India’s police arrest man who ‘got top-tier security after posing as senior official from PM’s office’

Kiran Patel was arrested for posing as a senior official from prime minister Narendra Modi’s office   (Twitter/@bansijpatel)
Kiran Patel was arrested for posing as a senior official from prime minister Narendra Modi’s office (Twitter/@bansijpatel)

A man allegedly posed as a senior official from Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s office and received high-profile security cover while visiting the restive region of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

The man, identified by officials as Kiran Patel, allegedly made several trips to J&K, held a series of meetings with other officials and visited border posts with high security levels as well as some tourist areas.

He allegedly did all this while being flanked by Indian army soldiers, travelling in a bullet-proof SUV and clinching government-sponsored accommodation at a five-star hotel, showed videos and documents.

The man’s attorney has denied the charges and said the security cover was provided to two others whose statements were recorded by police.

Mr Patel, who belongs to Mr Modi’s home state Gujarat, has been accused of making several visits to the Kashmir valley in the last two months in the guise of a top government official.

He was arrested a day after one such visit on 2 March by Indian police and an official complaint was registered against him.

The incident, which was not initially public, came to light on Thursday when Mr Patel was produced in court.

The bizarre incident has gone viral on social media as Z-plus security cover was provided to an alleged conman.

It has sparked shock over the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) administration’s security arrangements in J&K – a sensitive region bordering Pakistan that has witnessed decades of insurgency.

Mr Patel has a verified Twitter profile and his timeline shows videos of him walking on snow with Indian army soldiers and convoys of security forces driving before his car.

Others showed him posing at the city square of Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar with members of military forces and visiting popular skiing destination Gulmarg.

Mr Patel allegedly posed as the Additional Director for strategy and campaigns in the Prime Minister’s Office and claimed he wanted to identify buyers for apple orchards in south Kashmir.

The police complaint said Mr Patel tried to secure “monetary” and “material benefits” during his visit.

The allegations against Mr Patel are “baseless”, his lawyer, Rehaan Gowhar, told reporters on Friday.

He said Mr Patel was accompanied by two others whose statements were recorded by police.

“The security cover was for those two people and he accompanied them as a friend,” he said. “If he has taken any security cover from the government then it is the lapse of the government as they should have properly ascertained it (his details),” Mr Gowhar said.

“He also visited vulnerable places where a common man can not go. How come he managed the protocols?”

Mr Patel was on his third visit to the valley when he was arrested, reported news agency PTI. Security officials became suspicious after he landed at Srinagar’s airport without any prior intimation of a VIP arrival.

Ten fake business cards and two mobile phones were reportedly seized from him.

An attempt was made to stop him at the airport but he had already left in a bullet-proof car to the hotel before he was detained.

He is now facing charges of cheating, impersonation and forgery. His police remand was extended on Thursday after he was produced before a court in Srinagar.

This is the second such incident in India this year, where a person was arrested for posing as a senior government figure.

In February, an Indian-origin man living in Italy was arrested after he allegedly impersonated India’s vice president to dupe senior government officials and bureaucrats on WhatsApp.

Gagandeep Singh, who was living in Italy since 2007, created a fake WhatsApp account in the name of vice president Jagdeep Dhankar by watching several YouTube videos, according to police.