Hope recedes as search for Satwik drags on

The combing operations conducted by a joint team of Forest officials and the Police Department with the help of villagers went on for 12 hours from Sunday morning till late night, but to no avail.

Usha Shastry, mother of Satwik Shastry, waits with his friends Anupam and Ashish at the spot from where he went missing at Bannerghatta forest, on Sunday.  DH photo

Ashish and Anupam, who had gone on the trek with Satwik, also went into the forest twice with the search party.

A forest official told Deccan Herald though the forest was dense,  it was spread over just three square kilometres and surrounded by villages and roads.  “Satwik is an experienced mountaineer with a very good sense of direction. He will hit the road if he walks three km in any direction. We have alerted all the border villages. But there is no trace of him. That makes me weak in the knees,” said Anupam.

According to Forest department sources, the Bannerghatta forest has elephants, wild gaurs and leopards.

“If an elephant attacks a person, usually it goes on a rampage and damages the trees around the spot. The elephant stays there for a day or two. We haven’t found any such evidence, raising our hopes,” they said.  When quizzed about other wild animals, the forest officials said that is what they are worried about.

“If a leopard attacks a man, it drags him to its hideout. That will make it difficult to find the remains,” the officials said.

Ashish recounted that some 10 minutes away from the village, they heard some rumbling in the bushes and thought something was moving. “We found nothing. So we continued. Satwik went missing when we went to answer nature’s call some minutes later and very near to the spot where there was action.  “I fear he is dead in this patch of the forest or else he isn’t in this forest,” said a senior forest official who did not want to be quoted. The combing operations were suspended at dusk on Sunday due to rains. They will resume on Monday morning.

They were schoolmates

Ashish, Anupam and Satwik were classmates since their days at St Paul’s English School, JP Nagar. Satwik did his engineering in Computer Science and is working as a software engineer at Mu Sigma Technologies, Whitefield. Anupam is with IIM-Bangalore as a research assistant. Ashish works as a business executive with a private firm. Anupam is an avid mountaineer, a passion that was picked up by Satwik.

“Satwik usually accompanied me during my treks. We had been to Ramanagara, Savandurga, Bannerghatta and many other places earlier. It was for the first time we came to this spot. I never thought it would put him to such danger. I hope for the best,” said Anupam.

Satwik’s mother Usha Shastry, a senior scientist at ISRO, was seen camping on the Ragihalli Hillock all day on Sunday. She was frantically trying to contact senior officials, so that combing operations are intensified.

Her husband Dinesh Shastry, a retired bank manager, who was resolute in the afternoon and went into the forest with the search party, became pensive as the sun set.

Villagers expressed apprehensions that Satwik might have been killed by a wild animal. Some of them and forest officials even suggested that the two boys might have done some harm to Satwik. The Bannerghatta police had detained the duo on Saturday night for questioning. “The three are the best of friends. We have no suspicion on the duo,” said Dinesh Shastry.

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