The Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) on Sunday arrested three associates of Maulana Kaleem Siddiqui, who was arrested for allegedly running religious conversion syndicate across India. Those arrested by the ATS have been identified as Kunal Chaudhary, Mohammad Hafiz Idris and Mohammad Salim.
Last week, ATS arrested well-known Islamic scholar Maulana Kaleem Siddiqui from Meerut for allegedly running the "biggest conversion syndicate", a police official had said.
A local court has remanded Siddiqui in judicial custody till October 5.
Siddiqui was arrested by the ATS, which is probing the racket, at around 9 pm on Tuesday and was brought to the agency's headquarters in Lucknow after being produced in a court, Additional Director General (ADG), Law and Order, Prashant Kumar then said.
He was arrested three months after Delhi's Jamia Nagar residents Mufti Qazi Jahangir Alam Qasmi and Mohammad Umar Gautam were apprehended by the ATS on June 20. Qasmi and Gautam were running the Islamic Dawah Centre, an outfit allegedly working on ISI funding for converting deaf-mute students to Islam, according to officials.
The ATS has so far arrested 10 people from different parts of the country in connection with its probe, Kumar said. Special Judge of the NIA/ATS court YR Gupta remanded Siddiqui in judicial custody till October 5 on Wednesday.
The ATS sought the custody of the accused.
Fixing the agency's plea on September 23 (Thursday), the court summoned the accused from jail on that date.
The ATS has already forwarded a chargesheet against six of the 10 accused. The probe against four is pending.
Sub-inspector Vinod Kumar lodged the FIR in the case at the ATS police station on June 20.
Meanwhile, Samajwadi Party (SP) MP from Sambhal Shafiqur Rehman Barq said Siddiqui's arrest was "wrong".
"The BJP government has no work other than targeting and harassing Muslims," he alleged.
Giving details of the racket, the ADG said it came to light during the probe that Gautam and one of his accomplices were given Rs 57 crore by UK-based Al-Falaa Trust, but the two did not give details of the expenditure.
Siddiqui's involvement in the illegal conversion racket under the garb of running various educational, social and religious organisations was also found, the officer said.
"Foreign funding was received for this in a big way. Illegal conversion was being carried out in a planned and organised manner and many well-known institutions are involved," he said.
Kumar said it also came to the fore that Siddiqui ran the "biggest unlawful conversion syndicate" and threatened and misled people for conversion and prepared them for "Dawah" (the act of inviting or calling people to embrace Islam).
The ATS found that he also runs the Jamia Imaam Waliullah Trust, which carries out illegal religious conversions in the name of running "communal harmony" programmes, the officer said.
A resident of Muzaffarnagar, Siddiqui cleared the Pre-Medical Test (PMT) after getting his BSC degree from Meerut, but instead of pursuing MBBS, he joined Nadwatul Ulema in Lucknow, Kumar added.
Siddiqui also funded madrasas and for this, he used to get huge amounts of money from abroad by illegal means, the ADG said.
For the purpose of conversion, Siddiqui's self-written literature, which is available online as well as in print, was being given to people for free, he said.
He was propagating that only Sharia (Islamic law) could give justice to people, Kumar said.
"He used to emphasise that issues like triple talaq should be dealt under the light of Sharia," he added.
Organisations that funded Gautam's ventures also provided funds to Siddiqui's Jamia Imaam Waliullah Trust, the officer said.
The probe unearthed that an amount of Rs 1.5 crore was transferred to the trust's bank account illegally from Bahrain and evidence of funding to the tune of Rs 3 crore was also found, Kumar said.
He said six teams of the ATS are probing the case.
Earlier, a sign-language expert working in the Union Ministry of Child and Family Welfare was arrested by the ATS for his alleged complicity in the religious conversion racket, according to officials.
The deaf-mute sign-language expert was identified as Irfan Khwaja Khan, a native of Maharashtra.
The arrests made by the ATS in connection with the alleged conversion racket have also prompted the Enforcement Directorate to initiate a probe into foreign funding and money laundering.
Those arrested have been booked under the relevant sections of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2020 and the Indian Penal Code, according to officials.
(With inputs from PTI)