Arrest of alleged spy shakes Bengaluru's Chickpet area

Arrest of alleged spy shakes Bengaluru's Chickpet area

Residents said that Singh could be frequently seen walking around the neighbourhood in his army uniform

Jitendra Singh. Credit: special arrangement

Quiet, friendly and a man dwelling in the background. This is how residents of Jolly Mohalla area described Jitendra Singh, 24, who was arrested last week in that area on charges of spying for a foreign power.

Police and Military Intelligence officials told DH that while the interrogation of Singh is ongoing, he has already admitted to conducting “reconnaissance” missions on behalf of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). For residents of Jolly Mohalla and members of the Cottonpet traders community, the news has come as a bolt out of the blue.

Residents said that Singh could be frequently seen walking around the neighbourhood in his army uniform. “He told us he was in the military. There was nothing outwardly to suggest that his story might be a lie,” said one resident of the area who did not want to be identified.

Read | Spy story: The ‘Army officer’ who took ISI for a ride

Singh was described as being friendly. He was also a man who went by largely unnoticed. For Santosh Shankar, president of the Purvi Plaza where Singh allegedly worked in a shop dealing with garments, Singh is a face that does not stand out.

“I was told about this individual on Tuesday morning, but when I saw photos of him, I could not remember ever having seen him in the Plaza. In fact, the store in which he is supposed to have worked, on the ground floor of the plaza, is constantly closed. I do not know what commercial work he did with garments with that store being closed all the time,” Shankar said.

Purvi Plaza also happens to be just up the road from the headquarters of the Central Crime Branch (CCB), whose officers jointly arrested Singh on Friday along with officials from Military Intelligence (MI). Singh’s neighbours insisted that he dealt with garments and phenyl. One local merchant said he served as a distributor of readymade T-shirts for roadside vendors in the Chickpet area.

According to residents, Singh first moved to this part of Chickpet about six months ago, with five other young men. Those five others are now said to have vanished.

However, the army told DH that Singh was sharing accommodations with one other person who left several months before. “We have no reason to suspect at this time that his roommate was also involved in his activities,” an army source said.

Law enforcement sources shed further light on how Singh was allegedly sharing information with his handler in Pakistan, identified in an FIR filed on Sunday by her alias, “Pooja Ji”.

“He was using WhatsApp to send the data. Once the data was downloaded, he would delete the message,” an MI source said. Cyber experts are now working to recover the deleted content.

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