An obscure bylane of Aiyapanagar in Jalahalli is suddenly under the spotlight. It is the place where Mehdi Masroor Biswas, handler of pro-Islamic State Twitter account @ShamiWitness lived. On Saturday, the lane was chock-a-block with curious onlookers and mediapersons.
A majority had no idea what was happening. Residents locked themselves inside their homes and refused to divulge any information about their neighbour, who has lived in one of the apartments since April 2013. The complex is home to several students and software professionals from outside Karnataka.
After much persuasion, one of the residents, who lives on the second floor (where Mehdi lived), said that police in plainclothes knocked on their doors late on Friday night and asked if they could identify a man in a photograph. “We told the police we had no information and asked them to access the CCTV footage. The police claimed that they were trying to track a missing complaint. The owner of the apartment also came in the morning and warned us not to go out,” he said. “More than two dozen people came to the apartment but there was no noise.”
He said that most were in “shock and disbelief” that their neighbour was the person they had been reading about in the media. Another resident on the same floor said that the door of Mehdi’s house was locked most of the time. A person who had interacted with him said he was “well-mannered,” gave rent on time and caused no trouble to anybody.
“He used to live in a single room [A-29], located on the terrace and later moved into a one-bedroom house [A 14] when his parents came to live with him for some time. They returned to Kolkata recently,” said H.S. Hariprasad, son of the owner of Block A of the apartment complex. He had initially told them that he was a student and later that he had found a job. “We had not collected any documents, as he showed his PAN card while signing the agreement,” he said. A waiter in the restaurant adjoining his house said that Mehdi was a “quiet” man who was always on his mobile phone and carried a laptop bag. “He has come to our restaurant and eaten a couple of times. He would always order naan and Chinese gravy,” the waiter said.