Watch Out!
Student Media
Body of IITR
About Guide Get Involved

Pheking News

Turing the Enigma: Unearthing the mysterious underground cult at IITR

June 20, 2021
- Akshara Singh, Anurag Srivastava, Kushagra Agarwal, Pritika Mishra, Nishanth R, Riya Elizabeth John, Sarthak Sharma

All he could see were faceless figures murmuring in stark darkness. In the middle stood the instrument. A neon spark slipped through his hand and lit it, orange light emanating from the device, its intensity blinding but its vibrance unforgettable. As the flame grew, it roared, and all he could hear were shrieks and cries.

He wakes up drenched in sweat. He has not forgotten it. Even after years of therapy, it haunts him every single day. He could only get over it by sharing his story and preventing anyone from walking that bleak boulevard. Well, the timing couldn’t have been better.
Since the beginning of the pandemic and our being inevitably ousted from R-Land, phones have been a-buzz daily with emails kindly informing us about “Changed supplies of fruits and vegetables.” Different sections of the student populace have reacted differently. Some notably used this as fodder for new meme templates, while others just got reminded of campus and moped in silence. There are others still, woven of the paranoid ilk, who felt that there simply must be some hidden rhyme and reason behind the suspiciously blatant boring event.
While initially dismissing these theories as fantastically heretic, Watch Out decided that the matter deserves some probing. As it turns out, we didn’t have to go far- discreet inquiries led us to a nervy yet determined-to-be-heroic young man, who helped us blow the case wide open, like Julian Assange dropping deets on Hillary Clinton’s emails. He asked us to keep his identity secret, so we will refer to him as the “Honest Confessor”(HC).

WO!: It has been an hour, sir. Can we get this over with? These ramblings are borderline creepy.
HC: Yes, absolutely. What do you want to know?
WO!: What is this secret cult? And how is it at all related to the emails we have been getting?
HC: It is all that you can imagine. No, even more… The initiation can be anywhere. It happens over slurping a greasy maggi or over a game of CSGO. It begins with a harmless “Hi!”… Ohh! How could I, who used to jeer at the slightest sight of idiosyncrasy, have fallen for it? Maybe, it was the rejection, nuh, the grades-

And the interview soon turned into a long rant interspersed with cries of regret and groans of philosophical introspective implorings very similar to Raskolnikov’s internal tussles.
We will try our best to present the relevant information out of it.

Allegedly, a certain fest that should remain unnamed (for reasons that better stay unknown) has a secret inner circle- a cult consisting of eight dedicated souls whose sole aim is ensuring the event’s success. Thus, our whistleblower purported that “Their duty goes Above and Beyond” from that of average core members and that their carefully guarded identities are hidden even from their compadres. This becomes especially important as the fest involves a lot of monetary exchange and is almost synonymous with the institution’s pride. The whistleblower very cautiously hovered over the story of some old scams that eventually led to such drastic organizational measures to be put in place. These elite members make every decision, and the core members merely execute and communicate it to the clueless volunteers.

They take part in an annual ritualistic ceremony before the fest takes place to find and light the auspicious flame in an ancient relic that continues to shine bright until the event’s conclusion. It takes the form of a brazier after assembling its eight component pieces. The nightmares of the event still haunt the whistleblower. By some happy accident a long time back, a stage prop used by the Drams team members, an ancient relic, was rumored to bring prosperity to whatever event it graces. Therefore, the ceremony and the Artefact are not just a fun team-bonding event; the cult members wholly believe that its success begets the grand event’s success.
The eight component pieces symbolize the eight inner circle members. After the ceremony is successfully completed, the relic is disassembled, and the pieces are hidden in unknown locations on the campus by cult heads.

The eight core team members then delegate four trusted juniors each to compete for succeeding them. A four-stage scavenger hunt leads the most competent and dedicated participant of the four to the corresponding relic piece that their predecessor titularly held possession of. This scavenger hunt is very carefully organized each year on campus, with a plethora of activities and challenges.
This, therefore, acts as a formal Handing-Over ceremony- with the winners being knighted with Almighty PoRs and the immensely prestigious responsibility of carrying this inane tradition forward. At the last stage of the scavenger hunt, the chosen ones chance upon the precious. The eight relic pieces are assembled, and the ceremony takes place.


An artist’s rendition of the infamous relic

WO!: But there was no offline fest last year; if any of this is true, how does this ritual remain relevant for the cult charlatans?
HC: Well, the whole pandemic makes the ritual even more significant. Since an offline fest could not occur last year, the inner circle firmly believes that performing the ceremony is the only way to ensure it happens this year.
WO!: What happened last year? Was there an inner circle then? How could they have conducted the witch hunt then?
HC: Just like Jim Carrey’s mental state, the interest in the extremities has been deteriorating in the past couple of years. But last year, they saw the most intense hunt ever, with every tiny liturgy being performed with utmost care.

And he told us that this merry (and well guarded) goings-on would never have come to the notice of R-junta had the members not gone a tad bit overboard with their preparations this year. The never-ending Pandemic season cast a pallor of desperation on this dedicated group, as being banned from the campus predicted a bleak outcome for their activities. Therefore, the irate members decided that the Hunt must take place, else run the risk of losing the Artefact, their powers, and their minds along with it.
The dear Reader, at this point, must be rightly wondering if we have taken leave of our senses as well. How could such fantastic goings-on have gone unnoticed- and why would anyone care to speak up about it now?

WO!: Holy guacamole, we do have some insights of our own. A parallel investigation we have been having. Can you care to look at this file?
A licorice-colored file was scanned and emailed; the visual of it being handed over works perfectly fine as well.
HC: They do have their internal connections and a strong IT cell, and they have leveraged a single harmless detail everyone has been ignoring. It all adds up. IT ALL ADDS UP!

The whistleblower gave us deep insight into the group’s methodologies to carry out its operations online after the institution closed down due to the pandemic. To ensure that they can present their progress every day, the participants have to send encoded mails over the institute email. After intensive investigation, Watch Out! determined that the only mails which could fit the description were the daily vegetable outlet emails. From 25th March 2020, all of us have been receiving the emails for “Change of supplies of Fruits and Vegetables.” with a total of 369 mails [As of 0300 IST, 15-06-21].
Analyzing the whistleblower’s actions, we discovered a message encoded in morse code. This message, with the supplies mails and some crypto magic by a certain WO! Senior (who did tell us that it was not easy, further highlighting the gravity of the situation) revealed the full scale of these daily messages.
The time and venue were left intact for the vegetable vendors to follow. The footer, once decoded, displays the instructions for the hunt. The links below can be decoded to a single Webex link, used by the members to track progress for the day.

Each of these emails follows a set pattern, which depends on the progress on that day. Each participant is to describe and follow a set course to accomplish their aim. An email that starts with ‘Supplies’ indicates that they have decided on a particular course and will describe it. A mail starting with ‘Changed time’ shows smooth progress with the described approach and acts as a progress report of sorts. At last, the mails starting with ‘Outlet’ indicate that the task was a failure with the approach taken and that the participant will use another strategy for their goal. Either way, the progress is presented in the daily Webex meeting.
Other emails that start with “tme,” “Tmings,” and “hanged” carry graver connotations.

The end of a tier of the hunt results in one of the recruits being out of the running, but there’s more to it. They lose not only their shot at becoming a member of the inner circle but also their memory. Every last trace of information that the recruit has gained during the recruitment process is snatched away from them, and it’s handled with utmost care. The inner-circle represents the very epitome of secrecy.
Now, this may seem like a harmless practice done by the notoriously exclusive group to protect their privacy, but it has prolonged effects on the poor recruits who didn’t make it. The memory erasure takes its toll on the fragile minds of these recruits.
Mails starting with “hanged” mark the end of one tier; that is, one person is ejected, and their memory wiped. We have received four emails that start with “hanged” which means the recruitment process is finished with four tiers on 25th November 2020.
After probing the whistleblower further, they told us that the events that follow the completion of tier 4 are the most horrifying. The whistleblower broke down while recalling the harrowing details of what followed; all the terrible memories that they’d tried to stow away in inaccessible parts of their brain came rushing back to them. With great difficulty, the whistleblower finally gets a few words out about the events that positively scarred them for the rest of their life. The whistleblower pleads to Watch Out! to find more details about what happened after that. We are potentially in the middle of the next witch hunt; we need YOUR support in unfurling the mysteries of this infamous group. Let’s consider the interpretation of the remaining emails as a mission for all of us.

Video for the full interview is available here

Design Credits:
Cover Image: Sneha Sundar, Aashi Jain
Second Image: Anubhav Aaryan, Shreya Bhagat