Rafeeq was the quintessential happy-go-lucky kid. Born to lower-middle-class parents as the youngest among six siblings in the bustling town of Kozhikkode, Kerala, he was the loved by everybody. Well, the happy-go-lucky tag lasted only until his dad died in a nasty motor accident, that is. The family which depended on the devout father’s meager monthly salary was crippled financially. Following the path of his elder brother Usmaan, Rafeeq dropped out of school and joined as a baker’s help. Enterprising that he was, Rafeeq literally burned the midnight oil. Thanks to his exquisite cakes and halwas, the bakery grew in reputation. By the time Rafeeq was twenty, the owner, a friend of his father’s, promoted him to a managerial post in the flourishing bakery realizing his sharp acumen and camaraderie with customers that far surpassed his cooking skills. Meanwhile, Rafeeq’s brother managed a Visa to Bahrain. He too began sending back money within three months of his departure. The family was tiding over its financial crises, and had married off Mubeena, Rafeeq’s eldest sister, to a Gulf-Employee.
It was around that time that computers invaded Kerala. It was the heyday of the first computer boom, and Internet Cafes that sprouted in every nook and corner were raking in big money selling inexpensive Internet porn. A clairvoyant Rafeeq was quick to identify the enormous financial prospect of a computer centre. He taught himself vital computer skills using the computer Usmaan had sent back home along with a mélange of consumer goods. Within a month, he’d become a pro, in a hugely overstated way, so to speak. With generous help from Usmaan and a bank loan of Rs 300,000, Rafeeq opened his aesthetically-designed Internet Café near ‘Mithaai theruvu’, at the heart of Kozhikkode town. Rafeeq had fifteen PIII machines (which was the best you could get in early 2001) wired to the net by an Asianet Dataline ‘Broadband’ connection; stuffed into a 600-sq-feet room in a make-shift shopping complex. Thanks to his tacit advertisements about the immense voyeuristic possibilities of the net, Rafeeq’s café was fully occupied all the time. His wily staff unabashedly encouraged porn by copying porn movies rather indiscreetly onto the computers! Though he knew what he did was morally wrong by Islamic tradition, Rafeeq had to do it to ensure financial security for his family and a good husband for another sister Sajna.
DTP was another specialty of Rafeeq’s café. He himself saw to it that the job done was perfect down to the last full stop, with attractive font-facing. The smart, Photoshopped notices, brochures and invitation cards regularly churned out by his café saw more customers flocking his office. Rafeeq was a happy man, only until a couple of teenagers walked into his shop, asking him for a quick print out. Their demand puzzled him. All he had to do is to print out two book shaped sets, with SSLC marks of the two kids, photos and names, which they provided. He was even given a copy of another book as a sample, and was asked to make sure the print out was identical to the sample. Before he could say anything, the boys kept a couple of five hundred rupee notes on his table and left, muttering that it’s pretty urgent and that they’ll be back in a couple of hours. Dismissing them as nutcracks, Rafeeq readied the matter and made sure that the couple of print-outs looked identical to their master copy. It looked like a mark-list or something to Rafeeq. The kids must be intelligent, after all, because they had scored humungous marks in all the exams. Within hours, the kids where back; and they left with their neatly bound copies, profusely thanking Rafeeq.
A month later, a burly looking man in Police uniform barged into Rafeeq’s café. Rafeeq rightly identified him as Mr. Gopinathan, IPS. The new Superintendent of Police. He was a man Rafeeq held in high regard. The stories of his escapades and encounters were widely publicized by the media. Ergo, he was respected and honoured by one and all. Dutifully offering a cozy seat and a hot cup of tea to the tall, well-built man, Rafeeq politely inquired if he could be of any help. Visibly taken aback by the hospitality of the man he’d come to arrest, Gopinathan fished out two print outs which Rafeeq identified as the ones he’d done. In a bid to help out the Police officer in his supposed investigation, he even showed soft copies of the print outs in MS Word for authentication. Torn between exasperation and pity for the haplessly-candid guy, Mr Gopinathan managed the politest tone his position could offer, explaining Rafeeq that he’d done a cognizable offence which could give him a jail term of over three years. Rafeeq, with his penchant for perfection, had actually forged two SSLC books unknowingly!
Image Courtesy: http://www.cbsnews.com/
The crowd that gathered around the café saw a dumbfound, tearful Rafeeq incessantly claiming his innocence, perched onto the rear seat of the Police Jeep, clutching an unwieldy PC Cabinet. The police discovered porn CDs stashed away in a shelf, not to mention gigabytes of porn in the hard-discs of the fifteen old computers. He was booked in three cases, including one on “Indecent representation of women”, due to which he couldn’t get bail and was remanded for over a month. A pertinacious, two-year long trial later, Rafeeq was awarded a two year jail term and a fifty thousand rupee fine, all amid media-inflicted ignominy. News channels did live shows ‘celebrating’ the first ‘Cyber crime’ of the state. None, not even his Gulf-prospered brother; cared to pay the fine for him for fear of ‘image-loss’, accruing his sentence by a year. A firm-believer in Allah and human-affection, the once-happy-go-lucky, apple-of-eye kid saw his life collapse before him!
Today, Rafeeq has made Beemapalli, Trivandrum (the de-facto home of piracy in kerala) his home. He’s the biggest dealer of illegal CDs and DVDs in Trivandrum. Known to be a master forger, his degree-certificates and passports beat the original in panache. He rakes in more than a couple of crores a year from his thriving business and travels in a Skoda Octavia. He harbors a steady hate for the system, ever since his release three years back, and would go unto any lengths to cripple it, the way it tore his life apart!
Moral of the story:
Legal literacy, anyone?
The final word:
Based on a true story narrated to me by an IPS officer, when I’d visited him in regards with the investigation of a cyber crime offence. Parts of the story and names are fictional for anonymity’s sake.