Earlier this year, 24-year-old computer technician Shoeb Khan applied for a passport. Being a quiet and unassuming youth – as described by his family – with no criminal record, Shoeb had no trouble getting his passport application approved by the Hingoli police.
But on October 22, Shoeb alias Pusad Shoeb alias Tariq bhai was arrested in Hyderabad along with his friend Mudassir while trying to procure a visa for Afghanistan, allegedly to undergo weapons training with global terror outfit al Qaeda.
According to sources involved in the investigation, Shoeb was drawn to the radical outfit in the small town of Pusad in Yavatmal district — about 80-km from his current home — where he completed his schooling and a course in information technology.
Two friends introduced him to a man named Arif. Police sources said Shoeb used to visit a mobile shop at Pusad, where he spent long hours talking to Arif, who subsequently introduced him to online jihadi chat rooms.
In Pusad, Shoeb also befriended Mudassir, who was already indoctrinated, said police sources. It was through this network that Shoeb allegedly came in contact with Mansoor Asghar Peerbhoy – the 37-year-old arrested media chief of the Indian Mujahideen. Police claim the duo became close friends over time.
But ask Shoeb’s father about this alleged relationship and he is clueless. “Who is Peerbhoy?” asks 50-year-old Rehman Khan, in the ‘Hyderabadi’ accent common in the region once a military base of the Nizam.
Shoeb Khan’s parents at their humble dwellings in Akhada Balapur in Hingoli.(Anshuman Poyrekar/HT photo)
Rehman has been a government servant since 1972, but is under suspension and is currently fighting a court case against a government department.
Seated in his humble home, Rehman appears to choke back tears as he describes Shoeb as a quiet boy who managed the e-contracts of a Hingoli-based public contractor.
“Shoeb earned about Rs 4,500 a month and never had any association with criminal elements. With him now behind bars, we are finding it difficult to make ends meet,” said Rehman. “All I can do is pray to Allah for justice and the safety of my boy.”
But contrary to this picture of innocence painted by his father, Shoeb’s character has been called into question in the past. He was asked to leave an English-medium school where he had been working as a computer technician for a year.
“He was arrogant and there were complaints from women staff. Even his work was not good as he was neither fluent in Marathi nor English and so we let him go,” said Mateen Kamle, the school principal.
Like his father, Shoeb’s elder brother Sohail, who runs a photocopying shop in the area, also vouches for his sibling’s innocence.
Sohail does, however, admit that his brother knew Mudassir and that the duo had met at the local railway station. But he also claims that Shoeb had gone to Hyderabad – a city he had visited on two previous occasions – on a shopping trip.
“He is a quiet boy who went to work in the morning and returned in the evening. He enjoyed playing cricket. He does not have any terror links,” said Sohail.