In January, a Kerala man attempted to sexually harass Chennai-based Namya Baid on the pretext of offering her a job. While that failed, it has come to light that Namya was only one of the many women the man targeted.
TNM reported about the man, who went by the name Deepak and pretended to be a client-relationship manager with Air France to cheat Namya. In one instance, he even lied to her that he was a doctor and told Namya to show him her stomach over a WhatsApp video call.
This man, who has now been identified as Deepuraj, has been arrested in Bengaluru. TNM sent Deepuraj’s photo to Namya, who confirmed that it was the same man who told her to wear tight fitting clothes over a video ‘interview’.
Deepuraj was arrested from Bengaluru after a victim registered a complaint with the city’s cyber-crime cell.
A hotel manager in Thiruvananthapuram, Deepuraj would scour job portals and networking sites and contact unsuspecting women looking to work for international airline companies. He would tell them — like he told Namya — that they would have to go through five rounds of interview, including two rounds of ‘physical examination’ and a fitness test.
He would allegedly ask women to pose in various ways and record the video interview. He would then reportedly blackmail these women into sex-chatting with him by threatening to leak the video online if they resisted.
He reportedly had several aliases such as Dr Harikrishnan, Dr Rajesh Panikar, Rakesh Sharma and Rakesh Nayar.
The police are yet to see if he committed financial fraud, but prima facie it looks like he would coerce them into sex-chatting.
Finding more victims
It has now become clear that Namya was only one of Deepuraj’s victims.
A few days ago, Jenice, an Assistant Professor at a Mangaluru college, reached out to Namya. She said she and her colleagues too had been approached by the same man.
Speaking to TNM, Jenice said that the same man had targeted her colleagues and her.
“He called at least 20 staff members of [redacted] college, claiming to be ‘Rajesh Sharma’, Head of Research in UGC.”
“He started asking them very personal questions, claiming to be doing a survey on 'sexual behavioural patterns of employees in educational institutions,” she added.
According to a screenshot Jenice shared with TNM, Deepuraj also used a false picture when he pretended to be Rajesh Sharma while speaking to one of Jenice’s colleagues.
On February 18, one of Jenice’s colleagues gave her number to Deepuraj when he asked to speak to someone who was “bold and ready to contribute to the survey”.
When Jenice learned about this, she did some digging and found that he had called many others as well. She googled the man’s number, which led her to reports about Namya’s viral post from January. She reached out to Namya, who confirmed that he was the same man from a voice recording of Deepuraj that Jenice sent her – he kept on saying ‘hello’ every few minutes.
“So, when he called me on 19th, I had already done my research. I gave him a piece of my mind,” Jenice said.
She also convinced three of her colleagues who had been sexually harassed by Deepuraj to file a police complaint the next day.
In January, Namya put up a Facebook post about her interaction with Deepuraj, which went viral. She also posted screenshots of messages he sent her, which show that he not only tried to threaten her but demanded that she be naked in front of him to ‘prove she is a woman’.
Namya, who is proficient in French, was looking for a job. She asked a friend in the hospitality industry to help her out. Deepuraj apparently got her number from a WhatsApp group where Namya’s friend had shared her request for jobs.
On January 2, Namya received a call from an unknown number. The man introduced himself and said that he was from Air France, and wanted to offer her a permanent position as a French expert with a huge salary hike, even without an interview.
After that, Namya started recording the calls, but decided to give the offer a chance.
When Namya received the call for the second round of interviews, it was from the same number. “He asked me questions like my opinion on French films and the sex scenes in them. He asked me if I avoid them or if I like them,” Namya earlier told TNM.
For the third round, Namya decided that they would have to have the video call over WhatsApp and not Skype. “That way, I would still have the number of the person and the chat history even if they blocked me,” she said.
The third call came some time later on the same day, but from another number. But, Namya realised that it was the same man she had spoken to the first two times because of his voice and because of his habit of saying ‘hello’ every few minutes.
This is where things got creepy. The man claimed to be a doctor and asked her to show him her ‘full profile.
“He asked me to raise my arms. And then he asked me to show my stomach because he is a doctor,” Namya said.
Namya firmly told him that she wasn’t comfortable, and told the man that she would get a full body check-up if he gave her an Air France letter. While he let that go, the man asked her to change into a body-hugging t-shirt without innerwear so that her “nipple bulge” would be visible.
That’s when Namya had had enough, and hung up. When Namya realised he was scamming her and confronted him, this is what he said.
Namya is glad he has finally been arrested and will not be able to victimise other women.