The Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) has arrested a cleric from Meerut for allegedly running a 'biggest conversion syndicate', a senior police official said in Lucknow on Wednesday.
Maulana Kaleem Siddiqui was arrested by the ATS, which is probing the racket, at around 9 pm on Tuesday from Meerut, Additional Director General (ADG), Law and Order, Prashant Kumar said.
He was brought to the ATS headquarters in Lucknow after being produced in a court, Kumar said.
Following the arrest of Delhi's Jamia Nagar residents Mufti Qazi Jahangir Alam Qasmi and Mohammad Umar Gautam, who ran Islamic Dawah Center, an outfit allegedly working on the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) funding for converting deaf-mute students to Islam, on June 20, the ATS is probing the conversion racket and has so far arrested 10 people besides Siddiqui, the official said.
He said it came to light during the probe that Gautam and his accomplice were funded Rs 57 crore by Britain-based Al-Falaa Trust but the two did not give details of its expenditure.
It was also found that Siddiqui is involved in the illegal conversion racket under the garb running various educational, social and religious organisations, Kumar said.
'Foreign funding was done for this (conversion) in a big way and the illegal conversion was being carried out in a planned and organised way and many well-known and institutions are involved in it,' the ADG said.
He said it also came to the fore that Siddiqui ran a 'biggest 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 Jamia Imaam Waliullah Trust, which is carrying out illegal religious conversion in the name of running 'communal harmony' programmes, Kumar said.
Siddiqui is a resident of Muzaffarnagar. After doing a BSc from Meerut, he cleared Pre Medical Test (PMT) but instead of pursuing MBBS he joined Nadwatul Ulema in Lucknow, he said.
Siddiqui also funded madrasas and for this, he used to get huge money from abroad by illegal means, the ADG said.
For conversion, Siddiqui's self-written literature, which is available online as well as in print, was being given free of cost to people, he said.
'He was trying to ensure that people believe that only shariyat arrangement could give justice to them. He used to emphasise that issues like Triple Talaq should be dealt under the light of shariyat,' the official said.
Organisations that funded Gautam's ventures also gave funds to the Siddiqui's Trust, he said.
The probe till now suggested that Rs 1.5 crore was transferred into the Trust account illegally from Bahrain and evidence of Rs 3 crore funding was found, Kumar said.
He said six teams of the ATS are probing the case.
A sign language expert working in the Union Ministry of Child and Family Welfare is among those 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 a Maharashtra native Irfan Khwaja Khan.
The UP ATS arrests in the alleged conversion racket has also prompted the Enforcement Directorate to initiate a probe to investigate foreign funding and money laundering.
Those arrested have been booked under relevant sections of the Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2020 and the Indian Penal Code, as per the officials.