Mumbai, November 19, (The Hindustan Times/The New Indian Express): The Indian National Investigating Agency (NIA) on Saturday carried out searches at ten premises of Dr.Zakir Naik’s banned Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) in Mumbai after registering a case against Naik and others under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Indian Penal Code.
The agency has booked Naik on charges of inciting violence and promoting enmity between different religious groups.
NIA in association with the Mumbai police searched some office premises related to IRF and residential properties of the controversial Salafist televangelist.
“We have seized several documents, hard discs and CDs from Naik’s home and offices and those are being examined,” an official said.
“The First Information Report (FIR) has been registered against Naik under the stringent UAPA and we will soon summon him to join the investigation. If he fails to do so then we will move the relevant court to declare him a proclaimed offender and that will allow us to attach his properties in Mumbai and elsewhere,” another NIA official said.
Union home ministry sources said Naik’s arrest was imminent if he comes to India to join the probe. If he does not cooperate with the probe, next course of action will be initiated to make him face the law.
Dr Naik’s spokesperson Aarif Malik said the controversial Islamic preacher will join the investigation if called for questioning.
“We have always maintained that Dr Naik will always be available for any probe launched by any Indian law enforcement agency. Our position has not changed,” said Malik from Mumbai.
The NIA, along with the Mumbai police, on Saturday morning raided 10 premises of the IRF.
Since the IRF has been declared an unlawful association, no person can become a member or office bearer of the association — whose website says it is a registered non-profit public charitable trust — or hold meetings or collect funds. A ban under UAPA is valid for five years.
The decision to declare the IRF unlawful was approved in a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday.
However, the IRF said it would be argue before a central tribunal against the validity of the ban.
Naik, who is in Thailand at present, is accused of dodging the police after charges that his sermons allegedly influenced the Dhaka café attackers. Bangladesh has also banned Naik’s Peace TV.
“Once we get a copy of the government notification, we may challenge in it court,” said Naik’s spokesperson Aarif Malik.
“Naik is supposed to return to India in January or February next year. There is no change in his plan to come back to India.”
A separate probe was earlier initiated by the Special Branch (SB), the Mumbai police’s intelligence wing and the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) focusing on the managerial and monetary aspects of the IRF.
The SB had rummaged through several published material and audio records of Naik’s sermons that were in public domain, and found them controversial.
The SB also unearthed the editing studio of Naik’s banned ‘Peace TV’ channel which operated from another building near the IRF’s office in Dongri. The studio, which operated under the name Harmony Media Pvt Ltd, compiled Naik’s sermons that were to be shipped to other countries and aired in at least half-a-dozen foreign languages. The channel was banned is India in 2012.
The EOW, on the other hand, found funds to the tune of several hundreds of thousands that the IRF received as religious funds and were allegedly being used for other purposes, which amounted to violating the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act.
Central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence were also part of the inquiry against Naik and the IRF.
The Mumbai police probe also linked one of the IRF’s employees, Arshi Qureshi, a guest relationship manager, to a group of 22 men who went missing from Kerala.
The probe was being conducted by the Kerala police and assisted by Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad, leading to startling revelations on how IRF was also part of conversion rackets.
Both Khan and Qureshi were arrested and a radicalization case was registered with the Nagpada police after Abdul Majeed Kadar Khan, father of Ashfaq — one of the missing Kerala youth — lodged a complaint.
The Mumbai Crime Branch, which probed the case, later had recovered the conversion documents of 60 persons from Khan’s Kalyan home. The case is being investigated by NIA now.
There are previous cases against against Naik for his controversial remarks against Hindu gods. Also cases against him have been filed in Kurla, Vengurla, Sawantwadi and outside Maharashtra also. Naik has filed an application in the SC demanding all these cases to be investigated by one agency. His plea is pending.