Satellite phone call from M.M. Hills forest range comes under scanner

A file photo of Male Mahadeshwara forest ranges along the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border.  

A satellite phone call emanating from Male Mahadeshwara forest ranges along the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border has come under the scanner of the police and other security agencies.

The call made from the forests around Gopinatham, the birthplace of forest bandit Veerappan and part of the forest expanses he lorded over for several years till his death in October 2004, was tracked by the Internal Security Division (ISD) sleuths about a week ago.

The ISD has asked the Chamarajanagar district police to find out who had made the call using a satellite phone, which is banned in India. Satellite phones can connect to other phones by radio through satellites instead of cell phone towers and the voice traffic on these networks is encrypted.

“The ISD has asked us to check who had used the satellite phone. We have verified the same. But, we don’t know who has made the call”, Superintendent of Chamarajanagar district police Anand Kumar told The Hindu.

According to sources, officials from the police department and Anti-Naxal Force (ANF), who followed up the lead provided by ISD, managed to track down the exact location from where the call had been made. The call had been made from atop some rocks, located around three to four km inside the forests from the main road. The rocks were in the midst of thick forests.

Mr. Anand Kumar, who said the location had been identified through GPS, said most of the time such satellite phones are found to be used by tourists. “But, we are still investigating who has made the call this time”.

The transcript of the conversation, however, is not available due to encryption of the voice data.

Meanwhile, the satellite phone call has aroused the interest of various security and intelligence agencies. “It is a matter of concern. All investigating agencies are looking into it”, said Mr. Anand Kumar.

The security forces are monitoring the movement of vehicles in the forest area and also checking the hotels and other guest houses for tourists. Apart from people venturing into the seas, satellite phones are also used by people foraying deep into the forests as they do not fall into the range of mobile phone towers in such remote areas.

The call from M.M. Hills forests comes after a series of 11 such instances of satellite phone usage were reported from different parts of Karnataka about six months ago. The calls had been made from locations including Mandya, Kalaburagi, Mysuru and Chamarajanagar without any connection to each other. One of the calls had reportedly been made about 17 km inside Bandipur National Park.

The investigations into the case rarely proceed beyond identifying the location owing to limitations in the available technology. However, officials familiar with the investigations have ruled out the possibility of the satellite phone being used for “anti-national” or “terrorist” activity.

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Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 5:24:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/satellite-phone-call-from-mm-hills-forest-range-comes-under-scanner/article31915448.ece

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