'The path you were planning to choose was wrong. The safest place in this world is India. Why do you want to waste your life?'
How the Mumbai Anti Terror Squad is trying to rehabilitate a young man who may have wanted to join ISIS.
Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com reports.
Wajid Shaikh is one of the four young men from the northwest Mumbai suburb of Malvani who was picked by the Maharashtra Anti Terrorist Squad on suspicion that he was on his way to join Islamic State/Da'esh.
Shaikh is currently being interrogated by the ATS on a daily basis -- he reaches the Charkop police station in northwest Mumbai at 9.30 am. The ATS drops him home by 10.30 pm; this has been his routine since he was arrested in Pune on December 22, 2015.
He may have presumably revealed how he and his friends Noor Mohammad and Mohsin Sayyed were planning to join Ayaz Sultan on their way to being recruited by Islamic State/Da'esh after being brainwashed through social media, videos and jihadi literature allegedly provided by Ayaz Sultan.
While newspaper reports based on the ATS's interrogation have revealed much about how the four friends were being beguiled online to join Da'esh, based on transcripts of Wajid Shaikh's video -- three of them seen twice by Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com and then transcribed -- Shaikh narrates what he told the ATS after his arrest on the evening of December 22 when he was returning from Chennai, via Bengaluru, to Pune.
This transcript provides details of how Shaikh and his friends left Malvani and traces their journey to Hospet to Hyderabad to Chennai to Bengaluru to Pune and then finally to Mumbai where they were detained by the ATS.
This transcript reveals, interestingly, how the ATS is helping Wajid Shaikh's rehabilitation, if one can call it that.
This report was transcribed after seeing three separate videos -- not done in the ATS' custody -- of 12.11 minutes, 1.25 minutes and 5.40 minutes duration in which Wajid Shaikh speaks about what happened.
On his interrogation by the ATS
The ATS asked who used to brainwash me (for jihad). They also asked me since when I start visiting this masjid.
Who told you about ISIS and jihad?
I told the ATS that we came to know about jihad from a WhatsApp group. Abdul Fahim, Viqar, Yusuf, Arshad and Moin (perhaps the names of young men from the mosque where Ayaz, Mohsin, Noor Mohammad and Wajid visited to offer prayers) too were part of this group and we used to meet during prayers and discuss these (jihad) things.
Apart from the WhatsApp group we would also listen to videos and lectures of jihadis and search YouTube for videos of Abu Bakr (the caliph of Da'esh) and other ISIS leaders.
When I joined the masjid as a new entrant we would offer prayers.
When we met Ayaz (Sultan, who has reportedly fled to Afghanistan from India and who has been missing from Malvani since October 30, 2015) he told us about ISIS and we decided kuch karna chahiye (we should do something).
Once when Ayaz fell ill we began to go to his house and then we all got very close. He used to show us videos (of ISIS, perhaps) and he asked us all that we should go out (of India for jihad) but I told him I don't have a passport.
Ayaz's mother thought something was fishy and asked him what was going on in his life.
Ayaz had taken Rs 2 lakh (Rs 200,000) from his mother to start a business. He was planning something, but his plan was cancelled.
He went to Kashmir and from there to Delhi and when he came back home he had spent half the amount.
Ayaz's father is a Pakistani. His mother suspected that Ayaz might go to Pakistan to meet his father.
Ayaz's passport was confiscated by the Indian Army in Kashmir. When he came back he convinced his sister that he would start afresh, who in turn convinced her mother to trust Ayaz and told her that he would mend his ways (the video doesn't describe when these incidents took place in Ayaz's life).
Ayaz and Moin would often fast (keep roza) on some days, offer prayers and then discuss (Islam) among ourselves. There was Moin, Tabish, Fahad and Moin's two nephews Afzal and Imran (during these meetings).
Then we would engage in a khutba (religious sermons), offer prayers, break our fasts by eating sheer kurma and go back to our homes.
When Ayaz first went to Delhi (or Kashmir?), his mother had come here asking about his whereabouts. Then when he went missing again (on October 30) his brother and sister too came to us asking about Ayaz's whereabouts.
I had sent him a message asking where he was and informing him that his family were worried about his well-being.
I also took Ayaz's brother to Mohsin (Sayyed, the third boy who fled Malvani on December 15 along with Noor Mohammad and Wajid Shaikh). Mohsin told Ayaz's brother that he had borrowed Rs 10,000 from him.
Later Ayaz had called Mohsin and promised to return his money to him. After Ayaz left he was in touch with Mohsin and informed him that he was in Afghanistan.
I also spoke to him (Ayaz), did salaam-dua (greeted each other) and told him I was also in the process of getting a passport.
I told one of the chaps at the mosque about this. He mentioned this to the trustee of the mosque, who in turn decided that the names of eight boys should be given to the CBI (perhaps, Wajid means the local police or the ATS here).
Once Mohsin also told us that one auto driver, who was his friend, told him that four people in his (Mohsin's friend's) auto, along with four people on two motorcycles were following the auto that was ferrying Mohsin.
Mohsin would often speak with some people on the phone and was planning to leave (India). We also wanted to go, but we did not have passports.
Then Mohsin, who was afraid that the CBI (the local police or the ATS) was on his trail, suggested that this group leave without their passports because he feared the CBI (the local police or the ATS) would arrest him soon.
Mohsin said he would tell them soon when and where to go after leaving Malvani. Mohsin said, 'ab yahan rukna theek nahi (it will not be prudent to continue staying in Malvani anymore).'
Before leaving Malvani, I purchased two SIM cards on a fake identity. I gave those SIM cards to Mohsin. Then we sold our old mobiles and bought new ones, recharged them online by making fake identities.
But when Mohsin sent a message from the new phone to his contact (this contact could perhaps be Ayaz Sultan, but the video doesn't name Ayaz specifically as Mohsin's contact), he didn't reply.
From Malvani to Hospet to Hyderabad to Chennai to Mumbai
Mohsin said it was getting riskier to stay back and told us his plan was to take us to Harihar in South India where he knew some people.
When we went to Harihar, he introduced us (Noor and I) as recent converts to Islam to a person there named Nazir. About me, he said my Hindu name was Amit and after converting to Islam my name was Abdul Wajid. We spoke with Nazir and decided that we would spend that night at a hotel. Nazir insisted we stay at his place as it was just a matter of spending one night.
Next morning we left for Hospet, but instead of going there we went to Devanagari (this could perhaps be Davangere and not Devanagari, which is closer to Bengaluru, but Wajid calls it Devanagari) and from there to Hubli since he (Mohsin's contact, perhaps Ayaz) had not yet contacted (Mohsin). So, we decided to go to Hyderabad by train.
We reached Hyderabad on Friday morning (December 18; these three had left home on December 15 and a missing person's complaint had been lodged at the Malvani police station on the intervening night of December 15 and 16) and (Mohsin) asked for further instructions (from his contact). But he (the contact) said he will let him know later.
We stayed at a lodge in Hyderabad, visited Charminar, offered namaaz at the Mecca Masjid and in the evening we decided to change our lodge.
The lodge we went to did not have clean toilets, so we went to another hotel (in Hyderabad).
Next evening (December 19) we bought train tickets for Chennai and boarded the train at 8.30 pm. We reached Chennai at around 1-1.30 pm (on December 20).
After roaming around Chennai Central for some time we booked ourselves in a hotel named Khaja and stayed at the same lodge.
Next day (December 21), early morning on Monday I saw my photo, Ayaz's and Mohsin's photos being flashed on TV, but they made no mention of Noor Mohammad.
'Why should my name flash on TV? What wrong have I done?' Noor asked us.
I told them let's go home, but Mohsin objected saying they will arrest us if we went back to Malvani. I told Mohsin that they will arrest us even if we stay away from home now that our names and photographs were on TV.
Then Mohsin told me that he would come back in some time and took his mobile with him. When he came back after 10 minutes he said he will pack his bags and leave for the station (Chennai Central). He asked us to meet him there after checking out from the hotel. The person at the lodge went upstairs to check our room and when he came back after some time we signed and checked out.
When we reached Chennai Central, Mohsin was not there. Noor went to look out for him and came back after 10 minutes without Mohsin. After Noor came, both of us went to look out for Mohsin inside the station, but we didn't see him anywhere.
Noor then asked me for some money. I gave him Rs 5,000. He said he will come back in some time. He left at around 11.15 (am, on the same day). I waited for him till 1 pm and when Noor did not come back I decided to leave taking his bag (belongings) with me.
I boarded bus number 15 and roamed around for a while. I was hungry so I ate something and drank Maaza and then booked one ticket for Mumbai from a travel agency. He said the bus was ready to leave. I paid him Rs 2,200 for the ticket and boarded the bus at 2.45 pm.
Soon, I slept and when I woke up the bus had stopped at Bengaluru. The bus boy told me that the bus would not go to Mumbai and he said he will arrange another bus for me.
I waited for an hour. At 10.30 am (December 22) the bus came and I left for Mumbai.
When the bus reached Pune, the ATS caught me from inside the bus (on Tuesday evening, December 22).
The ATS interrogation and how they are dealing with Wajid
A good-looking, tall, fair ATS man from Pune interrogated me about when I had begun from home, who was with me and the places we had travelled after leaving home on December 15. I told him the entire story narrated above.
I still had Rs 10,125 left with me (newspapers have reported that Wajid had sold his wife's jewellery worth Rs 18,000 while leaving Malvani).
The (Pune) ATS gave me chicken burger to eat and water and tea to drink and then brought me to Kalachowki (central Mumbai).
There the ATS interrogated me, asked me the same questions the Pune ATS had asked. They took my fingerprints and photographs and then took me to the Malvani police station and closed the 'missing person' complaint filed by my wife and parents.
On Wednesday (December 23) I gave them all the details about our journey from Malvani to Pune. The very next day the ATS interrogated Moin, Tabish, Salim (Wajid keeps changing these names in this recorded video) and when I went to () Nagpada the next day Afzal and Imran were being interrogated there.
Ayaz's maternal uncle was present there. He had fractured his leg. The police there told me not to speak at all with the media.
The soft side of the ATS
The ATS made me see reason and advised me to walk on the righteous path.
'Bole hamare saath cooperate karo (the ATS asked me to cooperate with them).'
They said, 'tereko chance mila hai tere ma-baap ki dua se jo tujhe kheench ke lekar aayi hai galat raste se (you escaped from misfortune because of the blessings and prayers of your parents).'
'You understand that you have got another chance. You cooperate with us and your life will be reformed.'
'You can stay with your parents and wife. Ask your wife for forgiveness for she has suffered a lot because of you. You abandoned her and fled home."
'Does Islam teach you to hurt your parents and wife?' the ATS asked me.
'No,' I said.
'When you fled home your mother and father were very hurt and sad. Your family was so hurt. You should not abandon your parents. Both your father and mother are old now and don't keep well. The path you were planning to choose was wrong. The safest place in this world is India. Why do you want to waste your life? Tereko kisi kafir ne personally torture kiya hai kya (has any kafir tortured you personally?)?'
'No,' I said.
The ATS was very nice to me when they interrogated me.
IMAGE: ISIS terrorists in Syria. Photograph published for representational purposes only.