Family members have been running from pillar to post in an effort to convince the authorities that Ahmad Murtaza Abbasi, 29 suffers from severe mental disorders. That the deeply troubled young man should be in hospital and not in jail.

They carry files of medical reports and counselling by psychiatrists as proof of Murtaza’s disturbed state of mind but no one seems to have time to ask the doctors who have been treating Murtaza and his hallucinations for a while.

Early this month IIT graduate Murtaza had attacked security guards at the Gorakhnath temple with a sickle in the eastern Uttar Pradesh town of Gorakhpur. The two guards were hurt in the shuffle but Murtaza was soon overpowered.

In a video the accused is spotted chasing security workers with a sickle. Murtaza was immediately detained. The police have called the incident an act of terror and a special team along with the Anti-Terrorism Squad continues to investigate the matter.

Speaking to The Citizen Dr Khalid Abbasi, an uncle of the accused said that his nephew has a history of schizophrenia and has been on medication for several years. The doctor showed medical bills and reports of doctors who have been treating Murtaza Abbasi since 2018.

For the same reason the chemical engineer was never able to enjoy a stable career despite having graduated from an IIT. His marriage too did not last long as he has always had trouble telling the difference between real and unreal experience.

Murtaza is incapable of thinking logically, and his emotional responses to others are not typical. Socially too Murtaza’s behaviour is often odd and he is prone to living in a world we cannot see.

He is imprisoned in the Gorakhpur jail, which according to media reports Murtaza calls jannat, or heaven. Jail authorities report that he spends most of his time sleeping and never displays any sign of fear or regret over the attack on the security workers.

He is in solitary confinement (considered a form of torture by the United Nations Mandela Rules if prolonged) and is guarded closely by seven people.

According to a psychiatrist, patients like Murtaza see, hear and feel what others are unaware of. They imagine what seems unreal and have their own ideas of what is taking place. Often what they say sounds nonsensical and they may show other unusual behaviour like a lack of emotional display and social withdrawal.

The jail authorities report that Murtaza was offered a cup of tea. He took a sip or two and said that he had heard that the tea served in jannat is the best but what he was given to drink is tasteless. He also complained of the roti served to him and asked for bread which he was happy to eat with a plate of vegetables.

Murtaza has also requested the jail authorities for a special brand of toothpaste.

Despite his odd ways and unusual state of mind, the authorities see Murtaza Abbasi as a dangerous terrorist. The UP police and members of the ATS claim to have uncovered information about his alleged “radicalisation” including claims of a trip to Saudi Arabia, social media contact with extremists, and several attempts made by him to go to Syria.

Investigators also claim a desire on the part of Murtaza to join the Islamic State organisation and to attain shahadat or martyrdom. The actual reason behind his assault with a sickle on the guards of the Gorakhnath temple which is headed by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is not clear.

Senior police officials have told the media that Murtaza is highly radicalised and is fond of wading through IS-affiliated literature online.

They claim his laptop is under “forensic examination” and add that he travelled to Saudi Arabia in 2016 and made several attempts to go to Syria between 2017 and 2018 to join the Islamic State, but that plan did not materialise.

So far the media and state are portraying Murtaza Abbasi as a “lone wolf attacker”, and say that investigations are afloat to find out if the Gorakhpur incident is part of a larger terrorist network.

Also read: Behind the ‘Attack’ on Police in Gorakhpur by Dr Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad