Transformation of a shy boy to a radical: Family, friends search for answers

Arif’s family is yet to come to terms with the news, according to their friends.

Written by ZEESHAN SHAIKH | Kalyan | Updated: August 29, 2014 9:31 am
The house where Arif Ejaz Majeed lived. ( Source: Express photo by Deepak Joshi ) The house where Arif Ejaz Majeed lived. ( Source: Express photo by Deepak Joshi )

His family members recall his cherubic face, of a boy who was always shy and obedient, and who would even “greet passing fakirs”. They wonder when he became the man plastered across newspapers, as being one among India’s first bunch of terror exports to the conflict zone in the Middle-east.

Arif Ejaz Majeed, a 23-year-old civil engineering student, went missing in May this year along with three other youths from Kalyan. They were later reported to have joined Sunni insurgents’ group ISIS which has revolted in Iraq and Syria. On Tuesday, they got the news that shattered their world — about Arif’s death.

Saheem Farooq Tanki, who had also gone missing with Arif, called up his brother Farzaan on his cellphone using Voiceover Internet Protocol (VoIP) and broke the news about Arif’s death. Investigating agencies have confirmed that Saheem was in Ar-Raqqah, also known as Rakka, an Iraqi city under ISIS control, when he called.

Arif’s family is yet to come to terms with the news, according to their friends.

Arif walked out of his house on May 24 evening, telling his parents he was heading to a friend’s place in Panvel to study. They never heard from him again. Ninety-six days later, his father Dr Ejaz Majeed offered Ghaibaana Namaaz-e-Janaaza (a funeral prayer offered for times when the body of the deceased is not found). He is still unable to decipher the tumult that was going on in his son’s mind.

Dr Ejaz, “like his son”, many said, is known in the community for being soft-spoken. According to neighbours, he draws tremendous respect from both Muslims and non-Muslims residing in the city. In a city where many speak about the fear of lurking into the locality of the “others”, Dr Ejaz was surrounded by members of the Hindu community on Thursday who had walked into his Sarvodaya Residency apartment in Govindwadi Colony offer condolences.

“We were surprised to hear reports in the media about the family. They all are so genial and well-behaved and so unlike anyone who would subscribe to militant ideas,” said a friend who stays close to where Dr Majeed’s dispensary is located.

Family friends claim the family always laid emphasis on good education while raising Arif and his three siblings. “The entire emphasis when it came to raising the children was to ensure that they got good education and imbibe good values,” a family friend said. Arif was sent to Old Lourdes English High School, a 76-year-old institution set up by missionaries and known to be one of the best institutions in the city. He is said to have been decent in academics.

“He was not exceptional but he was good at what he did,” said Faisal Tanki, a friend. All of Arif’s siblings had undertaken professional courses. His sister is a doctor, another is in college while a younger brother is pursuing engineering.

The family’s emphasis on education saw them asking Arif to take up a diploma in engineering after school. He undertook his diploma in civil engineering from Father Agnel’s College in Vashi. His academic record is supposed to have been decent enough for the Maharashtra government to grant him an education loan.

Arif cleared his diploma in engineering in first class in 2011. The next year at the insistence of family members he opted for a degree course, travelling almost 100 km to and fro every day to Panvel, in Anjuman-e-Islam’s Kalsekar Technical College.

“He had grown a beard by then but there was no inkling of him having radical views. He was genial and would often sit at his father’s dispensary in the evening,” a resident of his building said.

Apart from Saheem, two more youths went along with Arif — Fahad Tanvir Sheikh and Aman Naim Tandel. Their family members claim they did not know that the four used to socialize together. Police probe found that the four would spend considerable time at Bazarpeth, a residential and commercial colony in Kalyan.

“Never in my life have I seen any of them walking up to my house and asking Saheem to come out with them. In my entire life they never visited our house,” said Saheem’s uncle Kashif Tanki.

Family members are also perplexed about how Arif could have been radicalised. “He was religious, no doubt. People would lovingly tell him that after completion of engineering he should be sent to Mecca because of his piousness,” a close family friend said.

Arif’s transformation seems to have taken place in the fag end of 2013, which saw massive clashes between the Syrian government and the rebels. A once brilliant student known to score first class in his exams started faltering in his studies from 2014. Family friends said after that they do not understand what happened to Arif. “I don’t know if the stuff on the Internet could have influenced him,” said another family friend. “But one fine day he just disappeared, only for us to be informed later that he was in Iraq.”

Immediate neighbours too are in shock, as they only recall a well-behaved Arif. A distant relative claims that Arif did not leave behind any letter while leaving. “The letter that is being attributed to him was actually written by another boy who had left with them. I don’t know why the letter was attributed to Arif and why the Majeed family were targeted,” he says.

The departure of Arif seems to have affected his father Dr Ejaz the most. People who claim to know him and seen him walking to the mosque, said that the long wait of 96 days has been the most visible on him. “He is not himself anymore. More like a shadow,” said a neighbour.

Dr Ejaz refuses to talk about Arif. “I have lost my son. Talking now is not going to bring him back,” he says.

(With inputs from Gautam S Mengle)

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  1. R
    Rocky Rana
    Aug 29, 2014 at 1:31 pm
    Too much religion is the cause of militancy in Islam.
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    1. H
      harith
      Nov 28, 2014 at 8:34 pm
      True: The shy face is just a mask for inner cruelty and obedience for perverted and inhuman nature; this terrorist must be hanged till death like Kasab; even the leader of the 9/11 terrorist pigs while in germany used to be shy, with drawn and obedient; in what capacity, this terrorist came back to India? as an ISIS member to spread Jihad? to recruit people? to collect sensitive information? he must be hanged like any other terrorist and murderer.no exceptions
      Reply
      1. H
        harith
        Nov 28, 2014 at 8:29 pm
        stop writing non sense here; what connection this terrorist has with people in Syria? Did Syrian govt kill his own family members? it is very unfortunate that this terrorist came back alive; who wants his back ground? this terrorist must be imprisoned for next 20 years atleast like any terrorist or hang till death, for killing innocent human beings in the name of so called, Islam and Caliphat; ISIS is a designated terrorist Organization and all its members are considered to be murderers and any murderer will get death penality
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        1. H
          harith
          Nov 28, 2014 at 8:41 pm
          stop your innocent words;do you think, this is a joke? in what capacity he came back? as an active ISIS member, to recruit more people? to collect sensitive information? for what? did the Syrian Army kill his family members? what connection, did he have with Syrians and who gave him the right to kill innocent people? any member of ISIS is considered as dreaded terrorist and must be hanged till death; you cant escape punishment by talking philosophy after killing many innocent people
          Reply
          1. J
            jey emm
            Aug 29, 2014 at 7:07 am
            First of all my heartfelt sympathies to the parents. May All grant them power to bear this unfortunate incident. Religion has divided mankind. Religious studies makes people emotional and they start acting emotionally rather than logically. Imparting religious studies when the children are very young is not an advisable strategy. Whether it is the leader of Boko Haram, ISIS in Iraq, Al Shabab in Somalia and Jamat ul Dawa in stan, the terror activities are motivated by religious scholars leaders. Children should study math and science together with humanity and values. Focus on religion should be made only after 50 years of age when human beings become matured.
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            1. P
              Pradip Bhattacharya
              Aug 29, 2014 at 6:26 am
              Actually one of the main tactics of a terrorist is to show innocence and good behaviour in his own locality so that nobody can have any suion. I am sure the family of Ejaz is the main source of extremist ideas. Muslims generally hate all religions even if they do not show it in public. They are guilty of teaching hatred towards other religions in the privacy of their homes.
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              1. M
                Mahender Goriganti
                Nov 29, 2014 at 8:59 pm
                I hope you were a victim of those alleged atrocities in Syria so I can sympathise with you.
                Reply
                1. M
                  Mahender Goriganti
                  Nov 29, 2014 at 8:24 pm
                  Really, NIA should follow up with you for the gospel and explanation you gave.
                  Reply
                  1. M
                    Mahender Goriganti
                    Nov 29, 2014 at 8:30 pm
                    The best approach to this problem is to declare and worn about the benefits of anybody reporting before it happened with rewards and punishment for reporting or seeking help after. the fact and letting it know widely and clearly..
                    Reply
                    1. M
                      Mahender Goriganti
                      Nov 29, 2014 at 8:26 pm
                      The parents are not shocked but pra for his sole of being a Jihad, otherwise any normal parent would have sought help from the police before this happened.not after the fact that he is still alive. They should be thoroughly investigated if they new before and charged for sedition and or abetting terrorism
                      Reply
                      1. M
                        Mahender Goriganti
                        Nov 29, 2014 at 8:10 pm
                        he is neither shy nor unconventional muslim but a muslim who believes in Koran as taught and practiced by muslims for hundreds of years all over the world. Isis, Al qaeda are no different than a mulla at any of the Indian muslim religious places or Madras. Al Qaeda is tactically using the Isis as forefront and declared a war to keep the cells in India under cover to distract, as they did so in Iraq and Syria by way of on and off alliance with them . Expect the same in near future (2015) a spectacular display of their power all over India at onceAllah 'o' akbar-of Indian express will come to their rescue as needed and provide cover
                        Reply
                        1. S
                          Shyam
                          Nov 28, 2014 at 11:19 pm
                          It will be the usual story given by the that particular community's families, if one of their family members take to activities against the country to say that their person is innocent to the core and stories about their anti social activities are the fabrication of the Police or NIA etc etc. INDIAN public are used to this. How blessed is INDIA to have NATIONALS like this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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                            Nallavan Virumandi
                            Aug 29, 2014 at 1:38 pm
                            "Shocked the family" is really surprising. Isn't a true that their martyred son is going to enjoy the conditions of Jannath? Is he really going to miss that? After all he has died for the cause that is preached by their ancestors right from 7th century. They should feel proud about it. Instead of mourning his death, they should come forward to sacrifice few more in their own family for the same cause. And also, why the neighbours care so much about Majeed who openly criticized the "unislamic" behavior of this nation. He has hated this nation for 23 years which raised him and he has no respect for his family or country. Then why should we bother about this in anyway?
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                              Nallavan Virumandi
                              Aug 29, 2014 at 1:41 pm
                              Dont be too righeous. It wont be acceptable by our secular media or leaders. Secularism is bound upon as a duty only for Hindus. Muslims have their birth right to hate / kill / loot others as we are non muslims.
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                                Johnny Yates
                                Aug 29, 2014 at 8:58 pm
                                It is quite clear that the atrocities of the Syrian government is responsible for the death of this cherubic, young boy. The Indian people may also have been responsible. It was only the natural reaction of a pionate boy. Yes, he was not poor and deprived like other radicals in his community, but he did get enraged.
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