Book: Anti Social Network

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Mumbai Daily News, 5 September 2013

College Professor is the Leader of the Anti-Social Network

Last morning, Professor Naina Rai, a Psychology lecturer at a prestigious Mumbai college walked into the Azad Maidan police station and confessed to having prior knowledge of the crimes committed by the recently arrested Sharad Lal, leader of the sextortion group, ‘Anti-Social Network’. While it is still unclear as to why Professor Rai came forward with her confession, it is shocking to discover that a college professor chose to initiate, and actively participate in, such nefarious activities.

Social networking sites have been in the news for a host of reasons, both good and bad. However, the recent operations of a group of young adults that called itself the Anti-Social Network have shocked the police as well as society for the devious employment of technology to blackmail their fellow students. The Anti-Social Network’s operations came to light when Inspector Virkar of the Mumbai Crime Branch began investigations into a series of gruesome murders of young college students that had shocked the city.

Members of the Anti-Social Network actively targeted and lured young men and women into their trap, seducing them and then blackmailing them for money. Following the same modus operandi, they had formed a network of sorts. As per police records, they set up a very elaborate system to ensure that the real masterminds behind the racket could not be identified. Inspector Virkar played a key role in unearthing the real culprits, and is the officer who identified and arrested Sharad Lal, one of the chief perpetrators of these crimes.

However, what is disturbing is the latest revelation that has come to light after Inspector Virkar had almost wrapped up the case. Naina Rai, who was also a university counsellor for young students with psychological issues involving drugs, unresolved childhood trauma and so forth, owned up to misguiding some of her students and pointing them out as targets to members of the Anti-Social Network, including some of the students she was counselling. Sharad Lal, who was earlier being touted as the head of the group, is alleged to be a close family friend of Rai, whom she had helped through hard times.

In the earlier stages of investigation, the evidence pointed to a psychopathic killer on the loose with revenge as their motive. According to Inspector Virkar, the trail of facts then lead him to uncover a network run by five twenty-year-olds, who employed high-level hacking skills to spy on people through hidden cameras and webcams and succeeded in getting intimate pictures of them in order to blackmail them and extort money. At some stage, details of which are still unclear, the group had a falling out, which led to the gruesome killing spree among its members. Given that the charges against each of them are pretty serious—murder, attempted murder, blackmail and extortion, it remains to be seen whether this new twist to the horrifying saga will help them. Will Professor Rai’s confessions of being the mastermind and misguiding the youngsters help deflect some of the charges from Sharad Lal?

Professor Rai also produced a diary that not only supported her claims but also gave detailed information about the crimes committed by the Anti-Social Network, including details of her accomplices; the date, place and time that the blackmail began and the money that exchanged hands in each case, as well as the psychological profile of the target.

When Professor Rai was asked why she had given herself up, she gave a cryptic answer: ‘Because the only person I have ever loved asked me to do the right thing.’

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Next: Acknowledgements