The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has filed a First Investigation Report or FIR against controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik for allegedly “spreading enmity” among religions.
On Saturday morning, raids were conducted at 10 locations in Maharashtra linked to his banned organisation Islamic Research Foundation or IRF, which is also named in the case by the anti-terror agency.
Sources said the FIR was registered after examining Mr Naik’s speeches telecast on Peace TV, which is partly-funded by the IRF.
The NIA had registered a case against Zakir Naik and others on Friday under 10,13,18 of UAPA and section 153A of IPC. The search operations are still under way at IRF premises. The NIA is being assisted by Mumbai Police in its search operations.
In a gazette notification, the home ministry had said the IRF and its members, particularly, the founder and its president Zakir Naik, has been encouraging and aiding its followers to promote or attempt to promote, on grounds of religion, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious communities.
Mr Naik, 50, came under Indian government’s scanner after the Bangladeshi government accused him of making speeches that could have incited some of the terrorists who attacked a Dhaka cafe in July, killing 20 people.
Investigators from Bangladesh met NIA officers earlier this year but the FIR filed on Friday evening does not mention the cafe attack.
Mr Naik, who is currently in Saudi Arabia and has refused to return to India, was named in police cases earlier for allegedly inciting young men.
This week, the IRF was banned for five years and sources said the government asked law enforcement agencies to keep a close watch on the activities of all its establishments.
The organisation was earlier restricted from receiving foreign funds without explicit permission from the central government.
In an open letter to the Indian government in September, Mr Naik sought clarification on the charges levelled against him and said they were an “attack on Indian Muslims” and against “peace, democracy and justice”.
The Islamic tele-evangelist is already banned in the UK and Canada for his hate speeches against other religions. He is among 16 banned Islamic scholars in Malaysia.
Youths from Malavani in western suburbs who had left their home to join Islamic State earlier this year were also allegedly inspired by the preaching of the televangelist.
Naik is currently out of country apparently to evade arrest, sources said.