New Delhi: The Rs 50 lakh donation to the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, which is headed by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, by controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik's NGO was a "bribe" to "shelter" his "anti-national" activities, the BJP has alleged.
"Why shouldn't this apprehension be expressed and raised that this heavy donation of Rs 50 lakh was a bribe given at time to shelter his (Naik) illegal and anti-national activities... Vested interest were sitting inside the UPA government to protect and shelter anti-national activity of Islamic Research Foundation," said Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad at a press conference today.
According to Home Ministry officials, which have put Mr Naik's Islamic Research Foundation under 'Prior Category list', the NGO had given donations to an allied entity of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation called Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust in 2011 which helps promote girl education and provides money to the poor for meeting hospital expenses.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi emphasised that the donation was made at a time when Mr Naik's NGO was not on any watchlist.
"That time (2011), was that organisation on any watch list? It (donation) was discovered by chance when the recent events happened... and some months ago, a remittance was made," he said.
Islamic Research Foundation spokesperson Aarif Malik said the money had been given to Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust, which was also registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act or FCRA in 2011, and it was returned in July this year after a terror attack at 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," Mr Malik said.
Organisations like Islamic Research Foundation, registered under the FCRA, are allowed to transfer money they receive from abroad to other FCRA approved bodies. Both Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust have FCRA licence.
50-year-old Zakir Naik, based in Mumbai, is currently in Saudi Arabia. A subject of multiple inquiries in India over allegedly incendiary speeches, he has said he will not return to India this year.
He has been accused by the Bangladesh government of making speeches that could have incited some of the terrorists who attacked a Dhaka cafe in July, killing 20 people. India has promised detailed investigation into Dr Naik's speeches.