The arrest of 22-year-old Mehraj on charges of alleged terror links has come as a shocker for his friends who claim he was an active student with dreams for a bright career.
Son of a small farmer, Mehraj was kind of a role model in his locality of Landhora, a Muslim-dominated area with less literacy rate.
In 2014 when Mehraj got admission to Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery at Rishikul Ayurvedic College in Haridwar, it was nothing less than a celebrity status that he achieved.
“He was very active in the college and in social networking sites. In his batch, only 13 of the total 60 students took the first-year exam due to short attendance, and he was the one protesting against the college decision,” said one of his friends wishing not to be named. He also said Mehraj stayed alone for some time.
A shocked principal of his college refused to comment on the issue. “I am not in position to comment. I have not received any information from the police and we are looking in the matter. We have taken no action against the student (Mehraj) so far,” said AN Pandey, principal, Rishikul Ayurvedic College.
Sources said all the four arrested students are from lower-middle class background but despite odds, their parents provided them good education.
Another accused Akhlaq-ur-Rahman, was a student of Polytechnic College in Roorkee. His father runs a small shop in Mangalore area. Like Meraj, Akhlaq was also a role model among locals, particularly youth, in his area. The other two were students too.
Religious leaders from the community said youngsters must be alerted about the dangers of radicalisation at the earliest.
“Organisations like Islamic State, which are luring youngsters, should be condemned as they are anti-Islam. Moreover, there is a need to alert youth in Haridwar area about such organisations which are anti-national,” said Maulvi Arif, a cleric from Haridwar.