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Palwal mosque—Release of the fact-finding report on terror-funding claims

New Delhi: Delhi Minorities Commission constituted a fact-finding committee to investigate and report on the allegations that foreign funds have been used to build a mosque in Attawar village of district Palwal, Haryana in which a citizen of Delhi has been arrested. The committee toured the area, investigated the matter minutely, talking to police, administration and panchayat leaders and ordinary people in the area. They also talked to the affected families and visited the family of an arrested accused in Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin area.

The coordinator of the committee was the well-known human rights activist Ovais Sultan Khan who is a member of the DMC’s advisory committee. The committee included former member of DMC and a member of DMC advisory committee, A.C.Michael, member of Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee Sardar Gurminder Singh Matharu and lawyer and human rights activist Abu Bakr Sabbaq.

The report presented by the committee was released in a press conference held at DMC office or 31 October in the presence of all members of the committee as well as DMC Chairman Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan and DMC Member Sardar Kartar Singh Kochhar. The Commission accepted the report and distributed copies of the key observations of the report in English, Hindi and Urdu languages while the complete report was uploaded on the Internet and it may be accessed here: https://tinyurl.com/Palwal-Mosque-Report-DMC

The committee coordinator Ovais Sultan Khan offered a summary of the report to the media people saying that this is the first instance in which a mosque has been named to have connections with terrorists or that terror funds have been used to build it. He said that people of 84 villages came together to build this mosque.  Having a capacity of 16000 people, construction of this mosque was started in 2009 and it is still incomplete. He said this mosque 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.

The land is situated on a main road and is partly occupied by some people. The front area is enough to build 200 shops and the price of each shop would be 20 lakh rupees. Villagers and NIA people say that someone has complained to the “Ministry” and the Ministry forwarded the complaint to the NIA. NIA on its website or press releases has not claimed that terror funds have been used to build this mosque, yet some newspapers have published quoting NIA sources that terror funds have been used to build this mosque. The committee did not find any trace of evidence to point that terror or foreign funds have been used to build this mosque. Police and local people told the committee that locally there is no such complaint.

Ovais Sultan Khan further said that Lashkar Toiba and Falahe Insaniyat are Salafi organisations while the mosque 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 cooperation between the two groups.

Ovais Sultan Khan further said that NIA has not spoken to anyone in the village or to those connected with the mosque. Moreover, NIA has confiscated the records without preparing a seizure report or giving a receipt. They did the same in the house of the arrested accused Muhammad Salman when they raided his house in Hazrat Nizamuddin in Delhi.  They kept Muhammad Salman 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.

Ovais Sultan Khan added that there is a mismatch in the press releases and FIR filed by NIA. He said this whole matter aims at targeting a community and is based on the conspiracy of some people in the village. Khan said there is an attempt to inculcate inferiority complex in common people that they cannot on their own build a mosque or mandir and if such a structure is being built, it must be having funding from other sources. He said when the building of the mosque started, every village household donated one thousand rupees.

Ovais Sultan Khan further said that the DSP and SHO of the area told the committee that there is no complaint with them against the mosque and even NIA has not given them any such information. The Muslim sarpanch (headman) of the village said that his 80-year-old mother wants to visit Pakistan or at least talk to her relatives there over the phone. “But we do not contact our relatives there even by phone,” he added.

Lawyer and human rights activist Abu Bakr Sabbaq said that instances keep coming to us where cases are registered due to personal disputes or because of an attempt by police to extort money from innocent people. In the current case, NIA has not claimed something or denied it. The mosque in question is a centre of the Tablighi Jamaat in the area. The current and former sarpanches of the village told us that this is a property dispute. Someone has complained, which is the reason why things reached to this level. Sabbaq further 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 mosque committee used to move around to collect donations from villagers. According to the villagers, the father of the accused Muhammad Salman was attached to Maulana Ilyas of Tablighi Jamaat since 1920. Muhammad Salman himself donated to the mosque fund around 22-24 lakh rupees by selling his land in the village. DSP and others told us that everyone here donates for mosques, mandirs and gurdwaras and no accounts are kept for the same. Police told us that they have received no complaint against this mosque, 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 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 journalists came to know this? Do they have direct link with Hafiz Saeed? Receiving foreign funds per se is not a crime, he said.

Sardar Gurminder Singh Matharu, member of Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee, said that we found nothing suggesting that foreign funds came for the mosque. There is no entry for 70 lakh rupees in the mosque’s register. The land is collective, Shamlati, and both Hindus and Muslims have donated for the mosque. 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.

Observations of the fact-finding committee on Palwal mosque

Following are the conclusions of the fact-finding committee:

  1. Committee did not come across any evidence to state that the terror-funding was received for the construction of the Khulafa-e-Rashideen Masjid.
  2. Committee found during interaction with local people, including all religious and caste groups, they themselves have contributed and raised funds for building of the Khulafa-e-Rashideen Masjid.
  3. Khulafa-e-Rashideen Masjid’s name is dragged because of the internal property dispute.
  4. The local Hindus and Muslims have together donated the total 10 acres land for Masjid and Madarsa (8 acre), Government Hospital and Old-age Home (2 acre) from their Shamlaati property (collective land).
  5. Khulafa-e-Rashideen Masjid is of Tablighi Jamaat. Whereas, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) belong to Salafi School of thought. These two does not agree with each others’ teachings and practices. Therefore, there is no question of collaboration between them. 
  6. Harvindar Yadav (NIA officer) told the family of Mohammad Salman that somebody complained against Mohammad Salman in the Ministry, which was referred to NIA.
  7. The complaint, FIR, and arrest dates do not match the order of incidents.
  8. Mohammad Salman was in illegal NIA detention on 25-26 September 2018. He was produced before the NIA Special Court at Patiala House District Court on 27 September 2018.
  9. NIA allegation of Rs. 70 lacs received from overseas was found to be untrue.
  10. NIA seized all original receipts, records, registers and diaries along with a hard disk and pen drive from Mohammad Salman’s home but not prepared any seizure memo at spot at the time of seizure. Neither provided copy of the records.
  11. NIA Team raided Khulafa-e-Rashideen Masjid, but it had not recorded the statement of any villagers and members of Masjid Committee.
  12. NIA also seized all original receipts, records and registers from Khulafa-e-Rashideen Masjid Committee, but not prepared any seizure memo at the time of seizure. Neither provided any receipt.
  13. There are many serious procedural lapses by NIA.
  14. The name and details of the case are not available at the NIA website.
  15. Two Press Releases (dated 26 September 2018 and 12 October 2018) issued by NIA do not mention Khulafa-e-Rashideen Masjid or its construction by terror-funding. 

(Full report may be accessed here: https://tinyurl.com/Palwal-Mosque-Report-DMC)

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