Srinagar, March 17:
In a Bollywood-style thriller, a ‘Natwarlal' from Gujrat and his three other associates have been enjoying J&K UT's lavish five-star hospitality Z-plus security by impersonating an Additional Director in Prime Minister's Office.
The imposter, identified as one Kiran Bhai Patel, had duped the Jammu and Kashmir administration and security structure by obtaining a Z-plus security cover, a bulletproof Mahindra Scorpio SUV, official lodging at a five-star hotel, and much more.
Patel was arrested on his third visit to Jammu Kashmir on March 3 for impersonation as Additional Director (strategy and campaigns) in the Prime Minister's Office, but his arrest was kept secret by police. Details of his arrest became public on Thursday after a magistrate sent him to judicial custody.
Three more people posing as members of this ‘official team' led by Kiran Bhai Patel from Gujarat may have escaped the police net before police could arrest the “senior PMO official” in Srinagar earlier this month.
According to sources, Amit Hitesh Pandiya and Jay Sitapara from Gujarat, as well as one Trilok Singh from Rajasthan, were staying at a five-star hotel in Srinagar with Patel and impersonating an official team from the Prime Minister's Office.
According to sources, Patel came under suspicion after requesting that a senior official accompany him on an official tour of the Budgam district. According to sources, the officer contacted a top CID officer. Following an investigation by intelligence officers, the imposter was identified.
According to sources, the visit of a “senior PMO officer” was first reported to the security wing of the police by an IAS officer who is a district magistrate in south Kashmir. Last October 27, the conman paid his first visit to the valley. He arrived with his family. Other members of the “PMO team” joined him on subsequent visits.
The security wing eventually gave him Z plus security, and local police accompanied the ‘VIP' wherever he went during four trips since October.
According to sources, the conman was staying in Room 1107 of the scenic Lalit Grand Hotel, in the foothills of the Zabarwan forest range that overlooks Dal Lake.
With his security detail, he also visited a number of tourist attractions, including the ski resorts of Gulmarg and Doodhpathri. Patel was accompanied by an SDM rank officer to Doodhpathri.
Patel also visited the city centre Lal Chowk a few times and took pictures in front of the Clock Tower.
Kiran Bhai Patel also met with officials and even visited forward areas near the Line of Control, posting photos at an army installation at the Kaman Post in Uri sector.
According to sources, a formal case has been filed for deception, forgery, and impersonation to dupe gullible people by promising them government jobs, according to a police official. He was arrested on March 3, a day after an FIR was filed against him at the Nishat police station.
He was booked as accused at Police Station Nishat under FIR number 19/2023 under sections 420, 467, 471, and 468 CrPC, and an investigation has begun.
When asked how many people were cheated by the conman during his stay in Valley, the official stated that the investigation is ongoing and that any revelation at this stage could ‘hijack' the case.
Patel claimed the government had given him the mandate to find buyers for apple orchards in south Kashmir, and a couple of IAS officers were in awe of him as he dropped names of high-ranking bureaucrats and politicians in the national capital.
According to sources, action has been taken against two police officers for the blunder. A senior officer expressed grave concern that an IAS introduced a conman as a PMO official, and that the police security wing and other officials complied with official protocol and Z plus security cover for such a long time.
Patel's lawyer, advocate Rehan Gowhar, claimed that the police released two more people with him, alleging a political conspiracy.
“My client informed me that he was accompanied by two more Gujaratis. Under Section 164, the police have also recorded his statement before the magistrate. The police released both of them “He stated.
Gujarat police have also joined the investigation and questioned Patel, according to sources.
He posted several videos and photos of his ‘official visits' to Kashmir while surrounded by paramilitary guards, the most recent of which occurred on March 2 on his Twitter handle.
Patel has over a thousand followers on Twitter, including BJP Gujarat General Secretary Pradipsinh Vaghela.
According to his Twitter bio, he has a PhD from Commonwealth University in Virginia, an MBA from IIM Trichy, an M Tech in Computer Science, and a BE in Computer Engineering. Patel further described himself as a “thinker, strategist, analyst and campaign manager”.