NIA investigations into a Palwal mosque, allegedly built with funds received from the Hafiz Saeed-led Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), have found that the man who contributed the funds had travelled to Pakistan thrice and was in touch with two LeT men in Pakistan and UAE.
As reported first by The Indian Express on October 15, NIA had found that Nizamuddin resident Mohammed Salman contributed Rs 70 lakh to the building of Khulafa-e-Rashideen mosque in Palwal, Haryana. This money, according to NIA, had been allegedly received by Salman from LeT’s front NGO Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF).
The development had alerted intelligence agencies which are now probing if LeT has designs of creating influence or establishing sleeper cells by investing in religious activities in India.
“We have strong evidence to connect Salman with both the money and Pakistan-based LeT operatives. There is electronic evidence in the form of emails and chats where he is discussing about funds with Pakistani nationals connected to FIF. There are two such communications in Pakistan and Dubai. We have also found he travelled thrice to Pakistan,” an NIA officer said.
The agency, however, has not been able to establish the financial trail completely since the payments were made through hawala.
The Khulafa-e-Rashideen masjid at Uttawar village in Palwal was searched by NIA officers on October 3, days after the agency arrested three men, including the Imam of the mosque, Mohammed Salman, in Delhi in an alleged terror-funding case.
While residents of Uttawar have claimed the mosque is embroiled in a land dispute and that they were unaware of Salman’s alleged links to LeT, NIA has questioned office bearers of the mosque and scrutinised account books and documents.
Salman (52), Mohammed Salim and Sajjad Abdul Wani were arrested on September 26 for allegedly receiving terror funding from Lahore-based FIF, an NGO set up by Hafiz Saeed’s Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Lashkar’s parent organisation.
NIA investigations, sources said, have found that Salman allegedly funnelled FIF money to build the mosque. “Salman, who came in touch with LeT associated men when he was in Dubai, had been receiving funds from FIF. The organisation, we have learnt, gave him Rs 70 lakh to build a mosque in Uttawar. It even gave him money for the marriage of his daughters,” an NIA officer said.
The officer said Salman, who hails from Uttawar but has been living in Delhi since childhood, was among the largest contributors to funds raised to build the mosque. Sources said residents of the village arranged for over 10 acres and money for construction was given by Salman, among others.
The NIA alleged that this money actually came from FIF. “The village does not appear to be aware of the source of funds. They believe it has come from Salman,” said another officer. After Salman’s arrest in September, NIA said in a statement: “During investigation, it emerged that one Mohammad Salman is in regular touch with one Dubai-based Pakistani national, who in turn is connected with the Deputy Chief of Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation. The accused person has been receiving funds, being sent by FIF operators and his associates through hawala operators.”
According to the NIA, FIF is a front-end organisation of “LeT, a terror organisation proscribed under UAPA. FIF is placed on the list of terrorist organisations as per entry 33 in the First Schedule to the UAPA read with Prevention and Suppression of Terrorism (Implementation of Security Council Resolutions) Order 2016”.
In Uttawar, however, few buy the NIA version. Most believe it is a result of a court battle between the villagers and some families squatting on the mosque land. “Because we are trying to evict them, it appears someone has given this wrong information to police. Salman comes from a very reputed family. No one from his family has ever had a criminal case against them,” said Khalid Hussain. Hussain was at the mosque when it was searched and is the son of former Sarpanch Akhtar Hussain.
Salman’s cousin Yaqub (77) said, “In Islam, betraying the nation is a sin. Hafiz Saeed is a foreigner. A God-fearing man like Salman would never align with him.”