Nearly a month after a Sharda University student from Kashmir was assaulted and five days after he went missing, an audio message has surfaced on social media in which the student purportedly says he has joined an Islamic State (IS)-inspired militant group in the Valley.
The six-minute audio appeared on the internet on Friday evening along with a picture of 19-year-old Ehtisham Bilal, in which he purportedly announces joining Islamic State Jammu and Kashmir (ISJK). He purportedly says he decided to join militants the day he was assaulted at the university, and pledges allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. The picture shows him with an IS flag.
J&K Additional Director General of Police (ADGP), Law and Order and Security, Munir Ahmad Khan told The Indian Express that they were verifying the authenticity of the picture. “A picture has gone viral. We are verifying,” he said. Another senior police officer said they were also verifying the authenticity of the audio.
Bilal, a resident of Srinagar’s Khanyar area and a first-year student pursuing Bachelors in Medical Imaging Technology (BMIT) at Noida’s Sharda University, was roughed up at the university allegedly by a group of students last month. He went missing on Sunday evening.
Bilal’s family members staged a protest in Srinagar on Thursday, requesting the administration to help trace him. His father, Bilal Ahmad Sofi, a businessman, earlier said they had no information about him. He said that Bilal last spoke to the family on Sunday, and told them he had gone to Delhi for sightseeing.
The family refused to comment on the picture and audio doing the rounds on social media.
Police sources in Srinagar said they had traced Bilal’s last location in Kashmir, indicating that he returned to the Valley after he went missing.
A Sharda University spokesperson said: “We had a convocation ceremony in our campus on October 28. His last visible activity within the campus was during that period. After that, he boarded a flight from Delhi airport to Srinagar. We sent our students and wardens along with the police to confirm the same from airport authorities.”
“We are providing all possible help to the family at this hour. His father told us that he transferred Rs 5,000 cash when Bilal asked for Rs 1,000. Shortly after, on October 26, he booked a ticket to his native city… and left accordingly two days later. No one knows what transpired after that,” he said.
Meanwhile, two lawyers in Jammu and Kashmir filed a petition with the National Human Rights Commission on Friday over Bilal’s disappearance, claiming he was being harassed.
With inputs from Amil Bhatnagar in New Delhi