The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation has got into limelight for wrong reasons having received a Rs 50- lakh donation from an NGO run by controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, who has been accused of radicalising youths, but the money has been returned.
According to officials of Union Home Ministry, which have put Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation under ‘Prior Category list’, the NGO had given donations to an allied entity of RGF called Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust (RGCT) in 2011 which engages in promoting girl education and providing money to needy for meeting hospital expenses.
We knew Zakir Naik’s foundation was donating money to Rajiv Gandhi foundation but we avoided politics: Kiren Rijiju. pic.twitter.com/qXMi24WHuX
— ANI (@ANI_news) September 11, 2016
The RGCT, a registered, not-for-profit organisation, was established in 2002 to address the development needs of the underprivileged of the country, especially the rural poor. It works in the poorest regions of Uttar Pradesh, one of the least developed states in the country, and Haryana.
Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) spokesperson Aarif Malik said the money had been given to the NGO RGCT, which was also registered under the FCRA in 2011, and it was returned in July this year after a terror attack in a Dhaka restaurant.
“We have received the money back in July this year for reasons best known to the NGO. However, my point is that why has this NGO singled out. We gave money to other NGOs also,” Malik said.
He accused the government of having “pre-decided notion” of “banning the organisation after they failed to gather even a shred of evidence” during months of investigation in late 2014 which continued till early 2015.
“I have a simple question. Was there anything wrong in giving donations?” he asked.
The IRF, NGO run by Salafist preacher Naik, is embroiled in a controversy because of allegations that he was inciting youth for terror.
The IRF spokesman said that a thorough probe was conducted earlier after the new government took over but they could not find any evidence against it.
“I wonder why our FCRA licence was renewed in August 2016? It is because the officials, who have since been suspended by the Government, went by the rule book and not under external and extraneous pressures,” he said.
The Home Ministry had suspended Joint Secretary G K Dwivedi, who was heading the foreigners division which deals with the FCRA related issues, and three other officials for renewal of the licence of IRF.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi has owned up the donation but claimed it was unsolicited and a one-off affair.
In the statement, Surjewala said “incontrovertible facts” in the case were that in 2011, the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust received “one single unsolicited stray donation of Rs 50 lakh” from Islamic Research Foundation which was directly deposited in the RGCT account by IRF through cheque.
The donation was followed up by IRF with a donation letter informing the RGCT that the money was to be used for its “general fund” and PAN card details were enclosed in accordance with law. “IRF did not inform RGCT that this donation was in any way connected to FCRA,” he said.
In early July, 2016, when the IRF/Zakir Naik controversy became public, RGCT took a decision and refunded this money to IRF. RGCT also took a decision that after the refund of this “single stray donation”, it will have no engagement of any type with IRF, Surjewala said.
About the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, he said, it is a “distinct, separate, unallied and independent legal entity” (independent from RGCT) and has never had any donation/funds from IRF and has no connection whatsoever with the televangelist’s foundation.
Singhvi accused the government and the BJP of launching a “virulent, baseless” propaganda against the Congress and it showed the “mental bankruptcy” of the ruling dispensation.
Taking a dig at the BJP, he wondered as to how Congress could be an “astrologer” knowing about the controversial past of the IRF when the donation was accepted.
He also wondered as to why the Modi government did not ban the IRF since coming to power two years back.