identify “areas in which security could be tightened”.

The institute is preparing itself for “any eventuality” and is willing to take the “most stringent security measures required”, said deputy director (administration) Dr D.P. Kothari.

A professor at IIMA admitted that senior faculty members have been talking about the “new reality” of their institutes being a “soft target’’.

Dholakia tried to play down the fears, stressing there was no intelligence of a specific threat, but added, “We cannot be complacent. We will do what we need to do.”

In Tamil Nadu, the police and the special task force have tightened security in trains, buses and the various entry points to the state, particularly those on the Karnataka border. The state is particularly concerned because it was from here that the e-mail bomb threat to Parliament was sent about two weeks ago.

With Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse’s visit to Delhi having triggered protests from pro-LTTE groups in the state, the authorities are taking no chances. The police are not ruling out links between the Lashkar-e-Toiba, a suspect in the Bangalore attack, and Lanka’s Tamil Tiger rebels.

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