ATS arrests cleric from Meerut over conversions to Islam
Uttar Pradesh’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) arrested a Muslim cleric from Meerut on Tuesday in connection with a case of religious conversions. Additional director general (law and order) Prashant Kumar said Maulana Kaleem Siddique was allegedly linked to an “illegal religious conversion network” spread across the country. “He has claimed to have converted thousands of people to Islam. We have found he ran a foundation that took foreign funding. The funding was used to support illegal conversion activities.”
Police said they came to know about Siddique’s alleged role in the conversions during the investigation that followed the arrest of Umar Gautam and Jahangir Alam, both residents of New Delhi’s Jamia Nagar, in June for their alleged involvement in “illegal conversions”. “Siddique was in contact with Gautam who was involved in religious conversions. Siddique ran Jamia Imam Waliullah Trust which collected donations from the country and abroad to fund their illegal conversion racket which was the largest such racket in the country,” said Kumar. He added there was an unaccounted transaction of ₹3 crore involving the trust. “The money was used to fund conversion activities... 1.5 crore of this money was sent from Bahrain in violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.”
Kumar said Siddique also secured a funding of ₹57 crore from UK-based organisation Al Falah and that the accused were unable to share details about the expenditure of this fund.
Kumar said Siddique, 53, who is from Muzaffarnagar, appears to have been attracted towards fundamentalist Islam during his college days. “...he started practising hard-line Islam and began converting non-Muslims to Islam.”
The ATS has over the last two months arrested 10 people in connection with alleged “illegal conversion” and has booked them under Indian Penal Code’s Sections 420 (cheating and dishonesty), 120 B (criminal conspiracy) 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion) 153 B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration) 295 (injuring or defiling place of worship). They have been also slapped with charges under Uttar Pradesh’s Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act.
ATS officials have claimed that the arrested accused were involved in the conversion of over 1,000 people including specially-abled children. They have refused to provide details about those converted. “Considering the safety of people who have been converted to Islam by the accused and to maintain the sanctity of the ongoing investigation, we are not divulging the details of those converted,” said ATS chief GK Goswami.
The ATS has formed six teams to investigate the conversions. “We have managed to collect strong evidence against the accused in the conversion racket. This is proved by the fact that none of the 10 arrested accused have been able to secure bail,” said Kumar.