Days after the Khulafa-e-Rashideen Masjid at Uttawar Village in Palwal was searched by NIA officers on October 3, and arresting of three men including the Imam of the Masjid, Mohammad Salman in New Delhi in an alleged terror funding case, headman of the village has come out in their support and rejected the charge framed by the National Investigation Agency.
According to ANI, the Pradhan (Headman) of Palwal village said that the mosque was built and funded by local people. “The land has been obtained legally and people from many villages have funded the construction of this mosque,” the news agency quoted Pradhan of the Village Ramesh Prajapati.
Residence of Palwal’s Uttawar village says that Khulafa-e-Rashideen Masjid in the village is not funded by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) as said by NIA. “The land is legal & people from many villages have funded construction of this mosque,”Ramesh Prajapati, Village headman #Haryana pic.twitter.com/uBno9RtSEP
— ANI (@ANI) October 15, 2018
According to a report published in Indian Express, NIA investigations, sources said, have found that Salman allegedly funnelled Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) money to build the mosque in Palwal. “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. We are now probing from where the mosque has been receiving its donations and how this money is being used,” Indina Express had quoted an NIA officer in its report.
According to the National Investigation Agency, FIF is a front-end organisation of “the 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 the village of Uttawar, however, few buy the NIA story. 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 the police. No one in the village can believe such a thing. Salman comes from a very reputed family in the village. No one from his family has ever had a criminal case against them,” said Khalid Hussain. Hussain was present at the mosque when it was searched and is the son of former Uttawar Sarpanch, Akhtar Hussain.
Salman’s cousin Yaqub (77) also vouches for his innocence. “In Islam, betraying the nation is a sin. Hafiz Saeed is a foreigner. A God-fearing man like Salman would never align with him,” he said.
The current Imam of the mosque, Mohammed Jamshed, shows a ledger book which has entries of daily expenses. “All you will find here is an account of onions, garlic and tomatoes. Our records are absolutely clean. We do not investigate the source of contributions. This mosque has been built with contributions from a lot of people. We do not know where Salman got his money from. But I am not ready to believe he would put dirty money here. If at all it is dirty money, I doubt if he knew that himself,” said Jamshed.
According to Uttawar residents, Salman’s late father, Maulvi Dawood, is well-regarded among Muslims in the Mewat region. He migrated to Delhi more than 50 years ago and was an Imam of a significant mosque in Nizamuddin till his death. For Uttawar, he was an authority on Islam and had the final say in all disputes in the village.
He had imparted the same knowledge to his oldest son Salman. “That is why when in 2009 the village earmarked 10 acres for the mosque and the work began the next year, Salman was not only made the in-charge of mosque construction and fund collection, but also its Imam. There was no one else in the village better suited for this because of his pedigree,” said Mohammed Saad, who runs the mosque Madarsa.
For the past eight years, according to villagers, Salman visited Uttawar regularly where he stayed in a small, spartan room near the mosque to oversee its construction. The mosque is still under construction and villagers are waiting for more money to complete it.