New Delhi: A fact-finding committee of the Delhi Minorities Commission has stated that it has not found any evidence showing that terror-funding was used in the construction of the Khulafa-e-Rashideen Masjid in Palwal district of Haryana.
In a press conference on 31 October 2018, the committee released its report trashing allegations made by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that the masjid had been funded by terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT)-linked charity Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF).
On 25th September, the NIA had claimed that it had busted a terror funding module in Delhi led by the FIF and arrested three persons, namely, Mohammad Salman, Mohd Salim, and Sajjad Abdul Wani. The agency claimed that the three were receiving funds from FIF operatives based abroad and were using it for terror activities.
Days later, news reports quoting the NIA claimed that the Khulafa-e-Rashideen Masjid, where the arrested Mohammad Salman was the Imam was built with the help of funds received from the FIF. The reports claimed that the NIA had “found records of around Rs 70 lakh being sent to India in installments by the FIF network” and that it had “seized books from the office of the Masjid to verify its accounts.”
Fact-finding Committee Report
Trashing the claims made by NIA, the fact-finding committee, comprising of human rights activist Ovais Sultan Khan, former member of Delhi Minorities Commission A.C. Michael, advocate and human rights activist Abu Bakr Sabbaq and member of the Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee, Sardar Gurminder Singh Matharu, said that contrary to the claims made by the premier agency, the masjid in Palwal was built collectively by both Hindus and Muslims of the district.
The committee coordinator Ovais Sultan Khan said that the construction of the masjid began in 2009 and people from 84 villages came together to build it. “Having a capacity of 16000 people, construction of this masjid was started in 2009 and it is still incomplete. This masjid should have served as an example of Hindu-Muslim amity because the mosque is built on Shamlati land which is the collective property of all villagers. The total area of the land is ten acres out of which eight was given for the mosque and two acres were given for a hospital and old-age people’s home,” he said.
According to the committee, “NIA on its website or press releases has not claimed that terror funds have been used to build the masjid, yet some newspapers have reported quoting NIA sources that terror funds have been used to build the masjid. The committee did not find any trace of evidence to point that terror or foreign funds have been used to build this masjid.”
Ovais Sultan Khan further said that LeT and FIF are Salafi groups while the masjid belongs to the Tablighi Jamaat people. “The thinking and approach of both these groups are totally different; hence it is unthinkable that there would be any co-operation between the two groups,” he said.
According to Khan, the NIA has not spoken to anyone in the village or to those connected with the masjid. He claimed that NIA had confiscated the records of the masjid without preparing a seizure report or giving a receipt. “They did the same in the house of the arrested accused Mohammad Salman when they raided his house in Hazrat Nizamuddin in Delhi. They kept Mohammad Salman for two days in custody before presenting him to a magistrate while legally they have to present an arrested person to a magistrate within 24 hours.”
He said that the masjid committee had “receipts of about Rs 1 crore” but “all the records including receipts and registers in original were taken by NIA”.
Khan added that there is a mismatch in the press releases and FIR filed by NIA. He said the whole matter aims at targeting a particular community and is based on the conspiracy of some people in the village. He said when the building of the masjid started, every village household donated one thousand rupees.
Lawyer and human rights activist Abu Bakr Sabbaq said the current and former sarpanches of the village told the fact-finding committee that this is a property dispute issue.
Sabbaq said that, legally, whenever anything is seized, a seizure memo is prepared and photocopies are taken by the police while the original documents are left with the accused. “We came to know that the whole masjid committee used to move around to collect donations from villagers. According to the villagers, the father of the accused Mohammad Salman was attached to Maulana Ilyas of Tablighi Jamaat since 1920. Salman himself donated to the masjid fund of around 22-24 lakh rupees by selling his land in the village. DSP and others told us that everyone here donates for masjids, mandirs, and gurdwaras and no accounts are kept for the same. Police told us that they have received no complaint against this masjid, said Sabbaq.
A.C. Michael said that RSS received most funds in India from abroad despite the fact that it is not a registered body. “It is the duty of the government to investigate sources of any such fund. Both the press releases of NIA do not mention that foreign funds have come for the mosque. Then how did the media come to know this? Do they have a direct link with Hafiz Saeed? Receiving foreign funds per se is not a crime,” he said.
Sardar Gurminder Singh Matharu, a member of Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee, said that the committee found nothing to suggest that foreign funds came for the construction of the masjid. “There is no entry for 70 lakh rupees in the masjid’s register. The land is collective, Shamlati, and both Hindus and Muslims have donated for the masjid. The truth is different. The whole matter should be probed properly. We are not against the media but it should not publish one-sided stories,” he said.