Zakir Naik’s NGO donated Rs 50L to Rajiv Gandhi trust in 2011: Reports

HT Correspondent, New Delhi: It was a major embarrassment for the Congress on Friday following revelations that the Islamic Research

Foundation (IRF) of controversial preacher Zakir Naik who is under the scanner for allegedly inspiring terrorists, made a Rs 50 lakh donation to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) in 2011.
The Congress owned up the donation, but claimed that the money did not come to RGF but to an allied entity, Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust (RGCT), and that the same was returned to IRF “some months ago”,But an IRF spokesman quoted Naik and said the money had gone to RGF and not the charitable trust and, also, that they had not received the refund yet. “May be, they are planning to return but we have not received anything yet,” he said.
“We donated 50 lakh to RGF in 2011. But the donation to RGF is just one of the several donations we make to NGOs of similar nature for education of the girl child, higher education in medicine, medical surgeries etc,” the IRF representative said.
The government stumbled upon IRF’s donation while inspecting its accounts in 2014.Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi was at pains to claim the donation was unsolicited, and a one-off affair.
More importantly, he emphasized that the donation preceded IRF’s embroilment in allegations of terror and forced conversions, adding that Naik’s NGO was not on the watchlist at the time.
“It (donation) was discovered by chance when the recent events happened… and some months ago, a remittance was made,” Singhvi said in a reference to Naik and his IRF attracting attention after it turned out that two of the terrorists behind the July 1 Dhaka attack were allegedly inspired by Naik’s speeches. The intense scrutiny since has revealed that the televangelist had also motivated 50 others who are in Indian jails on terror-related charges.
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Organizations like IRF registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act are allowed to transfer money they receive from abroad to other FCRA-approved bodies. Both RGF and RGCT have FCRA licence.
Read | Zakir Naik’s NGO banned from receiving foreign funds directly
The IRF spokesman accused the government of leaking “selective” information about its donations to high-profile NGOs as part of the conspiracy to ban Naik and his NGO even when there was no “solid evidence” of wrongdoing.
“Zakir Naik is being targetted for his popularity among Muslims. The government has decided to ban IRF and is working backwards by throwing accusations at us such as paying Rs 50 lakh donation as ‘bribe’ to the Congress,” TOI quoted the IRF spokesman as saying.
According to the Indian Express, at least three more officials will soon be suspended for ignoring alleged FCRA violations during an earlier audit.
Read | Foreign funding for Zakir Naik’s NGO renewed, 4 home min officials suspended
Sources said among the alleged irregularities ignored, was the donation of Rs 50 lakh to the RGCT in 2011 during the second term of the UPA government.
Home ministry officials said on Friday that they had placed IRF in the ‘prior permission’ category, under which it is mandatory for an organisation to take permission from the MHA before accepting or utilising any foreign contribution.
“Three or four more officials, up to the rank of deputy secretary at least, who served in the FCRA division of the home ministry in 2013 and 2014, are likely to be suspended soon. While some are serving in different branches of the MHA currently, others may have been posted to other ministries. The matter has been taken up with the DoPT (department of personnel and training), and the suspensions are imminent,” sources said.
Last week, four officials, including a joint secretary of the home ministry were suspended for renewing the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act registration of Naik’s IRF despite an ongoing probe against him.