Till a month ago, Mohammad Sirajuddin’s life was looking up. After a series of pregnancy-related complications, his wife Yasmeen had delivered a baby boy — the couple’s second child — in Bengaluru.
Then, on Thursday, Sirajuddin was arrested by the Rajasthan ATS on charges of “working for the Islamic State”, publicising its ideology online and via social media, and “instigating youth to join IS”. Arrested under provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act 1967, he was presented before the Chief Judicial Magistrate on Friday, and remanded in police custody till December 21.
The 30-year-old, posted as a marketing manager at Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) in Jaipur, reportedly broke down inside the courtroom and told the judge that he was waylaid and made a mistake. He reportedly urged the judge to show leniency since he had just become a father.
ATS sources alleged Sirajuddin had been propagating “IS ideology” via his Facebook page, which had about one lakh followers and was blocked following his arrest.
“He was in touch with some youths from Maharashtra and a girl from Hyderabad. We tracked him after we got information about suspicious activities on his computer’s IP address,” sources said.
The ATS is likely to jointly interrogate Sirajuddin along with officials of central agencies.
His colleagues at IOC remember him as a “quiet” man who kept to himself. “They (marketing department employees) report to Delhi and are mostly out in the field, so we don’t see them around much. Sirajuddin had a reserved nature,” said a colleague who did not wish to be named.
His neighbours at Jawahar Enclave apartment complex, where the IOC has flats for employees, said he was a “nice, young fellow”. “He didn’t really talk much but wasn’t suspicious in any way. He was very supportive of his wife, who had been going through a lot of pregnancy-related complications,” said one of his neighbours.
“She went home a few months ago and gave birth to a baby boy. We liked him because he stood by his wife through all the complications. Never imagined he would do something like this,” she said.
Sirajuddin had married Yasmeen, a computer application scientist from Bangalore, in April 2011.
After finishing his BE from Gulbarga, Karnataka, Sirajuddin left town to study further. He went on to get a Masters in Engineering degree in Advanced Manufacturing Technology from Coimbatore Institute of Technology.
“He was a loner in college. He kept to himself, so most of us don’t really know him,” said a former CIT batchmate.
“He was very studious. He already had work experience when he came to CIT. He came from Karnataka, so he could not speak Tamil and spoke only in Hindi and English to us. I have not been in touch with him for several years,” said another batchmate.
He worked with the IOC for three years in Bangalore before being transferred to Jaipur in June 2014.
Sirajuddin’s father, a retired agriculture department official, stays in Gulbarga with his mother and a younger brother, also an engineer. Sources in Gulbarga said Sirajuddin’s father and brother left for Jaipur Thursday. “He is from an educated, well-to-do family,” said an administrative official from Gulbarga.
“We have not received any information from anybody about the arrested person,” Gulbarga SP Amit Singh said.
His online records reveal that Sirajuddin had forwarded images of alleged atrocities on women in Palestine on a college forum in 2009 — long before the Islamic State gained prominence.
“Below is the most upsetting scene I have ever seen in my whole life. A Palestinian mother is dying in her child’s arms. Send it to as many people as you can. It would be your step against Israeli brutality,” said a post he forwarded to an online group of CIT batchmates.
While in college, he posted links to talks by Islamic preacher Dr Zakir Naik on the online forum for his CIT batchmates, most of whom were from other religions. On one occasion, he posted an argument comparing Islam and Hinduism and concluded that Hinduism is also monotheistic.
While Sirajuddin had been active on the CIT forum during college days, he had not posted anything new for over three years. Then, in April this year, he wrote: “Where are you all? As time elapsed memories faded…how true!”
“I still remember the last day of our college when my fellow mates became emotional to an extent tears rolled down and those promises to remain intouch lifelong… I was wondering as I knew these emotions are short lived and a day shall come when all will be like strangers (sic),” he said.