A man seeking alms on the steps of Delhi’s Jama Masjid is caught in a sudden downpour. Begging is illegal in India. (Express Photo: Oinam Anand)
Muslims make up 14.23% of India’s population. They are, however, nearly 25% of the 3.7 lakh individuals who have been listed as beggars by the Government of India.
Activists claim that the data — released last month — on the religious orientation of those deemed ‘non workers’ in Census 2011, highlights, once again, the limited or unequal access that certain communities or groups of citizens have to government schemes and services, which pushes them to destitution.
‘Non workers’ are defined in the Census as individuals who do not participate in any economic activity — paid or unpaid — household duties, or cultivation.
As per Census data, of the total 72.89 crore non workers, 3.7 lakh are beggars. This number fell 41% since the last Census of 2001, which recorded the number of beggars at 6.3 lakh.
Muslims make up an unusually high percentage of individuals who have been categorised as beggars. A total of 92,760 Muslims are categorised thus — a quarter of the country’s total beggar population of 3.7 lakh.
Hindus are 79.8% of India’s population, but with 2.68 lakh individuals, make up 72.22% of its beggar population. Christians, who are 2.3% of the population, make up 0.88% of the beggar population (3,303 individuals). Buddhists (0.52%), Sikhs (0.45%), Jains (0.06%) and others (0.30%) follow.
Interestingly, more Muslim women seem to be begging as compared to Muslim men, a trend that is opposite to that of all communities except those categorised as ‘Others’. The national average is 53.13% male beggars to 46.87% female beggars; for Muslims, the ratio is 43.61% male beggars and 56.38% female.
“Destitution is the outcome of the failure of government programmes to provide a safety net to its citizens. This number is evidence of how certain groups in society have lesser access to services and government programmes and are pushed to being destitutes,” Mohammed Tarique, coordinator of Koshish, a Tata Institute of Social Sciences Field Action Project on Homelessness and Destitution, said.
Beggary is illegal in India, and is punishable by imprisonment of 3-10 years. The Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959 has been followed by almost all states in the country. Activists say the Act provides no clear categorisation of beggars, and even homeless and landless labourers who have migrated to different cities are categorised as beggars. Like many of India’s laws, the anti-beggary legislation is based on an archaic British law against vagrants.
Under the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959, anyone having no visible means of subsistence and found wandering about in a public space is deemed as a beggar. All those who solicit alms in a public place under any pretence including singing, dancing, fortune-telling or street performing are also deemed as beggars.
The Act gives discretionary powers to the police to pick up anyone on suspicion that he is a beggar or a destitute with no means of fending for himself.
Activists say the law, rather than rehabilitating destitutes, criminalises the poor and those suffering from mental illnesses. Some states like Bihar have undertaken a programme for the rehabilitation of beggars. But other states like Maharashtra and West Bengal can put away an individual found on the street to prison.
Netanyahu to ‘punish’ Syrians who attacked ISIL terrorists
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to punish a group of Syrian Druze individuals in the occupied Golan Heights who attacked injured ISIL Takfiri militants en route to a hospital in Israel.
“We will not allow anyone to take the law into their own hands. We will not allow anyone to disrupt Israeli soldiers in their missions,” Netanyahu said on Tuesday.
He called the incident “very serious” and said those behind it would be located and held to account.
Meanwhile, Israeli Minister for Military Affairs Moshe Yaalon has also pledged to track down the Druze individuals. “We won’t be able to ignore it, and law enforcement authorities will deal with it heavy-handedly,” he said in a statement.
Reports say Israeli police made several arrest from the Druze community on Wednesday.
Around 200 people from the Druze community in the town of Majdal Shams, which lies in the southern foothills of Mount Hermon and north of the Golan Heights, pelted an Israeli military ambulance with stones on Monday night, forcing it to stop.
The Druze individuals then dragged two wounded ISIL extremists out of the vehicle and beat them up. One of the injured militants died afterwards, while the second is in a serious condition. An Israeli soldier and an officer onboard the vehicle also sustained slight wounds as a result of the assault.
The photo shows the Israeli military ambulance that was carrying ISIL Takfiri terrorists, which came under attack in the occupied Golan Heights on June 22, 2015.
On May 23, a Takfiri terrorist wounded during fierce clashes with Syrian government forces was transferred to the Baruch Padeh Medical Center in the northern Israeli settlement of Poriya, located approximately 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) south of the coastal Israeli city of Tiberias, and received medical treatment there.
According to the documents from Israeli hospitals, until last September, Israel’s military had spent USD 10 million for the treatment of the terrorists injured in fighting with Syrian government forces.
The documents further revealed that a total of 398 injured militants had also been treated at Galil Hospital in Israel’s northern coastal city of Nahariya in the past couple of years. Another hospital in the city of Safed had provided treatment for hundreds of other Takfiri terrorists.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits a militant wounded in Syria at a field hospital in northern Israel, February 18, 2014.
Damascus says Tel Aviv and its Western and regional allies are aiding the Takfiri militant groups operating inside Syria.
The Syrian army has seized huge quantities of Israeli-made weapons and advanced military equipment from the foreign-backed militants inside Syria on numerous occasions.
Syria has been grappling with a deadly crisis since March 2011. The violence fueled by Takfiri groups has so far claimed the lives of more than 230,000 people, including almost 11,500 children, according to reports.
Thanks for informing your readers about the length you go deep behind the headlines of terror attacks to get the picture of the human tragedy involved. However, as a reader I find that you lack in one aspect. You are not covering the mastermind behind this wave of terror attacks. It is assumed by one and all, especially in Western media, that ISIS or Alquida or one of the extremist cultists are behind these worldwide carnival of blood-shedding. But there is strong possibility that agencies in the West themselves are behind such terror attacks. You may treat it as conspiracy theory. But there is no harm in putting the other side under your lens. Your readers are aware of the constraints that you work within. But to that much, then leaves your efforts lacking in full justice to know and spread the truth in whatever packages it is given to you. You may leave the final judgement to your readers. This is in no way dimishes the value of your journalistic excellence in bringing facts as far as possible to the general public at large. Especially as it is the hallmark of New York Times since its inception.
The Times’s international desk found information about the lives of 222 people who were victims of terrorist attacks during a two-week period — 90 percent of the 247 total victims.
Times Insider delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how news, features and opinion come together at The New York Times. In this piece, Jodi Rudoren, deputy international editor of The Times, explains what was involved in deploying dozens of people around the world to develop fuller portraits of “these lives that were cut short.”
There is something of a journalistic routine each time terror erupts. Cover the news, of course, and put it into geopolitical context. Capture the drama of the scene. Pursue every tidbit about the attackers. And, perhaps most wrenchingly, try to showcase the human suffering.
Those tasked with profiling the victims typically scour social-media profiles and interview stricken relatives and friends, then cobble together anecdotes into an article that highlights a few individuals and summarizes whatever is known about the rest. Sometimes there are fuller stories about a single victim of particular note, a family or a group.
After the Bastille Day massacre in Nice, France, for example, The Times produced a heart-wrenching look at the father and son from Texas mowed down among the masses, followed by a broader take on the children among the 84 killed — and the ones who survived.
It never feels like enough.
During what seemed like a particularly intense spate of attacks back in March, we decided it was not enough. We were still collecting tidbits about the victims of the Islamic State’s suicide bombings at the Brussels airport and subway station on March 22 when the same extremist group hit a soccer stadium in Iraq on March 25, killing 36. Two days later the Talibanstruck a park in Lahore, Pakistan, murdering 76 people at play on a Sunday afternoon.
We decided not to move on but to look back. To find out as much as we could about every single human being slain in a mass killing anywhere, to trace the ripple effects of the violence, to identify the things that connected people across places or distinguished one from the other. Simply put: to show terrorism’s human toll.
At first we set out to cover the month of March. But the attacks kept coming, so we scaled back to two weeks, for fear of being overwhelmed. Those two weeks included eight attacks in six countries; 247 men, women and children taken forever.
We didn’t know it was 247 when we started. In several cases, our reporters on the ground found victims that local officials had failed to count. We deployed 29 people around the world to collect their names, their photographs and the details of these lives that were cut short.
In partnership with The Times’s data visualists, editors on the international desk created interactive interview forms to collate parallel information about each individual. We needed the basics: name, age, hometown, nationality, religion, job. We also asked if the victim knew anyone else killed in the same attack. How many immediate relatives did he leave behind? How many years of education had she completed? We left space for narrative details and asked contributors to provide any snapshots they could find.
It was arduous and intense. Chris Stein, a journalist in Nigeria, was prevented by a military checkpoint from getting to Ummarari, the village where Boko Haram blew apart a mosque on March 13, killing 30 people at prayer. Instead, working with a local fixer, he managed to cajole a steady stream of villagers to come to his hotel in Maiduguri.
But electricity is spotty there, so they had to either search for a shady spot outside in the 100-degree heat or talk in Chris’s stuffy, lightless hotel room. People in Ummarari are known by an assortment of nicknames, so just figuring out who was who was a challenge. None of the 30 victims had a social-media profile or even a mobile phone; the only photos Chris could find were three identity cards.
In Iraq, several of the names on the government’s official list of victims did not match the names relatives gave to our stringer, Omar Al-Jawoshy, requiring painstaking crosschecking with people who were in mourning. In Pakistan, many of the 76 victims of the Taliban attack had been visiting Lahore from remote areas up to two days’ travel away, but Daniyal Hassan, the stringer there, still managed to gather details on 59 of them.
In all, we compiled information about 222 of the victims — 90 percent of the total. A fifth of them, 44, were under 18. More than 60 percent were Muslim. More than half were killed alongside spouses, relatives, friends or acquaintances. They had 26 different nationalities.
Beyond any statistical analysis, though, the power of this project was in looking at the mass of individual humanity. At the photographs that showed them living. At the little things survivors shared about those they had lost.
Times Insider delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how daily news, features and opinion pieces come to life at The New York Times. Visit us at Times Insiderand follow us on Twitter. Questions or feedback?Email us.
Ghaith Ahmed Abdullah Dewan, 10, was wearing a new outfit when he headed out to the soccer game in Iraq.
Jean-Pierre Arnaud, 75, killed after a bike ride to the beach in Grand Bassam, Ivory Coast, was a “radical Cartesian” who liked to ask questions and would call at 1 a.m. just to make a point, according to his friend Jorge Martinez.
Falmata Ba, 4, always carried around a baby doll. Sabrina Esmael Fazal, 24, liked to cook Congolese dishes for friends. Oguzhan Dura, 43, was a photographer, stamp collector and old camera aficionado.
Henrike Grohs, 51, loved reggae music. Yakura Gambo, 6, drew birds and other animals in the sand. Berkay Bas, 21, bought his brother clothes with his school money.
Javeria Shahid, 2, wouldn’t bother anyone as long as she could watch her cartoons.
Muhammed Hauwa, 70, took in the 16-year-old son of a friend who had died in Nigeria. Mustapha Mohammad, 61, who was killed in the same attack, was an elder expected to settle disputes between neighbors.
Johan Van Steen, 58, was an amateur photographer who told his subjects not to force laughter or other expressions, because, as his partner, Kristin Verellen, put it, “he really wanted to go to the naked essence of people.”
Patricia Rizzo, 48, loved to dance; her favorite band was Coldplay. Adelma Marina Tapia Ruiz, 36, wanted to open a Peruvian restaurant in Brussels. Shahroon Pitras, 15, was called “King” by his friends.
Mustapha Maina, a firecutter and farmer in Ummarari who was about 40, listened to BBC broadcasts about Boko Haram and “always prayed that God should crush them,” said Tijjani Abacha, a family friend. They got him instead.
For over a month, the mild, balding professor of history, Dwijendra Narayan Jha, has been shuffling to his classroom in Delhi University escorted by a police constable. Teaching ancient history does not usually endanger one's health, but ever since Jha went public with the best-kept secret in Indian history—the beef-eating habits of ancient Hindus, Buddhists and even early Jains in a book titled Holy Cow—Beef in Indian Dietary Conditions—his phone hasn't stopped ringing. "The calls are usually abusive," says Jha, "but sometimes they demand to know what evidence I have, and one day late in July it was an anonymous caller threatening dire consequences if I ever brought out my book."
The calls had two effects on the 61-year-old historian: he called the police and braced himself for battle. "There is a cultural war going on and academics have a role to play," Jha says calmly. But it's not the kind of war that he had anticipated. Even before his book could hit the stands, the vhp exhorted its cadre to confiscate and burn copies. The bjp followed suit: one of its MPs, R.S. Rawat, wrote to the Union home minister demanding not only a ban on the book but also the arrest and prosecution of its author and CB Publishers. But before the book could be burnt or banned, the Jain Seva Sangh stepped in. Outraged by Jha's reported assertion that their founder Mahavira ate meat, the Hyderabad-based organisation sought a court injunction against the book, leaving the nonplussed historian without the words to fight his war. Anticipating controversy and debate, Jha meticulously scoured ancient texts, culling material from original sources for over two years. "If they want to ban my book, then they will have to ban the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Sutras and the epics. Where will they stop? I have given evidence, if they have counter-evidence, why don't they come forward with it? But they are so illiterate, they haven't even heard of those texts, let alone read them. I have texts and they go by blind faith," he says. "That is what a historian can and should do: counter faith with facts," he adds.
Jha's interest in dietary history began a few years ago after reading French historian Fernand Braudel's history of early modern European diet. But he soon became intrigued by the beef-eating habits of Indians which existed in Rig Vedic times and continued till the 19th century and after, despite repeated Brahminical injunctions against cow-killing. That ancient Hindus, including Brahmins, were beef-eaters, willing to incur the minor penalty that an agrarian society began imposing on cow-killers, and that this fondness for cattle meat had nothing to do with Islam or Christianity came neither as a shock nor surprise to this unconventional Brahmin, whose first name Dwijendra means "the holiest of Brahmins". "No serious historian, not even 'Hindu' ones like R.C. Majumdar or K.M. Munshi, has ever disputed that ancient Hindus ate beef," says Jha. However, convinced that repeated Brahminical injunctions not to kill cows reflected a popular proclivity for beef, Jha went further and unearthed irrefutable evidence of cow slaughter and consumption by Hindus of all classes, including Brahmins, until as late as the 19th century. "I was expecting this," says Jha, who tasted beef for the first time nearly 30 years ago at Cambridge. "It was difficult to believe Brahmins were laying down norms without a reason. I think there is much more evidence than I got."
The cow as a sacred animal, Jha believes, did not really gain currency until Dayanand Saraswati's cow protection movement in the 19th century". The cow became a tool of mass political mobilisation with the organised cow-protection movement," the historian points out. "The killing of cows stopped gradually with the agrarian society and caste rigidity. The Brahmins found it convenient to say that those who ate beef were untouchable. But they themselves continued to consume it, recommending it for occasions such as shraadh. Simultaneously, they trivialised the beef taboo by saying that eating beef is like cleaning your teeth with your fingers. It was never a sin to eat it, merely an indecorum. There was never a taboo, only discouragement."
With this discovery, culled from ancient scriptures, medical texts, the Manusmriti and religious commentaries, Jha impishly "decided to take the bull by its horns" and publish a book on his findings. "There is a saying in Hindi: Laaton ke bhoot, baaton se nahin maante (Those used to force are not persuaded by words). So I had to give them the shock treatment," he explains.
Only, Jha's "shock treatment" did not stop with Hindus. Buddhists, he claims, citing canonical texts like Mahaparinibbana Sutta and Anguttara Nikaya, also ate beef and other meat. "In fact, the Buddha died after eating a meal of pork," he says. "Vegetarianism was not a viable option for Buddhist monks in a society that loved meat of all kinds—pig, rhinoceros, cow, buffalo, fish, snake, birds, including crows and peacocks. Only camel and dog meat was taboo in India."
Similarly with the early Jains. Citing the Bhagavatisutra, Jha points out that Mahavira once ate a chicken meal to gain strength for a yogic battle with an adversary. "His only condition was to ask the woman who cooked the meal to find a chicken already killed by a cat instead of slaughtering a fresh one," says Jha. "This has upset the Jains, but why are they not upset with the texts that carry these stories? I found these in bookstores run by devout Jain booksellers like Motilal Banarsidass and Sohanlal Jain Dharam Pracharak Samiti."
Despite Jha's avowed dislike of "being conspicuous", the man whose family consists of "a wife and three servants" has never shied away from controversy. His family is accustomed to his "mad ways" and his upbringing has been unorthodox enough to allow him to experiment even with beef. But his community of orthodox Maithili Brahmins in Bihar has not taken kindly to his book either. "They didn't like me citing sources from Mithila to prove my point," says Jha nonchalantly.
"Indian society has come to such a juncture," says Jha, "that historians have to play an active role in countering superstitions and unreason." He took up cudgels during the Ayodhya dispute and even objected to the TV serialisation of epics like the Ramayana and Mahabharata. "It politicised the myths and propagated a value system and religiosity not in keeping with a state-run broadcaster," he says. "Ramanand Sagar's version of the epics is not real history."
"Old and tired out" Jha may call himself, but there's something irrepressible about him. Bans and fatwas haven't stopped him from beginning work on his next book. "It will be called," says Jha with deadpan face, "Adulterous Gods and their Inebriated Women".
His sermons are said to have inspired everyone from the Dhaka attackers to the alleged Islamic State sympathisers. What is it about this televangelist that makes it hard for investigators to pin him down?
At the press conference Zakir Naik had over Skype on July 15. Naik resorted to his usual style, weaving around his statements qualifications, stipulations. (Expres Photo: Prashant Nadkar)
AFTER three days of repeatedly rescheduling a press conference, Dr Zakir Naik couldn’t have stumbled on a worse moment to finally have a heart-to-heart, via Skype, with journalists. On July 15, a Friday morning, as a small hall in south-central Mumbai packed to the rafters waited for a technical glitch to be ironed out before Naik, who spoke from Medina in Saudi Arabia, finally appeared on screen, the Bastille Day attack in Nice was only a few hours old. Its lone wolf attacker had picked a method with eerie similarities to the Glasgow attack of 2007 by Kafeel Ahmed of Bangalore, driving an explosives-laden vehicle into his target. The irony was lost on nobody. Kafeel Ahmed was found to have been inspired by, among others, Zakir Naik.
Then, at Friday’s press conference, the televangelist in the eye of a storm returned to a style his detractors have long taken issue with, weaving around his statements clever qualifications and stipulations, nuances of interpretation peppered with ifs and buts. Suicide attacks are condemnable, he declared, the subordinate clause glued on, “where innocents are targeted”. As a war tactic, well, that’s a different story, he said.
It is pointless arguing that the two Dhaka attackers who were reportedly inspired by him believed they were waging war for their Caliphate. Speaking to The Indian Express when that news broke, the 50-year-old medical doctor-turned-preacher said he would not refer to the Islamic State (IS) as Islamic, for that itself would be a condemnation of Islam. “I call them the anti-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” he said, adding that the name IS had been coined by the “enemies of Islam” though he wouldn’t name these enemy countries. After the Dhaka attack, Maharashtra ordered a probe into Naik’s speeches.
A handful of previous terror detainees have reportedly claimed to be inspired by the English-speaking Naik, who has 14 million followers on Facebook, the large majority of them youngsters. Afghan-American Najibulla Zazi (New York subway bombing plot, 2009), Dr Kafeel Ahmed (Glasgow 2007), Rahil Sheikh (Mumbai serial train blasts, 2006), Feroz Deshmukh (Aurangabad arms haul case, 2006), alleged IS sympathisers (Kalyan, 2016) were all found to have listened to Naik’s sermons. Besides, at least some among the 21 people from Kerala who are missing and who are rumoured to have joined the IS are said to have been inspired by Naik. On January 20, an alleged member of Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) was arrested on charges of “radicalising” one of the 21.
The one probe the police imagine could be productive is the Centre’s proposed investigation into finances of the IRF and Peace TV. Previous probes into Peace TV activities include one in the UK.
But try to pin down the founder of Peace TV and his now stock replies flood the conversation. Saying he has been quoted “out of context”, that it is utter “misinformation” to suggest that he supported terror attacks of any kind, that he was being “branded” without evidence — all now appear to be verbal tics for the Islamic scholar.
“He’s just confusing people, especially impressionable young Muslims, with this sort of rhetoric,” says Syed Noorie of Mumbai’s Raza Academy. “What is the need to say some kind of suicide bombing is acceptable? For youngsters who believe they are right, this serves as encouragement. Islam prohibits suicide, simple.”
It’s increasingly clear that for all the self-professed width of his reach and expanse of his Peace TV empire, which is said to have nearly 200 million viewers worldwide, Naik has strong detractors among conservative Muslims too. Muslim scholars and elected representatives speak warily about Naik’s run-in with a large section of imams in 2008 over his comments on Imam Hussain, a key figure in Islam. The battle of Karbala was fought for political reasons, he contended in a two-minute video clip that was widely shared and condemned by Sunni and Shia scholars. “He hasn’t spared Muslim icons, so it’s only to be expected that he will speak against gods of other religions,” Noorie says, demanding a probe into the alleged “Wahabi” funding for Naik’s Peace TV and other ventures.
When he is not travelling the world on lecture tours, Naik mostly spends his time in Dubai, but his Mumbai roots remain firm.
Naik was schooled in Mazgaon’s St Peter’s High School, not far from the hall where journalists crammed in on Friday to attend his Skype address. In a previous interview to this newspaper, Naik had said he was an average student despite his ability to memorise huge amounts of text. A shy teenager, he also had a stammer, something, he says, he overcame when he began “speaking about the Trust”. In the late 1980s, he obtained his medical degree from Topical College that’s attached to BYL Nair Hospital, and appeared set to join his family’s busy medical practice. His father Abdul Karim Naik was a respected psychiatrist and also an active member of the community. In 1987, Naik attended a sermon in Mumbai by the late South Africa-based preacher Ahmed Deedat and that changed the course of his life. Like Deedat, Naik then memorised the Quran, dived into other religions’ scriptures and began sermonising on comparative religion, using Deedat’s style of reaching out to young Muslims with English and technology.
In 2006, he burst on to the radar of terror investigators when one of those arrested in connection with the Aurangabad arms haul case turned out to be an employee of the Islamic Research Foundation, a trust Naik established in 1991 and which has its headquarters in a nondescript building in Dongri, south Mumbai.
By 2012-13, his sermons began to get noticed and the Hindu right-wing organisations sought a “ban” on him.
Every year, Naik would organise public meetings at the KG Somaiya Ground in Central Mumbai. The setting was always opulent, with a replica of the Taj Mahal at one such rally. “He put up these extravagant sets to attract the commoner,” explained a senior police officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
It was after one such meeting in 2012, where he spoke about Hindu god Ganesha, that a series of cases began to be registered against him. In the video, Naik is purportedly heard saying, “If your god is unable to recognise his own son, how will he know that I am in danger?” On Naik’s plea, all the cases were clubbed and he was granted anticipatory bail by the Bombay High Court. The case is still being probed.
“The 2012 incident also pushed the Mumbai Police to deny permission for Naik’s annual gatherings,” said the officer.
Women’s rights activists too have been railed against him for long, terming him a regressive chauvinist in the garb of an educated theologist.
In one YouTube video they cite, Naik is seen clarifying whether he really ever advised men to not leave a mark on their wives after a beating. “That’s a portion of my answer,” he is seen saying, a phrase he now uses repeatedly. “What I really said”, he says, falling back upon another phrase he uses over and over, is that a wife who is disloyal may be beaten “symbolically”, “with a toothbrush”.
These multiple demands for a probe have flummoxed law enforcement agencies, who acknowledge that previous efforts to pin Naik down yielded little.
In the 2006 Aurangabad arms haul case, where 40 kg of RDX, 17 AK-47 assault rifles and 50 hand grenades were seized, the arrests made by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad led them to Zakir Naik. Rahil Ahmed Sheikh, an alleged Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) operative and one of the main conspirators in the case, had worked as a volunteer with the IRF. Feroz Deshmukh, another person the ATS held in the case, was allegedly a librarian with Naik’s IRF. According to a retired officer who was part of the team that probed the case, the ATS questioned Naik but there wasn’t much to ‘link’ him to the case.
While the Mumbai Police is investigating his speeches, with many of the arrested IS sympathisers from India claiming to have been inspired by Naik, the televangelist has never been too far from the NIA radar.
“These young men who are taken in by this idea of fighting for the Caliphate get indoctrinated online and Naik’s videos are a key resource material. We suspect his videos are deliberately shared by handlers so that the potential recruits connect to him as one of their own — an Indian Muslim,” said a source in the police.
So far, the investigations into the videos have yielded little. But the one probe the police imagine could be productive is the Centre’s proposed probe into the finances of IRF and Peace TV. While the IRF was registered in 1991 in Mumbai, beginning its operations by producing video tapes of Naik’s sermons to be aired by local cablewallahs, it now runs various charitable initiatives, a women’s wing as well as a school and junior college. Peace TV, set up in 2005-06, gathered steam almost immediately. Previous investigations into its activities include one in the UK over allegations of extremist messages.
Former Mumbai Police chief Satyapal Singh, who is now BJP MP from Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh, has claimed that during his stint in the Mumbai Police, he had sought a ban on the IRF for contravening the provisions of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act. Singh alleges that his report against the IRF’s funding was ignored by the then UPA government.
Peace TV, which operates from Dubai, used to have a small studio set-up in Mumbai for recordings, but this is now reportedly not in use. Among the allegations against Peace TV is one regarding its funding, with charity funds raised by the IRF allegedly backing the channel. While Peace TV remains available in some parts of Mumbai, the big operators have discontinued it in recent years. Those who continue to view the channel on demand in Mumbai would rather not talk about it.
With the government refusing to grant a downlinking licence to Peace TV, its transmission by cable operators becomes illegal. In his Friday briefing, Naik had blamed the Centre for not allowing this “messenger of peace” to carry out his duties. Following the Dhaka blast, the Bangladesh government recently banned Peace TV in that country.
Speaking to The Indian Express, an IRF spokesperson said they were ready to face any probe. “Questions are being raised on how the charitable institute is being funded but we have nothing to hide. In 2014, there was a probe by the Enforcement Directorate into the financial dealings of the IRF. We later learnt that they found nothing,” he said.