â€˜Mastermindâ€™ of Secunderabad attack held in Guntur
The police are said to have verified Subba Raoâ€™s mobile data and found no incriminating evidence about his role in the arson
Hyderabad: The Andhra Pradesh police on Saturday reportedly took into custody, Avula Subba Rao, director of Sai Defence Academy, the alleged mastermind behind the rampage at the Secunderabad railway Station on Friday. Rao was picked up at Guntur following questioning about his role in the violence.
Hyderabad police commissioner C.V. Anand confirmed that Subba Rao was taken into custody by the Guntur police. The police are yet to officially place him under arrest.
Subba Rao's role came into focus after leaked WhatsApp chats showed his photograph in a group which allegedly planned the arson. He was questioned about provoking the students to stage the protest. He was also asked whether he created WhatsApp groups to organise the agitation, and whether he was present in the station.
Subba Rao hails from Turimella of Cumbum mandal in Prakasam district and opened the academy some 12 years ago at Narasaraopet to train youth for recruitment into the defence forces.
Leaked WhatsApp voice recordings from the group called ‘Hakimpet Army Soldiers’ showed how a person ordered his ‘battalion’ to buy petrol and burn down coaches and buses. The chats also showed that they planned an attack at Vizag railway station on Saturday morning.
Their photo caption in the group said, “Sai Defence Academy Director Avula Subba Rao has reached Hyderabad. He is extending support for the protest at Secunderabad Railway Station tomorrow. We request other directors also to support us in this.” (sic)
The police are said to have verified Subba Rao’s mobile data and found no incriminating evidence about his role in the arson. They would rely upon the technical analysis to find out whether he had provoked the students.
Narasaraopet Rural circle inspector Bhaktavatsalam Reddy said, "We questioned him to get some details and he denied any role in the violence. We are trying to see technical evidence. In case we find any proof of his involvement, we will deal with him as per norms.”
The voice calls in the group included a person purportedly saying, “How long will you shout/scream, show banners and protest? Just go, buy petrol and burn some coaches down to make some impact.” Another person said. “I am going to the fuel station to buy petrol, whoever wants to accompany me, let me know.” A third voice said, “Sab log battalion aa gaya? Rathifile kane aa jao, bus jalayenge’ (Did the battalion arrive? Come to Rathifile, we will burn down buses,”
When contacted, an individual from the group, Suresh, said the protest was planned a day ahead as they were tired of requesting for an exam date at the Army Recruitment Office (ARO), Secunderabad. When asked about the petrol purchase, he said, “I do not know who brought it and how it came in possession of the protestors.”
“We have been waiting for two years. I paid Rs 70,000 to fix my eyesight and have been preparing for the exams but in vain. We carried out a peaceful protest at ARO Secunderabad in February. We were told that the issue would be taken up but nothing was done. Hence, the protest at the Secunderabad station was held. However, we now realise that such acts do not reflect well on Army aspirants like us. Moreover, I lost interest in even attempting for defence as our age is crossing the eligibility limit,” he shared, adding that the group ‘Hakimpet Army Soldiers’, only have people from Telangana in it.
The encryptions on social media messengers made it tough for the police to gain access via technical support, senior officials from the city police shared.
"Though the encryption and other such firewalls are making it tough for us to maintain tabs on their online activity, we are trying our best to step ahead and prevent such attacks. These chats can be accessed only if we are members of the group. Such is the encryption on WhatsApp,” an official said.
“Some people are maintaining groups secretly and are strict about who is present and who gets added. If we come across information about the existence of such groups, we try to become a member and gain access," he said.
Even officials from the Government Railway Police questioned the lack of security forces at the station premises. "Even when there were reports of other railway stations being attacked, the authorities had deployed just 50 personnel to secure the Secunderabad station premises, which is spread over several acres with 10 platforms and has seven entrances," said an official.