The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has suspended the foreign funding licence of a prominent Kerala-based NGO linked to Sheikh Abubakr Ahmed, a prominent Sunni leader, over violations of provisions of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), 2010, an exclusive report published in the Times of India said.
EXCLUSIVE: MHA suspends foreign funding licence of Kerala NGO Markazul Ighasathil Kairiyathil Hindiyya, linked to prominent Sunni leader Sheikh Aboobacker Ahmed, over FCRA violations like misutilisation/diversion of funds & non-filing of returns; NGO recd Rs 146 cr in last 3 yrs pic.twitter.com/gxSXPkXPBD— Bharti Jain (@bhartijainTOI) September 4, 2021
The NGO—Markazul Ighasathil Kairiyathil Hindiyya—a top foreign funded organisation based out of Kozhikode, has received over Rs 146 crores in donations from abroad in the last three years. However, the home ministry found the NGO violating FCRA norms and barred it from receiving funding from any international donors without prior permission or till revocation of the suspension order.
In its suspension order dated August 27, 2021, the FCRA violations cited by the MHA comprised of inappropriate utilisation and diversion of foreign contributions by Markazul, misrepresentation of facts and its failure to submit annual FCRA returns for the year 2019-20.
A senior office-bearer of the NGO tried to underplay the suspension order it received from the MHA. The functionary said some clerical errors resulted in the suspension. He told the TOI that the group will be issuing a clarification after perusing the order.
However, a government official to whom TOI spoke said the decision to suspend Markazul’s FCRA licence was taken after following a due inquiry process, with a questionnaire sent to the NGO on 05.04.2018. The official said the reply to the questionnaire confirmed that the association had violated Section 12(4)(a)(vi), Section 18 and Section 19 of the FCRA.
Markazul, which also operates under the brand ‘Relief and Charitable Foundation of India (RCFI)’ and receives funds mostly by gulf-based charities, can challenge the suspension order, after which the Home Ministry could review the suspension or persist with permanent cancellation of its FCRA registration after a period of 180 days, which could be extended for another 180 days.
As per the report, the association received a foreign funding of Rs 50 lakhs for the purchase of a piece of land. However, on 13.01.2015, the NGO received back the amount upon cancellation of the land deal. This amount was not allocated to the foreign contribution-designated bank account, but was retained in cash in the NGO’s office. Markazul said the cash was distributed for its orphan care programme. However, enquiry and NGO records showed that they were transferred between July 2014 to December 2014, six months before receiving the amount on January 13, 2015.
“Hence the amount of Rs 50 lakh received on account of cancelled land deed is not accounted for and appears to have been diverted/misutilized,” said the MHA order, adding it was a violation of Section 12(4)(a)(vi), 18 and 19 of the FCRA, 2010.
The association is also accused of using funds procured by the group for personal requirements. It highlighted to the purchase of a vehicle in the name of an individual and not the association, stating it to be another violation of Section 12(4)(a)(vi) of FCRA. The order also said that the NGO had utilised funds received from abroad for the construction of a building on land taken on lease by the Islamic Education Board of India from the Waqf Board of India. The MHA said utilisation of foreign contribution for the creation of assets on land on which the association has no claim, as a “violation of Section 12(4)(a)(vi) of the Act”.
Besides, Markazul also did not file its annual returns for the year 2019-20, a violation of Section 18 of FCRA. According to a Markazul official, they failed to file the returns because the “online window” to file returns was closed just before they could upload the returns.
Sheikh Abubakr Ahmed alias Kanthapuram A P Aboobacker Musliyar is a prominent figure among politicians in Kerala and is referred to as ‘Grand Mufti of India’ by his followers. He is credited for establishing Markazul in 2000 and is involved in works related to fields like education, cultural restoration, disaster management, health and sanitation, etc. He is also the Chancellor of the Jamia Markaz, Chairman of the Siraj Daily and General Secretary of the All India Sunni Jamiyyathul Ulama. Markazul, which has Abubakr’s son as its general secretary, claims it has presence in 24 states and operates 233 schools.
What we found about the Kerala-based NGO whose FCRA license MHA has suspended
We accessed the FC-4 form submitted by the Markazul Ighasathil Kairiyathil Hindiyya for the fiscal year 2018-19 from the FCRA online website. We learned that the organisation received Rs 70,15,29,185.06 directly from a foreign source during the financial year.
Of the 35 listed foreign contributions, as many as 28 were from the UAE. The others were from Oman, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The UAE Red Crescent Society and the Dubai Charity Association has donated large sums of money to the group.
The previous financial year, 2017-18, the group received Rs. 33,61,18,095.60 as foreign contribution. UAE again featured prominently in the same.