Yasin Bhatkal, former head of dreaded terror outfit Indian Mujahideen, has succeeded in dropping a bombshell from the confines of the four walls of high-security prison at Cherlapally in Hyderabad. Bhatkal has been lodged in the prison for two years.
The explosive claims Bhatkal made through a phone call to his wife that he would flee the prison with the “support of Islamic State from Syria’s capital Damascus” has indeed sent ripples of concern through the country.
However, it is safe to say that his claims of support from the IS are nothing but an attempt to cause some spurious sensation, for he was aware of the fact that the phone he was using to speak to his wife was one owned by the prison authorities. Previous reports stated that there was security breach and Bhatkal spoke to his wife over a phone that was smuggled inside. However, prison authorities have now confirmed that Bhatkal spoke to his wife on a phone that inmates are allowed to use twice a week to call relatives registered with the jail authorities. These conversations are also recorded by the jail authorities.
Director-General of Prisons of Telangana State Vinay Kumar Singh has said in a statement that it is impossible for anybody to make a call from a ‘personal’ mobile phone from Cherlapally central prison.
He clarified that the prison authorities have denied the possibility of an inmate of Cherlapally Jail making a phone call through a personal mobile phone.
Singh said that every inmate was entitled to talk “officially” to two of his relatives every week. The names and phone numbers of the relatives to whom the calls are made on a weekly basis are registered with the prison authorities. Prisoners can make calls only to those two registered numbers.
Singh said that Yasin Bhatkal had registered the phone number of his wife Zahida and he regularly called her every week. The DG said that the prison authorities would record all the conversations.
The DG (Prisons) is also of the view that this is just an attempt by Bhatkal to fool the police, if he has actually said that he will be getting help from Damascus to flee the prison.
However, the prison officials have handed over the recordings of Bhatkal’s phone calls to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for further analysis.
Sources say that there is no more than a “nuisance value” to the claims of Bhatkal. However, considering the alarming nature of the content of his recorded phone calls and his past terror activities, the police do not want to take any chances.
As a first step, the security arrangements around Yasin Bhatkal have been beefed up and new measures too have come in place to ensure that no information either sneaks out of or goes to Bhatkal’s cell.
The Times of India on Saturday reported that Bhatkal told his wife that he was getting help from Damascus to fell the prison. The “sensational” conversation from the “official phone” provided by the prison authorities reportedly lasted five minutes.
The Director-General of Police of Telangana State Anurag Sharma told Firstpost that the department was not leaving anything to chance and that he would speak to the DG (Prisons) and take all the information available and coordinate with all officials to make sure that law and order prevails.
Sharma said: “Basically, it is an unconfirmed report. I do not know where it has come from. Yet, I will verify the facts.”
Intriguingly, a lot of media houses misconstrued the news and said that Bhatkal managed to secure a private mobile phone through which he contacted his wife. However, senior police officials said that all the phone numbers to which the calls are made by prisoners are usually under surveillance. And, naturally all the numbers called by Bhatkal too would be recorded and monitored.
There was no interception, whatsoever, and the call records were being scientifically analysed, they said. Referring to the conversation, the Times of India report mentioned Bhatkal as telling his wife: “Damascus se log madad kar rahe hain. Mai jald hi riha ho jaoonga.”
Bhatkal called up Zahida who lives in Jamia Nagar, South-East Delhi.
As a senior police official, who did not want to be named, said, Bhatkal’s call need not be seen as any “security breach”, but his claim of getting out of the prison was a “sweet talk” to bolster the confidence of “his sweetheart”.
However, the police are trying to corroborate the communication with any possible supplementary evidence to verify the veracity of any “purported support” Bhatkal was getting from the IS and other terror modules.
Bhatkal was arrested from Nepal in 2013.