From the window of his apartment, Ejaz Badruddin Majeed stares out over the grimy suburban heights of Kalyan, willing himself, it seems, to see past the oceans and the deserts, all the way to Iraq — and to his son.
“(He) had asked me for a motorcycle and I said, no, not just yet. He didn’t say anything, but perhaps that’s why he went away,” says the quiet, greying doctor. Adding, moments later, that perhaps that’s not why his son, Arif Fayyaz Majeed, went away.
He talks about a handwritten letter his son, an engineering student, wrote and left behind at home saying “fighting has been enjoined upon you” and telling his mother that the “angel of death” will ask him why he didn’t migrate to “Allah’s land.” In the letter, the son tells his family, “May we all meet in Paradise.”
Arif is believed to be fighting with Sunni insurgents of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) along with Thane residents Fahad Tanvir Sheikh, Aman Naim Tandel and Shaheen Farooqi Tanki — all young men in their twenties, with no known past involvement in radical Islamist politics.
Like Ejaz Majeed, parents of these three men have filed missing persons complaints with the Kalyan police which have been accessed by The Indian Express. Arif’s father has also handed over a copy of his son’s “farewell letter” to the police.
For weeks now, the media’s focus — and the government’s — has been on Indian workers trapped in Iraq and how to get some of them home. The story of the young Indians who have headed into the carnage though, has passed untold.
Fahad Sheikh, a student of engineering, is, like Arif Majeed, the son of another Kalyan-based doctor Maqbool Ahmad Sheikh. Aman Tandel was also an engineering student in Navi Mumbai and the son of Nayeem Ismail Sheikh who works with a private firm. Shaheen Tanki was working at a call centre.
Iraq’s intelligence services have told their Indian counterparts they believe these men had joined ISIS but have no word on where they might be.
Four other young Thane men living in the United Arab Emirates, sources told The Indian Express, are also suspected to have volunteered to fight with ISIS. Three of these men are believed to have returned to their homes, while a fourth is thought to have been killed in combat.
“I want to meet (External Affairs Minister) Sushma Swaraj or (Home Minister) Rajnath Singh”, Arif’s father Ejaz Majeed told The Indian Express, “and ask them to punish the people who seduced our children to participate in this madness. I want to continued…