KUALA LUMPUR: A debate has started in India following revelations that senior ministers of the previous Congress-led government, including a close aide of the Gandhis, allegedly helped save controversial preacher Zakir Naik from enforcement authorities.
TimesNow.tv claimed today it had access to a sworn confession of Zakir Naik’s closest aide, Amir Gazdar, before a magistrate in which he allegedly revealed that Naik sought and received help from senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh and two ministers.
TimeNow said Digvijay Singh was a close aide of Rahul Gandhi and one of the Gandhi family’s staunchest supporters.
The Press Trust of India reported yesterday that Naik, who is wanted in India to answer money-laundering and terror-related charges, was seeking Malaysian citizenship. Naik was given permanent residency status by the Malaysian government five years ago.
Gazdar claimed, according to TimesNow, that Naik had also met two ministers of the then Congress-led government. Congress lost the 2014 general election to the Bharatiya Janata Party.
It asked: “If Zakir Naik was already proscribed by the UK in 2010 and had cases filed against him by Mumbai cops in 2008, why did these ministers who were in a position to influence the probe, give him an audience?”
It said in 2010, then British Home Minister Theresa May signed an order barring Zakir Naik from entering the United Kingdom. The UK government informed India as to why Naik had been barred from entry.
TimesNow said Naik had been preaching in the UK off and on for about 15 years before the ban and that the UK law enforcement authorities had found that he was preaching hatred and “was actively conditioning young minds to take part in terrorism”.
According to the confession statement of Gazdar, it said, Naik was questioned at the Mumbai airport when he returned from the UK.
Naik, it said, had already been under investigation from 2008 by the Maharashtra state police for preaching hatred. Naik, even then, was prohibited by the Maharashtra police from holding rallies.
So, upon his return to India, police began to focus more on him.
Gazdar is alleged to have admitted that that was when Naik sought the help of Digvijay Singh and two ministers and that they helped solve Naik’s “problems”.
TimesNow said, from Gazdar’s confession, it was clear that these politicians had helped keep Naik safe from police action.
“These politicians abetted in the cause of Naik who is accused by both India and Bangladesh of indoctrinating young minds and turning them into terrorists. “
It showed clips with excerpts of statements and speeches of Naik and also clips of Digvijay Singh hugging Naik, in 2012, and praising him for his work for peace.
Digvijay Singh was last month removed by Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi as the party’s general secretary in-charge of Karnataka and Goa. But he still remains the All-India Congress Committee general secretary in charge of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
PTI said Naik fled India in July last year, immediately after an investigation was initiated against him following claims by terrorists in Bangladesh that they had been inspired by his speeches to carry out an attack on a cafe in Dhaka in which 22 people, mostly foreigners, were killed.
Naik is accused of spreading hatred through his provocative speeches, funding terrorists and money laundering. He has failed to return to India to answer the accusations or to be interviewed by law enforcement agencies.
Interpol was approached after a year-long probe which led to the banning of Naik’s NGO – the Islamic Research Foundation. His Peace TV has also been taken off the air by both India and Bangladesh.