Tihar prisoners get around mobile phone jammers by using 5G, say officials – Hindustan Times

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Jun 10, 2024 05:12 AM IST

Tihar jail has three harmonious call blocking system (T-HCBS) towers, Mandoli jail has one, while Rohini jail has none. The jails are also equipped with small units to jam phone calls- phone jammers

New Delhi: On May 6, two men fired more than 20 bullets at a car showroom in Tilak Nagar in west Delhi, an incident that left seven persons injured. Not long afterwards, the owner of the showroom received an extortion letter demanding 5 crore, followed by a threatening phone call from a foreign-based number.

Tihar inmates are able to use the latest mobile phones to bypass the jammers installed there. (HT PHOTO)
Tihar inmates are able to use the latest mobile phones to bypass the jammers installed there. (HT PHOTO)

Over the next few days, car dealers in Naraina, Rajouri Garden, and Dwarka also reported receiving similar extortion calls or letters.

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Delhi Police officers said absconding gangster Himanshu Bhau — believed to be in hiding in Portugal — had masterminded the incidents, and according to informants, had roped in gangster Naveen Bali and his brother Rahul alias Kaala to recruit local goons to threaten these showrooms.

Initially, investigators were sceptical about the role of Bali and Rahul in the extortion bids — both are imprisoned in Tihar, a jail complex that has 15 phone jammers to curb the illegal use of mobile phones by its 20,000 prisoners. However, police then made a startling discovery — Rahul, and other prisoners lodged in Tihar, were using 5G-enabled phones to bypass these jammers.

Circumventing jamming equipment

According to police data, Tihar jail has three harmonious call blocking system (T-HCBS) towers, Mandoli jail has one, while Rohini jail has none. The jails are also equipped with small units to jam phone calls- phone jammers. Officers said the Union ministry of home affairs has approved the use of these T-HCBS towers to block calls/messages inside jails.

The T-HCBS towers and cell phone jammers are ostensibly in place to ensure inmates are not able to use mobiles. However, around 500 houses and 50 shops of C4 and C5 blocks in Janakpuri are collateral damage — these jammers ensure that communications are crippled in this pocket of Delhi.

Ironically, while the residents of Janakpuri struggle with non-existent cellular network, Tihar inmates are able to use the latest mobile phones to bypass these jammers.

The jammers, sourced from BEL, emit radio signals on the same frequency as mobile phones to hinder communication between the mobile device and a cell phone tower. Officials said the current jammers in Tihar only block 2G, 3G and 4G networks. Since 5G is an upgrade, the jammers don’t have the capacity to block those signals.

Phones going undetected

The Delhi Police on May 25 caught Rahul alias Kaala, 32 — Bali’s brother who is lodged in Tihar’s jail no. 3 — with an iPhone, which he used to coordinate with gang members who are not behind bars.

“Despite being lodged in a high-security prison, Rahul was caught with an iPhone enabled with 5G. Sadly, the phone has been in use for a long time — we discovered that he had shared clips of gangster Tillu Tajpuriya’s murder (in May 2023),” a senior crime branch officer said, on condition of anonymity.

The officer said most gangsters have a “free hand” in jails, and can make calls, internet calls, and send instant messages from jail without being caught.

“Rahul works with jailed gangster Neeraj Bawana and was also involved in the recent firing incidents in west Delhi. We found the numbers of the assailants on his phone,” the officer said, adding that an enquiry has been initiated against Rahul and his cellmates.

A senior Delhi Prisons official said that they have complained about the lack of effectiveness of the jammers to director general (prisons) Satish Golcha.

“Gangsters associated with Bali, Himanshu Bhau, Kala Jathedi, Neeraj Bawana, and Lawrence Bishnoi have been caught using phones with 5G networks. To prevent any offence, jammers are there but they don’t work on 5G SIMs and network,” the official said.

Golcha’s office said there will also exist a gap between equipment and the latest technology.

“There is always a gap between the technology of telecom and jammers. We know gangsters are now using 5G and we have sent a proposal to THCBS to get jammers that can stop 5G network. We have also taken 15 more jammers to prevent further use of phones. The DG Prisons is also in talks to up the towers at the Mandoli and Rohini jails. We are also sharing inputs with the Special Cell about these devices and gangsters who are using them,” the office said in a statement.

Nabbing contraband

On May 2, 2023, at around 6 am, gangster Sunil Baliyan alias Tillu Tajpuriya was stabbed nearly 150 times by four fellow inmates of the same high-security ward of Tihar. According to investigators, the four assailants — members of Tajpuria’s deceased rival Joginder Gogi’s gang, who used improvised shanks in the attack — received instructions for the murder over the phone. They used internet calling, said jail officials.

To prevent the further use of phones and weapons inside its jails, the Delhi prisons department had earlier in December 2022 constituted a special task force to conduct mass raids and checks. The team consisted of seven assistant superintendents and 13 havaldars, who nabbed more than 350 phones, internet dongles, and weapons.

However, officials told HT that the task force was disbanded earlier this year, and are now dependent on checks conducted by jail wardens every fortnight. “The surprise raids were helpful. Now, we know jail wardens and lower-level staff are not able to cover as many inmates,” a Tihar official said, on condition of anonymity.

Golcha’s office denied that the task force was dismantled. His office shared that since January, they seized over 211 contraband items.

“The recovery is less because of intensified raids. We are not dependent on STF. We are independently conducting raids and also keeping surveillance through CCTVs.” said the officer from Golcha’s office

Sunil Gupta, former Tihar jail officer who is currently a lawyer at the Delhi high court, said jammers never work on advanced technology.

“Earlier, jammers did not work on the 4G network. Now, the jammers can’t stop 5G networks… After getting clearances from MHA, jails can get new phone jammers that also block 5G signals.”

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