Tapping masterminds now trapped: Illegal surveillance on political rivals rampant in Telangana | Hyderabad News


The unfolding phone tapping scandal may just be the tip of the iceberg, say police sources who have revealed that ‘innumerable’ phones were tapped in the past 10 years. While state machinery was used to allegedly keep tabs on political rivals, police sources say the alleged Note-for-Vote scam may have been the turning point in the manner in which phonetapping was used in the state.
As videos of the Note-forVote scam surfaced in 2015, BRS (then TRS) government turned its focus on A Revanth Reddy (then with the TDP) in 2015. Following the episode, there was an exponential increase in phone tapping in Telangana, say police sources.
History of tapping
Former IPS officers, privy to the history of surveillance in the state, say that the misuse of tapping technology for the ruling party’s benefit began in the early 2000s, mostly by taking service providers into confidence. In one case, much prior to state bifurcation, TDP accused YSR-led government of surveillance when the latter had a scoop over TDP’s proposed welfare scheme.
Note-for-vote erupts
Post bifurcation, two IPS officers on instructions of a then powerful political leader, set a trap and spied on Revanth. His phone was under ‘legal’ surveillance. Based on information, which was secretly gathered by eavesdropping and from other sources, Revanth was caught on camera allegedly trying bribe an MLC seeking his vote in favour of TDP candidate.
After this, the number of phones that have been kept under surveillance by Telangana police -allegedly at the behest of the BRS party -increased dramatically, say sources.
Tapping tech is provided to Special Intelligence Bureau (SIB), an anti-Naxal intelligence wing, and Counter Intelligence (CI-Cell), anti-terror intelligence by the government. These two wings are author ised to do surveillance by following rules laid down in Indian Telegraph Act, 1885.
In 2015 and 2016, the average tapping done by Telangana police ranged between 300 and 500 phones every month, add sources. By the time of 2018 assembly elections, the number crossed over 1,000. In 2016, as demand for more people to be put on surveillance increased, informal proposals came from a section of officers to purchase advanced surveillance equipment. While there was a difference of opinion among Intelligence officers – a few of them opposing the move – the proposal was kept in abeyance till early 2018.
Poll game-plan
A few months before the 2018 polls, a Special Operation Team (SOT) was set up in SIB directly under the supervision of then intelligence chief Prabhakar Rao. Different hardware and software tools were purchased. “After gaining complete authority on the multi-pronged surveillance strategy during the election, it became a norm,” a source told STOI.
Police sources say no one was spared family members of opposition leaders, friends and businessmen linked to them… SIB officials would allegedly share information with Task Force top brass in Hyderabad, and in districts to handpicked officers for seizing of cash or arm-twist political adversaries. Many believe that this modus operandi was used by the police in all subsequent elections: 2019 general elections, Dubbaka, Huzurabad, Mungode by-polls, and 2023 assembly elections.
BRS fights back
Between 2018 and 2023, all prominent opposition leaders including Revanth, Eatala Rajender, Raghunandan Rao, prominent civil society activists and others had been claiming that their phones were allegedly being tapped.
BRS has refuted allegations. Recently, BRS leader Krishank on X questioned former DGP and now chairman of TS Public Service Commission (TSPSC) M Mahendar Reddy over his silence. “Why is former police boss silent now?” he wondered. The then DGP had denied tapping phones in a reply to ECI. He had said phone tapping was done as per laid down procedures.
This tweet was followed by another tweet which cited former united AP chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy denying allegations of tapping phones of Telangana Congress MPs during statehood agitation. “Congress CM tapped phones of Congress MPs? Is this true Revanth Reddy?’’ asked Krishank.


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