A group of 14 persons comprising software professionals, including a Belgium national, were arrested on Tuesday by Karnataka forest officials for entering a reserve forest in the Sakleshpur region in the Western Ghats in the Hassan district without permission from the authorities.
The incident came to light on Sunday after one of the trekkers identified as Srikanth Balaji, 24, was reported as missing since Saturday morning by his fellow trekkers. Balaji, a resident of Chennai and a software engineer with Infosys in Chennai, was reported missing in the course of the trek.
The Superintendent of Police for the Hassan district, Ravi D Channannavar, said the district police managed to trace Srikanth Balaji in the forest area near Kempuhole with the help of forest officials on Tuesday. “We had registered a case of a missing person based on a complaint lodged by Arunan, who is the father of Balaji. The team managed to locate him near the area where he had gone missing on Sunday. But, the forest department officials booked them in a case for entering a restricted area,” the Hassan SP said.
The police said that the group of trekkers, including Balaji, had deviated from a permitted trekking route in the forest without informing the authorities concerned. The forest officials booked a case, arrested the trekkers and later released them on bail.
The police said the trek was arranged by the Chennai Trekking Organisation and a team headed by Peter Van Geit, a Belgium national, reached Kempuhole on Saturday morning. Balaji reportedly got lost from the main group of trekkers while he was trying to remove leeches from his body. Balaji wandered in the forest for three days trying to find his group until he was found by a forest and police rescue team. His friends who were inside the forest area trying to find Balaji were also rescued by the team of police and forest officials.