NEW DELHI: Among the three Indians – Pune-based scientist couple Monali Rahalkar and Rahul Bahulikar being the other two — who made the world rethink on the origins of the coronavirus is an enigmatic person in his 20s who lives somewhere in east India. He is also an architect, a filmmaker and a former science teacher — and he revels in anonymity.
The Seeker as he is known to the world answered TOI’s questions through an encrypted email and said that he prefers to remain unknown as he is not “looking for fame or glory” and because he doesn’t want to “trade off” his “safety and privacy.”
“My insatiable curiosity drew me into this,” The Seeker says when asked why he started researching the origins of the deadly coronavirus. “It’s been over a year now, and I’ve devoted much of my waking hours to it,” he adds.
Part of DRASTIC, a team of strangers from different backgrounds who coalesced on the internet to research on the killer virus’ origins, the Seeker dived into hidden corners and brought out troubling evidence that helped raise questions about the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s link to the pandemic.
“He is a very friendly and jolly person,” says Monali about The Seeker. Though members of DRASTIC interact through direct messages on Twitter, she says that The Seeker comes across as a very intelligent person. “He has some knowledge of Chinese language and open-source intelligence. He is actually a seeker of information,” she adds.
Last year he found out a master’s thesis from China that spoke about how in 2012 six miners who went into a bat-infested mine in Mojiang took ill from a mysterious respiratory illness very similar to Covid and three of them later died. Revelations made by The Seeker’s data-mining abilities have gained him worldwide attention. It is partly due to DRASTIC that the widely-accepted natural origin of SARS-CoV2 is now being challenged and even US President Joe Biden has sought a foolproof investigation.
“I have seen an overwhelming amount of facts and data that points towards a lab-leak scenario,” says The Seeker. “Well, we took a theory from the realm of “no, it’s a conspiracy”, to “hey, we need to investigate it further,” he adds.
But why doesn’t he want to reveal himself despite his celebrity-like status? “I’ve already said there [to Newsweek, CNET and Unherd] as far as I could without revealing my real identity,” he adds.
The Seeker tells TOI that team DRASTIC “took shape like a giant jigsaw puzzle, piece by piece.” Whatever has been achieved, he says is because of teamwork, “and the whole crew did some amazing research.”
It was The Seeker who saw the research of Rahalkar and Bahulikar and brought them into DRASTIC’s fold. The duo had established that RaTG13, a coronavirus very similar to SARS-CoV2 was collected from the mine in Mojiang. They also found the Wuhan Institute of Virology was experimenting with RaTG13.
“For data mining, my OSINT skills (like advanced google tricks, Boolean search operators etc) came handy,” The Seeker tells TOI. He says he is very hopeful that we will be able to find out the origins of the deadly coronavirus as “calls for in-depth investigations have multiplied.”
And what mission will The Seeker be on next? “It’s a question I keep asking myself, but honestly I have no idea. I just keep going from one day to the next.”
On the worldwide response, The Seeker said, “I’m amazed myself… wasn’t expecting this to blow up all of a sudden.”