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Inside India’s cybercrime hotspot – Mewat | #cybercrime | #computerhacker

By Sreya Chatterjee: A panchayat meeting is underway in Akera village. The locals have gathered at the residence of the Sarpanch with scores of complaints – drug addiction is on the rise, water scarcity has made summers unbearable, and electricity is yet to reach all houses. In the middle of this, we try to attract the attention of the Sarpanch. It’s been a long wait. He was attending a wedding nearby and directly reached for the meeting.

As we asked Mohammad Mubin, the Sarpanch, about three men who are involved in cybercrime, he straight away denied – “Humare gaon ke koi bhi bache isme nahi hai. Lage hue gao mein ho sakte hai, lekin is gao mein nahi hain, is bare mein main aapka madat nahi kar paunga. (None of the children from our village are involved in this. It might happen in nearby villages, but not in our village. I won’t be able to help you much in this matter.)”

We read out their names – Alam and Sahil (names changed) and explained to him that their identity wouldn’t be revealed. He said, “Humare gao ka koi bacha isme ho nahi sakta shamil. Rajasthan wale Mewat mein hai ye sab, yaha nahi hai (No child from our village can be involved in this. This is happening in Rajasthan’s Mewat, not here).” The others who had gathered for the meeting also joined the chorus.

Akera was the sixth village we were visiting, trying to track the cybercrime epidemic Mewat is reeling under. We realized it wasn’t possible to get local assistance and started the hunt ourselves. When we finally managed to reach Sahil’s house, his brothers were hesitant to allow us to talk to Sahil, they suggested the case was wrongly slapped on him, and that he was never involved in cybercrime.

Finally, Sahil spoke. He said he was innocent, it was Alam who had used his phone to make some calls because of which he was zeroed in by the police. “I made a mistake and gave him my phone. He knows about cybercrime. If you want to know about it, go to his house. The villagers know about him,” Sahil said.

Alam’s house was locked, and we could barely manage to speak with him when we started from Delhi, after which his phone remained switched off.


One of the main reasons Mewat continues to be a cybercrime hotspot is its unique demography. Mewat is spread over three states – Haryana, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh. This unique demography is exploited by cybercriminals to escape from the clutches of the police. When there’s a raid, they easily cross over to a different state, which makes it difficult for police to nab them.

The other major reasons are unemployment and backwardness. According to a Niti Aayog report, 101 districts were studied on 49 development indicators, such as health, education, agriculture, financial inclusion, skill development, and basic infrastructure, and Nuh scored 26 percent — which is the lowest score in the country. As per a survey by a private research organization, Sehgal Foundation, which was funded by Niti Aayog, “Government and private jobs are few. Ironically, dependence on agriculture doesn’t yield many returns with traditional farming methods in use and an unsupportive topography. Resultantly, income levels are low and large family size adds to the economic burden on the earning members.”

One of the locals we spoke to in Nuh said, “I have lived in Mewat for 50 years and I don’t see any development work. Mewat is infamous for crimes and even we feel bad about it. But people here don’t have jobs, the youth easily get attracted to quick money and commit such crimes. The government should do something to uplift this region.”


As we moved ahead, we finally managed to find Aijas (name changed), a 21-year-old school dropout who is involved in sextortion and agreed to sit down with us to explain how the world of cybercrime operates. Aijas met us at an undisclosed location. He had covered his face so that he couldn’t be identified. Aijas was accompanied by another friend who is also involved in the same business but refused to speak with us.

As Aijas sat down with us, he asked if we were hiding cameras to record him and when he did not find anything, he started talking. He said, “Bharatpur se kuch rishtedar aye the lockdown ke time, unhi se sikh liye. Bahut asan hai, bas ek phone chahie aur kahi pe bhi baith ke call karlo (Some relatives from Bharatpur came during the lockdown, and I learned it from them. It’s very easy. You just need a phone and you can make calls from anywhere.)”

When we asked him why there is no fear in this work, he said, “Sab kuch fake hai, phone se leke account tak, bas dar hai toh mukhbir ka, kabhi kabhi toh apne ghar wale hi fasa dete hai. (Everything is fake, from the phone to the accounts. The only fear is of police informers. Sometimes even our own family members trap us.)”

Aijas also described how they get fake SIMs and bank accounts. He was pretty forthcoming in explaining his area of expertise, he has mostly been involved in email phishing and sextortion. He has been arrested once and is currently out on bail. According to Aijas, there are Bluetooth headphones available on the market that can modify any voice to a feminine one, making the task easier for them, but the catch always begins with Facebook or Instagram.

As he caught me smiling while hearing the trick of his trade, Aijas said it’s not easy these days, “Log ajkal samajhne lage hai, 10 mein se mushkil se 1-2 phaste hai, zyada tar log gali de dete hai, kabhi kabhi hum bhi gali dete hai, dhamki bhi milti hai toh bolte hai bata de police ko jo batana hai. (These days, people have started understanding. Out of ten, only 1 or 2 people get trapped. Most people use foul language. Occasionally, we also abuse them. Sometimes, we even receive threats).” He says it’s usually the old age group who get conned the most.

When we asked him whether he operates for any gang he said, “Aisa nahi hota hai, koi boss nahi hota hai, yaha hum apne marzi ke malik hai, bas sikhte hai toh kamai apna hai, koi mafia nahi hai isme. (It doesn’t happen like that. There is no boss here. We are the masters of our own choices. We earn based on what we learn. There is no mafia involved in this.)”

Aijas was right, the cybercrime industry in Mewat isn’t an organized one, it is more like an unorganised sector, making it even more difficult for the police to completely wipe it off.

As we travelled further towards Jurehra, we stopped at another village that locals suggested was infamous for cybercrime. We had learned our lesson with Akera and didn’t meet the Sarpanch, instead, we relied on word of mouth from the youth. One thing that cannot go unnoticed once you travel through this region is the number of unemployed young people that sit idle. One of the local boys told us that if we could find Khalid or Azam (name changed) they could help us. Khalid was nowhere to be found, but Azam was sitting along with the Sarpanch, who tried to intervene when we asked Azam if he could speak to us alone. The sarpanch said, “This boy hasn’t done anything. If someone says something, will you believe it?”

Azam, however, looked a little defiant, he said he was willing to talk to us. Azam’s story is different from Aijas’s. He is a driver and usually earns his living through that. In 2022, Azam’s cousins came over from Bharatpur from whom he learned about the OLX scam. He did it for 10-15 days, managed to con two men and was arrested. He got out on bail recently.

He said, “Hume toh police ne utha liya, lekin jinhone hume sikhaya tha woh abhi bhi karte hain, woh kabhi arrest nahi hue. (The police arrested us, but those who taught us are still doing it, they were never arrested.)”

Azam also shared that the trick of the trade is not easily passed on. In some cases, when it’s an immediate relative, it’s peer learning, but in most cases, there is a commission system or a one-time payment.


Of almost 13 villages that we travelled to, no Sarpanch agreed with the problem that looms over Mewat. Ali Mohammad was the only exception, the 46-year-old Sarpanch of Gurelta village, told us that a lot of boys are still involved in this – “Main manta hoon cyber-crime ek problem hai, humare bache yeh sab mein phas rahe hai, yaha pe naukri ka sadhan nahi hai, aur yeh ek bahut bara reason hai. Humne gao mein muhim bhi chalayi hai, bhale bhuke pet so jao, lekin yeh sab mat karna. (I believe cybercrime is a problem. Our children are getting trapped in all this. There are no job opportunities here, and this is the main reason.)”


Aijas and Azam were out of the 25+ people we got in touch with who agreed to speak to us. However, one common word that echoed through every interaction was Bharatpur. Even those who didn’t agree to sit with us suggested it is Bharatpur in Rajasthan’s part of Mewat where the problem is at its peak.

According to police sources investigating cybercrime cases, there have been many cases of attacks on police when they have earlier gone to raid villages in the area. There have been reports of stone pelting in the past when police teams have gone to raid.


On April 27, the Haryana Police initiated one of the biggest cybercrime crackdowns in Mewat. A 102-member police team conducted coordinated raids in 320 locations. According to Varun Singla, SP Nuh, who led the operation, “126 people were detained, out of which 65 people have been arrested based on evidence. During the raids, 166 fake Aadhaar cards, 128 ATM cards, 99 SIMs, 66 mobile phones and 5 POS machines were recovered”.

Speaking to India Today, Varun Singla said, “It is very difficult to zero in on these locations, we depended on our informers.” When we asked him about the network of these criminals, he said, “It is not an organised crime, these boys operate in a group of two-three.”


Being one of the most backward districts, Mewat hasn’t found a way into a good policy framework. Basic issues like education continue to falter coupled with rising unemployment. When we interacted with the youth in the 18-35 age bracket, even 18-year-olds were mostly married and had children. Azam, one of the accused we spoke to, had three children. Owing to this, people continue to resort to crime to earn more money.

According to a senior police officer in Haryana Police, unorganised crimes are difficult to wipe out. “In the case of a gang operation or that of a mafia, a crackdown against one individual can eliminate the crime as it is also easier to track down others associated with them. However, in the case of an unorganised sector, arresting one leads to 10 more new heads,” the official said.


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