The Srinagar District Police has started scanning CCTV footage of the airport to see if the missing Kashmiri student had arrived in the Valley on 28 October or not.
The parents of the Sharda University student have repeatedly said that the photographs and an audio clip, purportedly released by the extremist group Islamic State of Jammu and Kashmir (ISIJ), were not of their son Ehtisham Bilal (20).
Well-placed sources revealed to The Quint that following permission from the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), director airport (Srinagar) of Airport Authority of India (AAI) has provided CCTV footage for investigation to the Khanyar Police Station in Srinagar. According to sources, it is being thoroughly scanned to check if Ehtisham had arrived in Srinagar on 28 October, the day he was reported missing.
Director Airport (Srinagar) Akash Deep Mathur did not respond to phone calls. After several attempts, someone describing himself as Mathur’s subordinate maintained that director airport was on leave at his home in connection with Diwali. “He will be back by 12 o’clock tomorrow (Friday, 9 November). Thereafter, you can speak to him,” said the official from Mathur’s cellphone.
CCTV Footage Provided to Srinagar Police
Senior Superintendent of Police, Anti-Hijacking, at Srinagar Airport, Tahir Saleem said that a few days back, his office had received the copy of a communication from Station House Officer (SHO) of Police Station Khanyar (Srinagar).
He said that the letter, addressed to director airport, called for the CCTV footage of 28 October to ascertain whether or not Ehtisham had arrived in Srinagar.
"“I have been informed that director airport, under rules, forwarded the police requisition to the BCAS. Following the permission, director airport has obtained the CCTV footage and sent it to Srinagar District Police. But he alone can tell you about it all.”" - Tahir Saleem, SSP Airport to The Quint
He said he had neither the mandate nor the means to find if Ehtisham had reached Srinagar by a flight. “This is something precisely between Director Airport and Srinagar Police,” Saleem said.
The SSP Airport said that there was documentary evidence, like ticket and boarding pass, to establish that Ehtisham had arrived in Srinagar.
However, he said the CCTV footage could be scientific proof of his arrival. Asked if someone else could have booked a ticket and travelled in Ehtisham’s name, SSP Airport said it was “impossible.”
“There’s no question of such impersonation these days. Just a few days back, I travelled from Punjab to Srinagar along with my family and an 18-month-old kid. My identity, and that of my family, was thoroughly checked. Even a senior police officer cannot get a boarding pass without proper checking of his identity,” Saleem said.
‘Arrived in Srinagar by Go Air Flight’
Airlines staff at the Srinagar Airport said, on condition of anonymity, that a passenger with the name of Ehtisham Bilal had boarded Go Air flight G8-223 around 1:30 pm on 28 October at Terminal-2 of the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi.
The flight, without any stopover, landed at the Srinagar Airport at 3:20 pm. “He had reported at the arrival here and went out with all other passengers. We have no means or mandate to know about his destination in Kashmir,” said an official.
SSP Srinagar, Imtiaz Ismail Parray, said that a team from Greater Noida Police visited Srinagar a few days back.
“They checked the records with the two airports in New Delhi and Srinagar and found that Ehtisham had travelled from New Delhi to Srinagar on 28 October. They are now in the process of closing the missing report (at the Knowledge Park Police Station, Noida). Thereafter, we will formally take up our investigation into the FIR that was originally a missing report filed with the Khanyar Police Station late on 28 October,” Parray said.
Additional Director General of Police, Law & Order and Security, Munir Ahmad Khan, said that, as of now, nobody in the J&K Police was in a position to comment on “veracity or editing or photo-shopping” of Ehtisham’s photographs or an audio clip purportedly released by ISJK.
“We have reasons to believe that he arrived in Srinagar, spoke on the phone with his father and his last known location was somewhere in Sopore. As of now, we don’t have any conclusive proof of his joining any militant outfit. As of now, he is not booked in any criminal or terrorist act. We are still hopeful of his return to his family”, ADG Khan told The Quint.
On 4 October, Ehrtisham — a student of Bachelors in Medical Imaging Technology (BMIT) — had been reportedly mistaken as an Afghan and roughed up during a clash between Indian and Afghan students at the Sharda University campus in Greater Noida. After the incident, his father Bilal Ahmad Sofi visited the university and stayed with Ehtisham for five days.
On 28 October, Ehtisham, who hails from Khanyar in Srinagar, had reportedly told his roommate and cousin that he was going to meet a friend in Delhi, and would be back by the evening.
According to his father, Ehtisham had spoken to him at 10:30 am and later again at 4:30 pm, telling him that he was about to board a Noida-bound metro.
Ehtisham neither reached his hostel in Greater Noida nor his home in Srinagar by late night. The 20-year-old was untraceable and his mobile phone was switched off. A little before midnight, Khanyar Police Station filed a missing report on his father’s request.
On Friday, 2 November, an audio clip purportedly with Ehtisham’s photograph appeared on militant portals, claiming that the missing student had joined ISJK. The online posts purportedly said he had sworn his allegiance to Islamic State supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and pledged to spill the “blood of non-believers” from Delhi to Kerala to help set up the Islamic caliphate in Kashmir.
The disputed photograph that has ISIS banners in the background, and a 6-minute audio clip appeared on social media minutes after Director General of Police, Dilbag Singh, told The Quint that Ehtisham was believed to have arrived in Srinagar and had joined the Hizbul Mujahideen.
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