Areeb was booked and arrested in the wee hours of Saturday under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) on charges of conspiring to commit a terrorist act and being a member of a banned foreign terror outfit, and under the stringent Section 125 of the IPC for “waging war against the nation”.
With an FIR lodged against Areeb as well as the three others from Kalyan who are believed to have joined ISIS along with him — naming them “wanted accused” — they would also face arrest if they return.
Despair again descended on Govindwadi-Dudh Naka belt in Kalyan on Saturday as news of Areeb’s arrest spread. His successful return from Turkey on Friday morning, following a covert operation by the government, had raised hopes of the other families that their own sons would come back.
Citing among other things the bullet injuries on Areeb’s right shoulder, the NIA on Saturday sought his custody for 14 days. Areeb was reportedly shot in August, three months after going missing.
Dressed in a kurta and pyjama, Areeb was brought to court with his face covered. As soon as the veil on his face was removed inside the courtroom, the 24-year-old covered his head with a black skull cap. Compared to his photos on social media sites, he looked thinner and had no beard.
Areeb has reportedly told investigators that after basic combat training in Iraq, he and his friends were separated by the ISIS based on their educational qualifications. “Areeb, due to his qualifications as a civil engineering student, was made part of the section in charge of building and construction,” said a source.
No one from the family appeared to have been present for the court hearing Saturday. Areeb looked straight at the judge and not once glanced at the packed courtroom. At times he appeared to be praying, his head bowed low.
When Judge P R Deshmukh asked him if he had secured a lawyer, Areeb said, “Koi mila hi nahi kal se (I haven’t found anyone since yesterday).” However when asked if he had any problems, he replied in the negative.
Prosecutor Geeta Godambe said the four youths, including Areeb, Saheem Tanki, Fahad Sheikh and Aman Tandel, had “undergone basic training with weapons, firearms and AK-47 rifles” with ISIS.
She said the NIA hoped to “unearth the entire conspiracy” and retrieve information on the weapons used by them, their training methods and the role played by Areeb and his accomplices, with his interrogation. “We asked Areeb about his indoctrination and his journey to Iraq, and he maintains that he did it all by himself, without any help or influence from anyone. He says he viewed radical material online and then, along with friends, went to Iraq as part of a tour, after which they joined the ISIS,” a source said.
Areeb was arrested from his home early Saturday even as the families of the other missing Kalyan youths hoped to meet him to find out about their sons.
On Saturday, the Sarvodaya Society where his family lives on the second floor wore a sombre look, with hardly anyone around. “I was hoping to meet Dr Majeed (Majeed’s father) so I could ask him if Areeb had said anything about Saheem. We are back to wondering what condition our boy is in,” said Saheem’s uncle Kashif Tanki.
Fahad’s mother Zohra added, “We can only pray that our children come back by some miracle, the way Areeb did.”
The families of all the three, Saheem, Fahad and Aman, said they had had no contact with them since August. The last contact was when Saheem had called his family to tell them about Areeb’s supposed death.
“Right now, we have no idea what to expect and what to believe. We can only wait, watch and pray,” said Aman’s father Naim Tandel.