IN the ‘Sri Lanka’ locality of Mumbra, 30 km from Mumbai, Nazim Shamsad Ahmed (26), one of four persons arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) on Thursday for allegedly planning anti-national activities, had been warned by friends against browsing online videos linked to the Islamic State (IS). While local residents said Ahmed mostly kept to himself and did not seem to have any apparent vices, at least two acquaintances knew of one habit they found unnerving: He sometimes watched videos linked to the IS.
Ahmed, who sold ice-candy after having worked in Saudi Arabia for a brief period, had reportedly assured his friends that he was only curious about the IS. Around 2.30 am on Thursday, a team from the UP ATS with help from the state police arrested Ahmed from his third-floor residence in Arkham Manzil building in the ‘Sri Lanka’ locality tucked away at the northernmost tip of Mumbra in Thane district.
“The place was so far removed at one time that when people had to go there, they would say ‘Woh jagah to Lanka mein hai’ (That place is in Lanka),” said local corporator Sagir Ansari.
Local residents claimed that the area was also a hub of narcotics trade.
“But Nazim, a bachelor, did not even smoke cigarettes, leave alone taking drugs. Every morning at 8, he would leave his house with packets of ice-candy and go around Mumbra selling those. He was religious and would pray five times a day in the local mosque. He also did not indulge in idle talk and mostly spoke on religious topics,” said a a resident who claimed to know Ahmed well.
He added: “But he had this habit of watching these IS videos online on his mobile phone. We would tell him to stop this as it could land him in trouble. I know of another resident who had told him this. He, however, would tell us that he was only curious. Maybe, that’s what landed him in trouble with the authorities.”
Apart from Ahmed, the ATS detained two others who lived with him. One was identified by local residents as Gulfam, an egg-seller. “Gulfam has been residing in the area for the past few years. Gulfam is married and has a family at his native place in Bijnor,” the resident said. The third-floor residence is owned by another Mumbra local.
Apart from the duo, the third person detained by the ATS was reportedly a “guest” who came to visit the duo a few days earlier. “We had never seen that person in the past,” the resident said, adding: “they hardly ever got a visitor prior to this apart from the few occasions when Gulfam’s family came visiting.”