“ISI plot to extract India's sensitive defence information busted by Hyderabad Police”; “How an illegal telephone exchange in Hyderabad helped ISI snoop on the Indian Army”; “Military Intelligence Busts Illegal VoIP Exchange Being Used To Help Pakistan’s ISI Gather Sensitive Data”; “Military Intelligence foils ISI plot using Hyderabad call scam” -- these were some of the sensational headlines by a few news organisations earlier this week, which suspected a terror angle or Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence role for snooping on India using an illegal telephone exchange in Hyderabad.
However, contradicting these claims, the Hyderabad police probe has established that it was a false alarm and that the accused, who was running the illegal telecom service, neither had links with any terrorist outfit nor was snooping on the Indian Army at the behest of ISI. On Saturday, several newspapers in Hyderabad carried a story about Hyderabad police arresting Dinesh Kumar, who was running an illegal VoIP (voice over internet protocol) service that helped convert international calls into local calls by masking the callers’ number.
The arrest was made based on the report of Jammu and Kashmir Military Intelligence Unit.
While the Times of India reported the incident ruling out any terror links after speaking with police, Deccan Chronicle quoted an anonymous source: “The illegal VoIP was being used by Pakistan’s ISI. It was reported that Intelligence operatives were exploiting the facilities from Pakistan for making calls to security personnel in Jammu and Kashmir to acquire sensitive information from them while posing as senior officials.”
Another news portal, One India, claimed that the illegal VoIP exchange was set up to help Pakistan agents to make calls to Indian Army officials.
'No terror links', claim police
On Friday, after receiving a communication from the Military Intelligence, the Task Force wing of Hyderabad police promptly arrested the accused and seized several SIM cards, modems and other peripherals from his possession. In their inquiry, they found that the accused was merely an offender who violated the telecom norms. According to police, Dinesh was previously running an internet cafe. After being arrested, he was sent to judicial remand. He is presently jailed at Chanchalguda jail in Hyderabad. However, the city police have objected to the slew of reports hinting at terror links, calling it “fake news.”
Speaking to TNM, Hyderabad, East Zone DCP Dinesh Kumar objecting to the sensational news coverage. “This is spread by fake news factory. They are unnecessarily spreading paranoia among the people. Before we could arrest the person, a reporter working for a national newspaper from Delhi already claimed that we arrested him. The reporter asked me if we received such a report, but before we could detain the accused and conclude our investigation, he went ahead with the news report,” he says.
Ruling out the terror plot, the DCP claimed, “Dinesh did commit an economic offence. In our investigation, however, we didn't find any terror angle in it. He was running an STD booth like service, offering cheap call rates to customers. We regularly get such surveillance reports about people running such illegal services. In fact, BSNL and VSNL authorities regularly approach us; but since we received this report from the Military Intelligence, news organisations went overboard and raised unnecessary suspicion.”