Hushed murmurs, uncertainty, wait for ISIS-inspired terror suspect’s return home
Wednesday was a long day for the family of 23-year-old Rashid Zafar Raq, one of the five men who were arrested by the National Investigation Agency from Delhi’s Zafrabad on suspicion of having links with Harkat-ul-Harb-e-Islam, an alleged self-radicalised ISIS group.
The family members said they now fear that their wait to see Raq back will be a long one.
Around 5.30am on Wednesday, Raq’s family woke up to the sound of their doorbell. A man requested them to remove their car, parked on the busy main Jafrabad Road — which is mostly encroached by vendors and e-rickshaws.
Up early in the morning, it was Raq who answered the bell and met the visitor. “As soon as he unlatched the door, at least 10-12 men climbed up the narrow staircase that leads to the living room. Three men stood guard at the entrance and three went to the terrace. The remaining gathered in the living room and waited for the family members to be woken up,” said Mukeem Ahmad, Raq’s uncle.
The house, which is painted pink, has three shops on the ground floor, one of which is rented out to a mobile phone dealer. The two others are garment stores run by the family. The first floor has a long grilled balcony facing the main road that leads to the Seelampur and Jafrabad Metro stations on either side.
The two-storey building soon became the subject of gossip in the neighbourhood.
As locals gathered outside to get a peek in, the police teams fanned out to different rooms. The curtains on the windows were unfolded and the house remained under lockdown for the next 14 hours.
Family members said Raq, his mother, two elder brothers, their wives and four children were in the house at the time of the raid. Raq is the youngest among three brothers.
Raq’s sister-in-law Rehmat Riyaz said the policemen in the house searched everything in every corner — from water pipelines in the bathroom to the gas stoves in the kitchen, and from the mattresses in bedroom to the clothes in the wardrobe — for hours. “Two men kept oting things in their diaries, as others scanned through every inch of our rooms. Officers assured us that if they did not find anything objectionable, Raq would be set free. We believe them,” she said.
Raiyaz said after hours of search, the cops collected a few documents, Raq’s photos and mobile phones of all the family members. They gave us time to have lunch and also ate with us inside the house. “We offered them lunch, but they had their own arrangement. Around 4pm they bought snacks for their team. They offered tea and samosas to our children and asked us not to restrict ourselves from doing basic household works,” said Riyaz, a mother of two. Her husband runs the garment shops owned by family.
Raq’s eldest brother is a physiotherapist who owned a clinic in Meerut till a few months ago. He now offers the service online or on request. Raq studied till Class 12 and thereafter joined the family’s garment business. His father passed away four years ago.
Huma Ikhtiyar, Raq’s eldest brother’s wife, said that around 7.30pm the men finally left the house. “They promised us that if Raq is innocent, the court will release him. They told us not to talk much about the incident to the locals,” she said.
A day after Raq and four others were arrested from Jafrabad and Seelampur, along with five others from Uttar Pradesh’s Amroha, a Delhi court on Thursday allowed 12-day custodial interrogation of the accused by the NIA.
The NIA had initially rounded up 16 persons of the group ‘Harkat ul Harb e Islam’ — which translates to ‘War for the cause of Islam’. Ten arrested men include the alleged mastermind of the module, 29-year-old Mufti Mohammad Suhail, who lived a few lanes away from Raq’s house in Zafrabad, until recently. He was arrested from Amroha.
Suhail’s brother Imran said that no one from the family was indulged in anything illegal. “He used to go to a madarsa here and had also started giving home tuitions. He has no police cases against him. Police are trying to frame him,” said his brother.
Others arrested from Delhi were Anas Yunus, 24, a civil engineering student, from whose house NIA claimed to have recovered the rocket launcher, ammunitions and material used in making bombs. Yunus’s family refused to talk when HT tried to contact them.
Zaid Malik, 22, his brother Zubair Malik, 20, a student of BA final year of a Delhi University college, both residents of Jafrabad, and Mohammad Azam, 35, who runs a chemist shop in Chauhan Bangar, in the same neighbourhood were also arrested from their respective houses. Their family members could not be found at their home when HT visited their addresses.
Stone’s throw from police station
The Jafrabad home of Anas Yusuf, from where the National Investigation Agency (NIA) recovered arms and ammunition on?Wednesday, is barely 150 metres away from Jafrabad police station.
For every visitor who heads to Yunus’s house from the main Jafrabad road, the Delhi Police has put a board that reads - ‘aapasi rakhwali yojna’, ‘aap CCTV camera ki nazar mein hain’ (Neighbourhood watch scheme, you are under CCTV surveillance). The neighbourhood watch scheme is a Delhi police’s initiative of using local residents as their ears and eyes. A senior police officer said they assisted in the operation with 35-40 policemen. When asked why did the local police could not detect this, the officer said the suspects had no criminal background. “Locals had also never spotted any suspicious activities,” he said.
Enter your email to get our daily newsletter in your inbox
- This evening he is stationed beside a zebra crossing in Connaught Place, standing amid a continuous motion of shoppers going about in all directions.