The National Investigation Agency hot on Zakir Naik's heels appears to be one of his lesser concerns — the bounties put on his head are likely to be far more worrying.
While on Tuesday, Hindustan Times reported that a Shia outfit called Hussaini Tigers had placed a bounty of Rs 15 lakh on Zakir Naik, controversial right-wing leader Sadhvi Prachi has now joined the bandwagon by placing Rs 50-lakh bounty on the preacher's head, as reported by Zee News.
Speaking to the media in Roorkee, Uttarakhand, Prachi justified her actions by labelling Naik as a 'terrorist'. Prachi also clarified her claims by saying that she has placed the bounty out of her own freewill and not as a leader of some organisation.
Prachi further urged the government to look into the various links of 'all such preachers from madrassas with terrorists', The Indian Express had reported on Thursday.
If Prachi's claims weren't enough, on Wednesday, Hussaini Tigers called Naik a 'khalnayak' (villain). Syed Kalbe Hussain Naqvi, the president of the outfit, over a Facebook post said, "He is a ‘khalnayak’. He has insulted the Prophet of Islam and whosoever kills him would be rewarded not only in life (and beyond_ — but would also get cash reward from us” (sic).
Naqvi, also the son of senior vice-president of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board and prominent cleric Syed Kalbe Sadiq further added, "Naik is a ‘kafir’ (heathen). He has insulted the Prophet and radical clerics are defending him saying he has no connection with the terrorists.”
The bounty announced by the two leaders is a criminal offence under Section 506 of the Indian Penal Code which carries a maximum of a seven-year jail term. While placing a bounty on someone is something that is not very uncommon in India, with various religious and political leaders having made such similar statements before, what is interesting is the fact that very few have been booked under the law.
Naik, a doctor-turned-pracher, had earlier also courted controversy by showing his support for Osama bin Laden. But ever since the Bangladesh attack on 1 July where 20 people died, there has been a renewed focus on Naik.
The Mumbai-based preacher had denied claims that he had inspired on of the attackers by saying that he has thousands of followers in Bangladesh.
Mean while, the minority cell of Bharatya Janata Party burnt effigies of Naik on Tuesday. Shafat Hussain, a member of the BJP's minority cell said that Naik is 'misguiding the youth' by 'misinterpreting Islam'.