It is close to 1 pm, and calls for prayer reverberate through these narrow streets in western Kalyan, where addresses are usually described by the location of mosques that loom over every chawl.
The road to Govind Wadi and onwards to Doodh Naka is marked by Memon Masjid, with posters in Urdu slapped haphazardly against the walls. It’s also here that the journey begins into the lives of four friends — a graduate, a student and a diploma holder, all of engineering, and an aspiring businessman — who are now known as the boys from Thane who went to Iraq in May and joined the Islamic State.
It’s a difficult path: the families are devastated, neighbours and friends are wary, and the clinic of Ejaz Badruddin Majeed, a well-known doctor in the area, is shut ever since his son Areeb Majeed, one of those four, returned home via Turkey on November 28.
The 22-year-old civil engineering student is now being held by security officials at a secret location while there’s no news of the other three — Amaan Nayeem Tandel, an electrical engineering diploma holder; Fahad Tanvir Shaikh, a mechanical engineering graduate; and Saheem Tanki, who wanted to run a milk business of his own.
In these parts, everyone remembers that the four, all in their early 20s, were just like any other bunch of boys their age: Areeb, the reserved; Fahad, the sportsman; Saheem, the extrovert, quite popular with the girls; and Amaan, the studious. And local residents still wonder how the four got “radicalised”.
However, a close friend of Amaan and Fahad revealed they had another thing in common — a shared angst about “Muslim issues”.
“They used to speak about the Gujarat riots, and about what Bashar Assad was doing in Syria… But We did not spot anything out of the ordinary,” he said.
Another common friend recalled telling Amaan once that he wanted to volunteer for a political party. “Amaan objected, saying he thought Muslims should not enter politics,” he said.
Money, most agreed, would not have been a factor behind the four joining the Islamic State. “These clusters are inhabited by the Konkani community, living here since decades, and considered to have their own businesses and properties,” said a resident.
According to a resident, “Their interaction usually happened when they met for prayers at Masjid-e-Ahle Hadees. That is considered a place where more conservative people visit.”
Of the four, transformation of Saheem Tanki was probably the most visible. “He wanted to start a milk business just like his father. Studies never attracted him; in fact, he cleared his Class XII in the second attempt,” said a relative. Unlike the other three, Saheem did not want to continue his studies .
After his elder brothers joined private firms in Mumbai and his sister got married, Saheem got a job at Spanco, a Vashi-based BPO, about four years ago. But he soon realised that he could not adjust to the “job culture”, and quit.
He later took to reading online accounts of “the condition of Muslims” across the globe, said a friend. Most of his time was taken up by prayers, Internet, movies — and gully cricket, which his family claimed was his passion. His friends, meanwhile, described him as an extrovert who was able to “easily make friends with girls.”
Another friend recalled this ominous snippet. “He used to joke, ‘Mein ek din chala jaoonga, haan, mein jaoonga’ (I will go away one day, yes, I’ll go), but we never thought he’ll actually go,” he said.
Down the lane from Saheem’s house is the home of Areeb Majeed, the “boy who returned”. He was reserved and serious, and many in the locality did not even know about him until they heard that he was among the four that joined the IS. His elder sister is married and is a doctor, like his father.
In nearby Govind Wadi, the home of Fahad Tanvir Shaikh is in a three-storey building close to Bismillah Hotel. Inside his flat, a wooden cabinet — showcased several trophies won by his elder sister. Fahad’s family migrated from Azamgarh in UP to Mumbai. He completed his diploma from the engineering college in Panvel where Areeb and Amaan studied, before going on to graduate in mechanical engineering from another college. His relatives added that Fahad had got a job offer just two days before he left for the “pilgrimage” to Iraq on May 23.
While his mother wept, his younger brother said, “He played volleyball a lot.” A friend said: “He also played cricket and football, he loved it.” Another described him in three adjectives: “Energetic, humble, down-to-earth.”
Across the road from Fahad’s flat are two tall buildings, one of which houses the flat of Amaan Nayeem Tandel. Block II has a lift, and the nameplate on the ground floor shows Aman as the owner of the flat on the third floor.
Of the four, Amaan was believed to have been the most intelligent. “He always wanted to be an engineer and focused on his studies,” a friend said. Another remembered Amaan, the only son of a railway employee, as being naughty but particular about his prayers. “He always used to smile and wish me,” said a neighbour, “But I have never seen him play with the other boys in the building.”
Areeb’s NIA custody extended till Dec 22
MUMBAI: Arrested IS “recruit” Areeb Majeed’s NIA custody was extended till December 22.He was sent to the probe agency’s custody till Monday by a special NIA court here a day after he was arrested on November 28. Majeed’s lawyer told a special court that he should be seen as a victim and not an accused. Majeed was arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) on charges of conspiring to commit an act of terror. (ENS)