On Saturday (July 3), the Enforcement Directorate (ED) conducted raids at 6 locations in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh in connection to the high profile conversion racket run by Maulana Mohammad Umar Gautam.
The agency has said that it recovered several ‘incriminating documents’ during the raid. It has revealed that the racket of mass conversions was carried on a large-scale scale across the country by Mohammed Umar Gautam and his organisations. The accused had also received crores of foreign funds to further the forced conversions.
In a statement, the central agency informed, “ED has conducted searches at 6 premises located in Delhi and UP under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. The Enforcement Directorate(ED) initiated Money Laundering investigation on the basis of FIR registered by ATS, UP on forced religious conversion under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code. In the said FIR, Mohd. Umar Gautam, his associate Mufti Qazi Jahangir Qasmi, and others were alleged for alluring people for conversion to Islam religion against financial support.”
It further added, “In this connection, today ED conducted searches at 6 premises in Delhi (3) and UP (3). The premises searched include the office of Islamic Dawah Centre (IDC), house of main accused Mohd. Umar Gautam and his associate Mufti Qazi Jahangir Qasmi, all located at Jamia Nagar in Delhi. The offices of Al Hassan Education and Welfare Foundation and Guidance Education and Welfare Society located at Lucknow and Sant Kabir Nagar respectively, have also been searched.
The Background of the UP forced conversion racket
On June 21, it was reported that the Uttar Pradesh ATS had arrested two men identified as Umar Gautam and Mufti Qazi Jehangir for their involvement in illegal religious conversions. According to police, women, and physically challenged children were their primary targets. The duo was arrested from the Jamia Nagar area in Delhi. Prashant Kumar, Uttar Pradesh ADG (Law and Order), said that the arrested were running a conversion racket that was being funded by Pakistan’s spy agency ISI.
He added, “The accused were using enticement, provocation, and deceit to convert people apart from creating distrust and promoting enmity among different communities.” Umar Gautam who is a convert himself revealed that they converted around 250-300 people every year. During the interrogation, Umar also informed that he targeted people from the economically weaker section of the society including women, children, and the disabled. Gautam confessed to having converted around 1,500 children at school for the deaf and mute in Noida after the school management was enticed with promises of employment and money.
A day later on June 22, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had instructed the agencies to invoke National Security Act (NSA) against the accused. He had also instructed to book the accused under Gangster Act. The State government had directed the authorities to start the process of confiscating the properties of those who were accused of the conversion racket. Earlier on June 2, sevadaars of Dasna Mandir, Ghaziabad, caught two men identified as Vipul Vijayvargi and Kashif on suspicion of carrying out the assassination attempt on Mahant Yati Narsinghanand.
One resident of Sector 12 in Vijaynagar, Salimmuddin, was identified as the Guru of Vipul Vijayvargi. The probe by the Uttar Pradesh ATS into the conversion racket revealed that Salimuddin had ties with accused Maulana Umar Gautam. Following the revelation, Vishwa Hindu Parishad issued a press release demanding the enactment of central law to stop illegal conversions. Mufti Qazi Jahangir Qasmi and Mohammad Umar Gautam and their organisation were booked under Sections 420, 120 B, 153A, 153B, 295, and 511 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 3/5 the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance-2020.
The duo was sent to 7-day judicial custody remand on June 23. Two old videos of Umar Gautam had also surfaced before the UP Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), in which he openly boasted about converting several people to Islam. Several Islamists took to Twitter on June 24 to defend the accused cleric and claim that proselytisation is legal under Article 25 (Right to Religion) of the Indian Constitution.
Meanwhile, several families of the victims came forward to narrate how they fell prey to the mass religious conversion racket. The father of a victim named Manu Yadav had alleged that he received a threat call on his son’s mobile number from Pakistan asking him not to cause hindrance in the conversion of his son. A lady teacher named Kalpana Singh from Nurul Huda English Medium in Fatehpur, Uttar Pradesh had revealed how Umar Gautam had visited the school she taught in with 20-25 other Maulanas in the year 2020, to brainwash them to adopt Islam.
She claimed that the clerics lured students and the staff for conversion by promising financial support. Umar Gautam and his accomplice assured them that they would pull them out of poverty if they converted to Islam. The female teacher also disclosed how Umar Gautam pressurised the school management to teach young students Urdu and Arabic in class.
On June 25, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights took cognisance of the Opindia report on Kalpna Singh. It wrote to the District Magistrate (DM) and the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Fatehpur district, saying that the statutory body had taken suo motu notice of matter under Section 13(1)(j) in the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005. Meanwhile, the ATS also found damming evidence about the penetration oof the conversion racket in a whopping 24 States.