“Not his voice on social media audio message,” Ehtisham Bilal’s father Bilal Ahmad Sofi told The Quint on 4 November, days after news of his son joining militant outfit Islamic State Jammu & Kashmir (ISJK) floated on social media.
Ehtisham went missing on Sunday, 28 October from Sharda University where he was pursuing his Bachelors in Medical Imaging Technology (BIMT).
On 4 October, a video of a group of students assaulting Ehtisham went viral. He was mistaken for a Afghan student and was caught up in a clash between Indian and Afghan students on campus.
‘Not His Voice in Audio Message’
Ehtisham’s father Bilal claimed that his son’s Urdu is not as strong and fluent as can be heard in the social media audio message. It is not his accent either, Bilal said.
Highlighting the fake news issue prevalent on social media nowadays, Bilal and his wife Irfana Begum believe that his picture has been edited and posted online.
"“We are his parents and no one knows his voice better than us. This is not how Ehtisham spoke, his Urdu is weak. It is definitely doctored.”" - Bilal Ahmad Sofi
His aunt Shabnam Farooq, who met him last in September before he left for Sharda University, said the same thing – claiming that the accent in the message is not similar to Ehtisham’s. She also denied any similarity between his face, structure and body and the alleged photo of his doing rounds on social media.
According to Ehtisham’s father, they last spoke around 4:30 pm on 28 October and when he called later in the evening around 6:30 pm, his phone was switched off and he has been missing since.
Earlier, Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police Dilbagh Singh had told The Quint that they believe that Ehtisham had arrived in Srinagar the same day he went missing.
‘No Militancy Inclination, Wanted to Study Outside’
According to Bilal, Ehtisham never had any inclination towards militancy and he himself had asked to study outside the Valley.
"“He even used to ask me and his mother to shift with him to Greater Noida. He used to say it’s so good there, markets stay open till late.”" - Bilal Ahmad Sofi
‘Why is the University Quiet Now?’
Calling out Sharda University, Ehtisham’s father questioned its stand on the entire issue.
Bilal confirmed that he was called by the university on 4 October after the clash where Ehtisham was assaulted by a group of students. He returned to Kashmir on 10 October after talking to the authorities of the university.
"“When these universities take huge amounts of fee, why are they quiet now? They later said there had been no fight on their campus, then why was I called to the university after the incident and the video? [...] There is no doubt that our son was assaulted. There are video clips all over social media. Police officials have no reason to deny the attack on my son.”" - Bilal Ahmad Sofi
According to him, both Ehtisham and he decided to not file a formal complaint with police over the assault hoping it would be solved on personal level. The group of students who had assaulted Ehtisham even apologised to his father and him later; but two guys named Vicky and Sanskar were missing from the group and did not apologise.
‘Family’s Only Support’
Bilal appealed to the governor and the DGP to help trace his son. He also said Ehtisham is their family’s only support and that if he is in any militant outfit, he requests his return.
"“His sisters have not stopped crying, they say they don’t feel safe at home anymore. His mother and I have been hospitalised. I request you guys to help us trace him.”" - Bilal Ahmad Sofi
According to the family, Ehtisham had gone for an outing on 28 October and said he would be sending pictures after coming back to campus. They were unable to contact him after that.
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