As unconfirmed news of Saheem Tanki’s ‘death’ came through a newspaper report and phone calls from police investigators on Thursday, it was yet another day on which his elder brother to skip work and stay indoors at their Dudh Naka residence in Kalyan. Ever since Saheem — one of the four youths from the Mumbai suburb of Kalyan who left home to join the Islamic State (IS) — went missing in May last year, his brother’s main responsibility on days like this has been to answer calls from worried relatives and once again calm down his parents.
His own wedding is becoming a distant dream, say relatives, with families wary of letting their daughters marry into the Tanki household. And business has suffered tremendously in the past few months. The young man symbolises the life of all four families affected by the decision of the four boys to travel to Iraq and Syria.
“Their boy (Saheem) left getting influenced by the Internet, but in his act, he shattered the entire family,” Nasir Fangari, cousin brother of Saheem’s mother, said.
In the past eight months, since the four boys joined IS, his 27-year-old elder brother has had to remain available for questioning by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
“His business in perfume and ‘ittar’ has suffered. He has to leave all his work whenever NIA summons him, it’s all on a short notice,” a relative of Tanki said.
Another relative said, “His marriage is not getting fixed because of all this. Everyone understands that it is not the family’s fault but nobody wants to get involved in the investigation.”
On Thursday, reports of Saheem’s ‘death’ sparked panic in his neighbourhood. “We don’t know what to believe. We called the NIA and they did not confirm the news. Friends and relatives have been calling since morning and his parents are distraught,” said a neighbour, who is also a close relative of the Tanki family. By afternoon, a doctor had to be called to check on Saheem’s mother’s health.
According to a cousin brother of Saheem’s father, the parents of the two other boys, Fahad Shaikh and Amaan Tandel, who accompanied Saheem to Iraq, also called on Thursday.
“All the four families are finding it tough to cope,” Fangari, who lives in the lane next to the Tankis, told The Indian Express.
Dr Ejaz Majeed, father of Areeb Majeed who returned from Syria in December, shut his clinic in Kalyan weeks ago. “I met him recently and he looks frail. It is due to the tension,” Masood Peshimam, school teacher, said.
The families of the four boys have also limited their discussion about the boys and the ongoing investigations fearing it will get leaked, a neighbour of Amaan said. “We also avoid asking them too many questions,” a neighbour of Tanki said.
NIA questions friend of Tanki
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has questioned the friend of missing Kalyan youth Saheem Tanki, after Tanki’s family informed the agency earlier this week about the friend receiving news of his ‘death’ from an an unknown number in Iraq. Tanki, along with three friends, Areeb Majeed, Aman Tandel and Fahad Sheikh, all hailing from Dudhnaka-Govindwadi belt in Kalyan, went missing in May last year and were reported to have joined the Islamic State (IS). Areeb, who was earlier believed to be dead, was brought back to India two months ago and was arrested by the NIA.
Officials said after Tanki’s family approached them, the agency officials asked for the details of the friend who allegedly received the news of his death, and questioned him in connection with the matter.
“We have recorded a statement from him and are conducting further inquiries. At present, we cannot confirm if Tanki has indeed died,” said an NIA official.
When contacted, NIA Director General Sharad Kumar said, “Our agency has no idea about the death of the missing youth.”