Kashmir: Z-plus security cover, a bulletproof Mahindra Scorpio SUV, official accommodation at a five-star hotel and a whole lot more – a conman from Gujarat managed to take the Jammu and Kashmir administration and its security structure for a ride, posing as a senior official from the Prime Minister’s Office.
The imposter, Kiran Bhai Patel, also held a series of meetings with officials during his two visits to Srinagar earlier this year.
Patel, who was impersonating an Additional Director for strategy and campaigns in the Prime Minister’s Office, was arrested at least 10 days ago, but his arrest was kept a secret by the police. On Thursday, details of his arrest emerged after a magistrate sent him to judicial custody. It’s unclear if a First Information Report or FIR was registered on the same day of his arrest or there was some delay in filing it.
Patel is also verified on Twitter and has over a thousand followers, including BJP Gujarat General Secretary Pradipsinh Vaghela. He shared several videos and pictures of his ‘official visits’ in Kashmir surrounded by paramilitary guards, the last of which was on March 2.
In his Twitter bio he claims to have a PhD from Commonwealth University, Virginia, an MBA from IIM Trichy, as well as an M.Tech in Computer Science and B.E. in Computer Engineering. Patel further described himself as a “thinker, strategist, analyst and campaign manager”.
The conman’s first visit to the valley was in February when he visited health resorts.
There are many videos of him travelling to various places escorted by the paramilitary and the police. He is seen walking through snow at Doodhpathri in Budgam with paramilitary guards. He is also seen posing for a photo in front of the clock tower Lal Chowk in Srinagar.
Sources say Patel also held meetings with officials to discuss ways to bring more tourists from Gujarat and about making Doodhpathri a major tourist destination.
Patel came under suspicion after he arrived in Srinagar on his second visit within two weeks. Sources said an IAS officer who is a district magistrate informed the police about the visit of a “senior PMO officer” last month.
The intelligence agencies alerted the police about a conman impersonating a PMO official. After verifying his background, the police were asked to arrest the man from a hotel in Srinagar.
Sources say action has been initiated against two police officials for the goof up and the failure to detect the imposter in time.