November 2018 News

Come Back, Plead Kin Of Missing Noida Student

3 November 2018
Times of India
M Saleem Pandit

Srinagar: J&K police on Saturday said they are yet to verify the veracity of an audio clip that plays to a photograph of reportedly a 19-year-old student of a private university in Greater Noida who has been untraceable since October 28 but the photo of allegedly Ehtisham Bilal Sofi wearing black, flouting an AK 47, with grenades strapped to his body, and posing in front of a typically Islamic State flag, has taken by surprise and rattled family and friends. They on Saturday appealed for him to return to the family fold, taking the clip at face value. ADG law and order and security Munir Khan said 'we are investigating the issue and the veracity of the clip', adding it was possible Ehtisham may have joined the Jammu & Kashmir unit of terror group Islamic State (JKIS). UP DGP O P Singh said the ATS had contacted J&K Police. 'It is not yet clear whether he has joined any terror group. Our probe has just begun. His stay at the university and people he was friendly with will be questioned by UP ATS sleuths,' he said. The five-minute audio has a soft male voice pledging allegiance to the cause of jihad, promising death and terror from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and looking to give up his life in the effort. On Saturday, his mother Irfana Begum appealed to Zakir Musa, JKIS head to return their only son. She prayed to separatists Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik to help her bring back her son. 'Please send back my Ehtisham Please for the sake of Allah return him to us,' Irfana Begum said. Ehtisham went missing on October 28 after he left the varsity with official permission to go to Delhi, days after he was mistakenly roughed up during a scuffle between Indian and Afghan students in the campus. In the audio, the voice allegedly Ehtisham's says: 'I was looking into the kaffir's (non-Muslims) eyes when they attacked me in groups like dogs; I felt I had delayed becoming a part of jihad for long. Not anymore.' Ehtisham left the university's campus last Sunday morning. He had told his father he was going to Delhi with friends. However, on October 26, Ehtisham had booked a GoAir flight to Srinagar. He boarded the 1.30 pm flight on October 28 that landed in Srinagar around 3 pm. In his last call to father Bilal Ahmed, made at 4.29 pm, Ehtisham told him he was taking a metro to return to Greater Noida. His mobile locations that night showed him in Pulwama and then Shopian. A 'missing' complaint was later registered at Knowledge Park police station in Greater Noida and at Khanyar police station in Srinagar, officials said. Ehtisham was one of two Kashmiri students attacked on the Sharda campus on October 4, in the middle of clashes in the university between Indian and Afghan students. Some outsiders and students subsequently targeted Kashmiri students, believing they were Afghans. On October 4, during an agitation against Afghan students led by right-wing activists Deepak Sharma and Ved Nagar, a mob turned on Ehtisham and a fellow student in the presence of police. Videos of the violence were later widely circulated. Ehtisham suffered injuries on his right elbow and head. He had then told TOI that at least he could identify at least three of his attackers. 'I can identify them. They were using abuses and anti-Muslim language,' he had said. Ehtisham's friends in Sharda described him as an introvert who largely kept to himself. A fellow student from J&K said Bilal had refused to give a statement to the police after the October 4 attack on him and another student on the Sharda campus, saying he did not want help from 'Indians'. 'Maybe he had decided he will go,' added the friend. Sharda University, in its first official statement on Saturday since Ehtisham went missing from campus a week ago, said it was 'deeply concerned that a first-year student, who had joined the university and commenced his academics only mid-September 2018, has allegedly joined hands with anti-national elements.' The university said he enrolled, his attendance had been around 75% and that he would mostly hang around with students from his state of J&K. Asim Arun, IG of UP-ATS, said on Saturday, 'We've been tracking him the past week. We've been in touch with his family and friends but no one seems to have expected he would join a radical group.' National Conference's Omar Abdullah reacted to the audio on Twitter: 'If this is genuine it's hugely worrying. Sometimes seemingly small actions have huge consequences. If what happened to him at *ShardaUniversity has led him to choose such a destructive path it's even more tragic. One more life on the path to ruin & one more family in turmoil.'