New Delhi: Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), the NGO run by Salafist preacher Zakir Naik+ who is under the scanner for allegedly inspiring terrorists, confirmed on Friday it had 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”. TOI had on Tuesday checked with RGF on the 50 lakh contribution from IRF but on Thursday, it denied having received the donation.
In another email on Friday night, RGF said it “stood by its reply in its entirety”.
Asked specifically, 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.
RGCT has Sonia, her children Rahul and Priyanka among its founder members. They, along with former PM Manmohan Singh, are also trustees of RGF.
The disclosure of the donation comes at a time when Naik is embroiled in a controversy because of allegations that the Salafist preacher was inciting youth for jihadi terror+ and was running down other faiths in order to organise conversions to Islam.
The government stumbled upon IRF’s donation while inspecting its accounts in 2014.
Congress’s admission of the donation from IRF Naik’s NGO followed questions from reporters on Friday. Party 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.
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.
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,” the spokesman said.
TOI had learnt of the Rs 50 lakh IRF donation to RGF from home ministry sources on Monday.