BJP desperate to create fissures in Congress-AIUDF alliance bid in Assam by going after Badruddin Ajmal

The major allegation against AIUDF leader Badruddin Ajmal’s NGO is that it received funds to the tune of Rs 60 crore-plus from a Turkey-based organisation with alleged links to Al-Qaeda

BJP desperate to create fissures in Congress-AIUDF alliance bid in Assam by going after Badruddin Ajmal

Ashis Biswas

Well ahead of the Assam Assembly elections next year, the pre-poll campaign rhetoric exchanged between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its bête noire, the pro-minority All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), is turning increasingly vicious. The situation has worsened after serious charges about the AIUDF leader, MP Badruddin Ajmal’s NGOs receiving Islamic terror funds, were made public.

The Union Home Ministry under Amit Shah has already begun a probe into the matter. Significantly Shah is the main strategist for Assam assembly polls and he visited the state only recently. Not to lose its big chance of putting its political adversary on the mat, the state BJP has called for an immediate NIA (National Investigation Agency) inquiry into the NGO’s functioning and the extent of Ajmal’s involvement.

There can be no denying that such an allegation from the National Commission for the Protection of Children’s Rights (NCPCR) is a big setback to Ajmal’s party, coming at the worst possible time. On his behalf, his son and Assam MLA Abdur Rahim Ajmal has denied the accusations against the AIUDF chief, claiming to speak for the AIUDF leader. It is a political conspiracy against the party, he says. A more detailed statement from Ajmal, who has threatened legal action against some of the accusers, is expected shortly.

State BJP leaders, as reported in Assam-based media, insist that despite such denials, Ajmal’s involvement in the matter cannot be ruled out. Foreign donations for his foundation Markazul Maarif, which runs several homes in different parts of Assam and Manipur, to conduct welfare work among poor abandoned children, are available only on the strength of his undeniable dominance in the politics of the Northeast region. Despite his functioning from a political base in India’s periphery, his stature as a leader of national importance could not have been ignored by international donors.

The major allegation against his foundation is that it received funds to the tune of Rs 60 crore-plus (according to initial, not necessarily confirmed, reports) from Turkey-based NGO, the IHH. The IHH has been suspected of having a linkage with the Islamist extremist /terrorist group Al-Qaeda. IHH officials were questioned by Turkish Government authorities regarding such links some time ago.

It is not just the IHH; in their funding and other arrangements, the NGOs were linked with other dubious organisations as well, according to open source information.

NCPCR officials conducted a probe into the workings of these NGOs in December itself, following certain complaints. They cited instances of mismanagement and irregularities in their report. Instead of around 1100 children, there were around 800 or so present. The homes received funds from the government as well, but the financial details were not readily available. There were complaints of neglect and occasional beatings given to the children. Documents relating to transactions between the NGOs and their donors were not in order. Local staff could not satisfactorily answer specific questions. The visit covered several homes maintained by the foundation.

Local NGO operatives dismissed such charges, alleging that the NCPCR personnel had barged in without prior intimation. As for the discrepancy in the number of children present physically and officially on roll, they explained that it was not unusual for parents to take their children back home occasionally. The concerned children usually returned after such visits.

Not surprisingly, vice president of Assam BJP Jayanta Malla Baruah has taken a strong line against the AIUDF. He has been quoted by the state-based media as saying that an immediate probe at the highest level was necessary in view of the historical perspective of the present situation. From generations ago, there had allegedly been a concerted effort to turn Assam into a Muslim-majority state, by means of unchecked illegal migration from East Pakistan. The matter concerned national security.

Specifically referring to Ajmal and his role in state politics, Barua said that while he (Ajmal) posed no political challenge, he remained a threat against community life in Assam. Issues relating to terror funding of welfare organisations in Assam and international involvement in the welfare of minority people were extremely sensitive, other BJP leaders said.

Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said that the charges against the NGO were very ‘damaging’, as reported by the Assam press and the allegations would be probed without delay at the appropriate level.

Clearly there is every possibility of the controversy snowballing into a major election issue in the days ahead. The AIUDF now has to conduct its own defence against very serious allegations concerning illegal activity and national security at the highest level, quite apart from the business of politically challenging a resurgent BJP in Assam.

The proposed Congress-AIUDF alliance could also be impacted negatively by the controversy. The usual allegation against the BJP is that central agencies like the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax authorities usually become more active during the ‘election season’. Their never-ending ‘investigations’ into the allegedly corrupt practices among opposition party leaders are always revived. Contrarily, there is little official activity regarding similar allegations of corrupt activities on part of ruling party leaders/ministers.

(IPA Service)

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