Ejaz Majeed struggles to hold back tears as he talks about his twenty-year old son Arif.
“He left home on the 24 May saying that he was going to a friend’s home to study, when he didn’t come back we went to the police but the next day rang up saying that he has reached Baghdad.”
Travel Agent Saad Khan says Arif and three other local boys went on a seven-day tour of religious sites in Iraq…..and then disappeared on the last day.
“The other members of the group say they were with them for six days and behaved quite normally but on the last day, they said they were going shopping and never came back. The only thing they took with them was their passports.”
Police say they are looking into whether the four jointly went to Iraq to join Sunni Militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or the ISIS
The ISIS has been calling on Muslims to travel to Iraq and Syria to help build an Islamic state.
But Majeed believes his son might be looking for work.
“He has a diploma in engineering and was pursuing a degree course, he was fully focused on his studies and attended college regularly, he is an innocent child and is being unnecessarily linked to all this.”
Hilal Ahmad is a professor at New Delhi –based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.
He says it’s too early to draw any conclusions about the boys’ intentions.
“Do we have any solid proof that the boys are really working for the ISIS, we have as many evidences to suggest that they are innocent and might just be stranded in Iraq like the nurses were, as we have to suggest otherwise, It is highly improper to speculate in a matter like this.
Despite the uncertainty ….for days, Indian newspapers have been running stories about the boys.
The articles quote unnamed law-enforcement and intelligence sources say the boys have joined up with militants in Iraq and Syria.
Praveen Swami is the Editor of the Hindu newspaper.
“Iraq has become something of a Jihadi cool cause or Jihadi Chic cause it has drawn recruits from across the world, you have more than 600 young Australians, hundreds of Europeans, Britons and Americans heading to that region, these young people are easy to exploit , they are drawn to online propaganda.”
Majority Hindu India has a complex relationship with its Muslim minority.
And Praveen Swami says he is concerned about militant groups carrying out attacks in India.
“There are many parts of the world that are now lapsing into anarchy, run for all practical purposes by Jihadi groups and you have some numbers of young people going there for training, is very worrying because these kids will one day return.”
In a sign of the national interest in the case, India's home minister met with relatives of the four friends.
Nalin Kohli is spokesperson for the Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP.
“Anything that can threaten India’s security, issues related to sovereignty or even its strategic interests has to be taken seriously. We also need to know whether the existing banned groups in India are getting involved in these kind of activities or are linking up with this ISIS problem."
The government has already block access to ISIS videos on the web.
But that has done little to stop Indians from getting involved in the conflict.
Here , in New Delhi, thousands of Shia Muslims are signing themselves up to travel Iraq and fight against the ISIS.
The Shia organisation Anjuman-e-Haideri is spearheading the movement.
The group has is also thinking about inviting India's aviation industry to carry the thousands of volunteers to Baghdad starting from August.
35-year old teacher Irfan Haider is among the men signing up.
“They have been killing our leaders and destroying our holy shrines. Our struggle is against the terrorists and we are sure our government will support us and let us go.”
But many Shia and Sunni clerics are worried that the conflict could trigger sectarian tensions among the community in India.
Shia leader Mohsin Taqvi is urging the government not to issue travel visa to Iraq.
“The situation is Iraq has been given a sectarian colour by the Western media, the Indian media has also picked up story and spread panic here but the reality is it’s not a sectarian issue. It’s a bunch of people trying to impose their will. They are not sparing anyone; they are killing both Shias and Sunnis, we should not let misunderstanding and propaganda harms our communal harmony here.”
How the government plans to deal with the problem is not yet clear.
At the moment, the Ministry of External Affairs has reiterated its travel advisory telling Indians to avoid travelling to Iraq.
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