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HomeNewsIITian: How a bright lad's path spun towards a dark 'terror' alley

IITian: How a bright lad’s path spun towards a dark ‘terror’ alley

NEW DELHI: Tauseef Ali

Farooqui

was a promising cricketer. Known for his left-arm spin in the neigbourhood and the cricket academy, the lad even aspired to play for India one day. He distinguished himself academically too – it took him just a single attempt to crack the IIT entrance exams after passing out from Sanskriti School in Chanakyapuri. He enrolled as a student of biotechnology at IIT Guwahati.
In his final year at IIT, the 22-year-old has been arrested by

Assam Police

under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for openly expressing his goal of joining terror outfit IS on emails and a LinkedIn post.

What explains this promising life gone awry? The distressed family, which lives in the affluent section of southeast Delhi’s Zakir Nagar, puts it down to his deteriorating

mental health

. The first signs were noticed during the Covid period when Farooqui began isolating himself, they say.
Wrong turn: Nothing in IIT student‘s childhood to indicate a radical shift

Assam Police said that in an “open letter” on LinkedIn, Farooqui had “disassociated” himself from the “

Indian-construct

(sic) that includes the so-called Indian Constitution, its institutions and so on”. He is said to have declared his intention to go to the Islamic State-Khorasan province to pledge his allegiance to the IS leadership.
Farooqui’s family, originally from Bihar, moved to Delhi almost two decades ago. The family, comprising Farooqui, his parents, an elder brother and a younger sister, is educated and professionally well established.

There was nothing in his childhood that indicated this radical shift in the youth’s later life. By all accounts, Farooqui had a normal childhood. Neighbours at Zakir Nagar remember him as a “dutiful and simple child”. His sister, two years younger than him, claimed that growing up, he was almost indifferent about religion. “He used to love his sleep so much that at times he would rather miss namaz than wake up. His only obsession was to top the class and score the highest marks,” said the sister.
Farooqui’s school declined to comment on his time at the institution.
The distressed family points to Farooqui’s deteriorating mental health, the signs of which they first noticed during the Covid period. The youngster had suddenly begun isolating himself. When the mother and the other two siblings moved to their maternal aunt’s home in south Delhi during the lockdown, Farooqui stayed back. “He spent his time locked in a room studying. Since students had to study online because of the school closure, we didn’t question Tauseef much about it,” said his aunt, still dazed by the revelation of her nephew’s social media posts.
The family members also remember the odd behaviour of Farooqui at the time. He stopped listening to music, for one, and tried several times, failing each time, to go off social media. Despite his earlier disinterest in religion, the youth also puzzled his kin by saying that watching television was haram.
With UAPA being invoked against Farooqui, the family is concerned about his future. They say his institution should have intervened to help a student facing mental health issues. His elder brother, who too studies at an IIT, said, “We were told that he was not socialising with anyone in his institution. IIT claims to have the best teachers and student counsellors and so should have come to his aid and prevented him from doing what he did.”
“We are only worried at the cusp of our careers that we don’t get targeted for Tauseef’s actions. However, till now police have been very helpful and we hope to get him back,” the brother added.
Farooqui’s family is a regular household living in a fairly affluent colony. At the small boutique run by the mother in the locality, Farooqui’s sister recalled her brother’s past. “It was our mother who mostly raised us. While all three of us were good in studies, Tauseef always scored the best marks.” Farooqui was a science stream student at the upscale Sanskriti School in Chanakyapuri before deciding he wanted to take up engineering. The sister said, “People take a gap year and go to Kota and other education hubs to prepare for the IIT-JEE. But Tauseef did not need any of that. His preparation for the entrance exams was self-study and yet in his very first attempt, he was able to get into IIT Guwahati.”