Punishment for anyone found flouting Islamic law, shops controlled by local leaders, income from “war booty”, no salaries, a diet of mostly roti, and green tea at get-togethers. In several messages sent to The Indian Express since September 2016 over Telegram, an encrypted service, Bestin Vincent alias Yahiya, who left Kerala with his wife last May to “join the Caliphate”, drew a rare, detailed portrait of life under an Islamic State affiliate at Nangarhar in Afghanistan.
“(There are many Indian families but)… due to security reasons, it’s not recommended for all Indians to stay together nor work together. Still everyone meets often. I cannot disclose the total number of Indians. And these come under the restrictions. And every do’s and don’ts are taken from Quran and Sunnah. Anybody transgressing these limits would be punished,” he wrote. Last Saturday, Yahiya’s father in Palakkad received information that his son, who was among the 21 people who left Kerala for the Islamic State last year, had been killed in US bombings.
Click here to read part 1 of this series – Days before report of his death, he wrote: ‘Not a fly has been affected by MOAB’
In his messages, Yahiya admitted that he knew at least two people who are under investigation by the NIA for “instigating” Indian youth to join IS. But Yahiya, a Christian convert to Islam, denied that they had played a role in his religious transformation. On Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) employee Arshi Qureshi, who was chargesheeted by the NIA in February, Yahiya wrote: “Qureshi was a very close person to me. It was me who told him about Islamic State and Jihad. He never talked to me anything regarding that. Also he refused to accept that Islamic State is true.”
On Rizwan Khan, another suspect who was arrested last year in Thane by Maharashtra ATS and Kerala Police, Yahiya wrote: “Rizwan brother (did not) have any part in our Hijrah. He was just a witness of my nikah because there were no one else.” In February, the NIA told a Mumbai court that they did not have “enough evidence” to currently file a chargesheet against Khan.
The Indian Express could not independently verify Yahiya’s claims.
Edited excerpts from Yahiya messages:
‘GREEN TEA IS SPECIAL’
“(The ruling system gives) us cash and they control the shops. When it’s difficult to arrange cash, they give all necessary things at (the) doorstep. Most people have gardens here. Cultivating basic necessary vegetables. We also have enough space in our compound but we don’t have much experience in it. And not enough time… Mostly we eat roti here. Green tea is also special. Whenever some brothers gather together, green tea is must.”
‘LANGUAGE IS A BARRIER’
“I read.. on an international news channel that mujahideen are leaving khilafah (caliphate) because of less salary. So funny.
“The fact is there is no salary in khilafah. And there is not a single mature guy without a job. Either in police or medical… or army units. …the Ameer in charge wants to put us in different departments because everyone of us are educated and capable to control the system. But language is a barrier…
“Major income is ghanimah… war booty. What we get after defeating the enemies in war and conquering their lands. This is divided among the mujahideen. So you do not know when the rizq (provision) from Allah comes. Sometimes big amount, sometimes less… Other source of income is kafala (a sponsorship system for migrants), which is paid for every person, male and female and child in time periods like one month or so. Some people do their own business like selling cakes, weapons etc and make income.”
‘DRONES, JETS ALMOST 24/7’
“We wear only Islamic dress… There are no luxuries here. Local people might not even know what luxury is. There is no tension for anyone even if your area is surrounded by (the) murtad (a Muslim who has rejected Islam) army… In the past few months, we were able (to) participate in jihad…
“Land attacks happen once in two or three months in one border. There will be war all the time either near or in far places. But airstrikes happen very often. Almost 24/7, there would be drones or fighter jets.”