The arrest of several Hindu youths in UP and Madhya Pradesh in the fake phone exchange racket points to a dangerous cloak-and-dagger operation, where military secrets were being compromised19 Feb 2017 | 1:19 AM[ + read story ]
Rescuers search for survivors at the site of a train derailment in Pukhrayan, south of Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, on November 20, 2016. REUTERS
Sometime in later half of last year when Indo-Pak tensions peaked, military operation heads in J&K received unusual calls on their landlines. The callers posed as senior officers from Delhi ‘headquarters’ and asked for details such as troop movement and deployment. Military sources say at least half-a-dozen such calls were made, and barring the last one, the officers on duty provided the information sought by the caller(s).
“The sixth call was received by a Major, who grew suspicious and hung up. Later he called up the officer concerned in Delhi to inquire if he had indeed made a call. When he got a negative response, the Military Intelligence was alerted,” said a senior Army officer.
Military Intelligence personnel then checked the call details and tried to find locations of the calls. Nothing could be ascertained. Some ‘unverified technical indications’ pointed towards Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The Anti Terrorist Squads (ATSs) of the two states were tipped off.
In a few weeks, the ATSs busted a racket running fake telephone exchanges to route international calls as local through VPN (Virtual Private Network) server locations and 16 Simboxes. The kingpin is said to be Gulshan Sen, who operated behind the façade of a fake coaching centre in the Mehrauli area of Delhi. He gave his interrogators several leads, which led to 10 more arrests from Lucknow, Sitapur and Hardoi districts in Uttar Pradesh.
Similarly, in Madhya Pradesh, Dhruv Saxena and his friend Mohit Agrawal were arrested. The two ran a call centre ‘Vocal Heart Infotech Pvt Ltd.’ The state ATS arrested 11 more persons. Intelligence sources said all of them were working for Pakistan’s Inter Service Intelligence and were facilitating calls from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Dubai and several other countries. These international calls appeared local to the receivers.
A major cause for concern for the security set-up is the fact that all the accused (total 24) belong to the majority community. Sleuths of Intelligence Bureau (IB), National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the police are now trying to assess the extent of ISI penetration in India.
“For long there had been an ISI pattern of luring disgruntled Muslim youths into terror activities. But now it is different,” a senior IB official said. An NIA officer said: “Even those who have been arrested for their involvement in train accidents in Kanpur and planting bombs on rail tracks at Ghodasand in Motihari district of Bihar belong to country’s majority community. These accused, too, had ISI links through a conduit, Brij Kishore Giri, who worked as a front for one Nepal-based Shamul Hoda, who provided money for the subversive activities across India.”
The trend shows the ISI changing its tactics in which criminal elements, irrespective of their caste and religion, are now on its radar. “They are aiming at unsuspecting elements to dodge Indian security agencies,” said a former top Home Ministry official. He said it was time for Indian agencies to “re-haul” their strategy and keep a close watch on criminal elements, irrespective of their religious affiliation, so that terror modules are busted well on time.
Those arrested in UP in connection with fake telephone exchanges include Rahul Rastogi, Shivendra Mishra, Harshit Gupta, Vishal Kakkad, Rahul Singh, Vinit Dikshit, Rishi Hora, Shyam Babu, Uttam Shukla and Vikas Verma, besides their kingpin Gulshan Sen.
Similarly in MP, Blram Singh ( having direct links with ISI operatives in Pakistan), Kush Pandit, Jitendra Thakur, RiteshKhullar, Jitendra Singh Yadav ,Trilok Singh were arrested by the state ATS.
In Bihar too, the state police arrested Moti paswan, Mukesh Yadav and Uma Shankar Prasad while they were planting a pressure cooker bomb on the rail track near Ghodasand in Motihari district.