when he joined in,” Sheeba recalls. The person who called himself Maqsood from Pakistan later sent her friend request which she accepted and they became friends. Ideologies matched and they started chatting for hours together.

“We started liking each other. He wanted me t co-operate so that he could come, marry me and take me along. But I refused because of fear,” sighs Sheeba.

Sheeba had every reason to doubt Maqsood’s credentials. Whatever he said about himself might not necessarily be true, “Yes he could have been anyone, my cousin, my friend, or maybe he was honest. We didn’t exchange pictures either. But I liked him. I liked the image I had of him in my mind. I liked the feeling. Whatever it was, it was really beautiful,” admits Sheeba.

With the belief that the boy loved her equally and was honest, Sheeba would cherish the memories of her beloved till she received another friend request some weeks back. The individual called himself a Muslim girl, Mishail. Again the same phenomenon of chatting started all over again, “We would think on similar lines, and that is the reason I one day told her about Maqsood. I told her how I still like him and want him to come to me” said Sheeba. But the replying lines of Mishail came as a shock. “Then why aren’t you allowing me to take any step. This is Maqsood here,” was the reply.

Sheeba squeezed her friend list. “I no more believe this. After all you cannot put yourself at risk for a small green dot” she said.

Sheeba’s friend Ruheela is in love with an orkut member who calls himself a Pakistani cricketer. Every day, he sends him new pictures of the said cricketer or may be of himself. “Many times I told her not to trust this as this may be a case of fake identity but I think she too needs an incident to realise,” Sheeba says.

Fake identities give internet users a free hand to make any mischief, or in severe cases commit a crime

Danish a 23 year old boy received a friend request from an Orkut user, “She named many of my friends and said she too is friends with them. Her approach was quite convincing. Then we became friends and I told her almost everything about myself. Later on one day I talked about one of my friends whom I thought she also knows, but to my shock she did not know any of them and had just learned their names in my friend list” recalls Danish. “I am still anxious about who she was or was she a girl at all.”

Experts put many reasons for the quick acceptance of this form of media in Kashmir. “I think due to the ongoing political turmoil, Kashmiri youth didn’t get enough time to come out and communicate. This made them introverts and shy, that is the reason they accepted this medium blindly without thinking about its consequences,” says Faisal Kawoosa, an IT expert.

“Making emails secure can really help in getting rid of these fake identities. I recommend that everybody should be given an evisa- a code by security vendors like verisign. Only after a person sends them a valid identity proof like your passport, they verify and issue a code unique to that person. That code, I think, must be made mandatory in all the signups,” Kawoosa adds.

The first ever cyber crime was cracked in J&K on November 23 2004. A Jammu and Kashmir Bank employee had illegally transferred public money to a fake account which he had created on the computer. But Asrar’s case is the first of its kind in Kashmir where a cyber crime has been committed for personal reasons. Girls are considered more vulnerable to internet crimes.

“I have seen cases where girls were blackmailed over pictures and videos which they had shared with their online friends. In one case, a girl’s marriage prospects broke four times because of her morphed pictures on internet,” a senior police official told Kashmir Life.

Another official said that in at least 14 cases “Kashmiri girls have eloped with Facebook and Orkut friends”

With concentration of internet connections increasing at a rapid pace like elsewhere in Kashmir, virtual world and its pitfalls are becoming a major reality.

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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