NRI televangelist Zakir Naik on Friday dubbed a five-year ban on his NGO Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) "communal" and an "attack on Muslims, peace, democracy and justice", and vowed to fight it tooth and nail.
In a three-page open letter issued in Mumbai, Naik said it was timed to coincide with the Centre's demonetisation 'fiasco' to prevent resistance and divert the media's attention.
Naik, 51, presently staying at an undisclosed location abroad, issued the statement in response to the Centre's five-year ban on IRF on November 15 and declaring it a terror outfit under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Declaration of the IRF as an "unlawful" outfit under Section 3 of the UAPA facilitates the government to close its offices and interests across the country.
The ban comes after the government allegedly found the Islamic preacher to be involved in utilising funds meant for his non-government organisation for radicalisation of youths, Union Home Ministry sources had said.
Naik said: "It is now proven that the decision to ban the IRF was taken months ago and it is a communal decision. Before investigations were done, even before reports submitted, the ban was already decided. The IRF was to be banned. Whether it was owing to my religion, or some other reason, it does not matter."
He said his completely lawful work of the past 25 years has been banned, "which is most unfortunate for India".
For the past few days, Naik's activities were being probed by the National Investigation Agency. Complaints have been lodged against him under the Indian Penal Code and the UAPA.
"I won't be surprised if this ban is meant to distract the media from what is going on in the country. For, public starved of cash, trade and basic amenities, one cannot expect much of resistance," Naik said.
He said it must be the most unique ban in Indian history as he was not even questioned once or given a chance to explain himself before the ban.
"No notice, no summons, no calls, and no contact ever made with me to get my side of the story. I kept offering my help in investigation but it wasn't taken," Naik claimed.
"I have no choice left but to answer them only through the legal system, and not personally. Their agenda is open and clear: Implicate me by hook or crook, which I will fight," he said.
On the UAPA, Naik said since the plan was to ban IRF and not investigate, the government invoked the draconian law.
"The law does not seem to apply to the likes of Rajeshwar Singh, Yogi Adityanath or Sadhvi Prachi, who continue to make inflammatory speeches. Rajeshwar Singh of Dharma Jagran Manch recently made a televised statement that December 31, 2021, will be the last day for Islam and Christianity in India," Naik said.
The televangalist claimed the "country's democratic fabric is under attack. People's lives are being played with and the Narendra Modi government is misusing law to scare Indian Muslims".
"The governments are misusing authority on people they're supposed to protect. This needs to change. It needs to change for the future of every one of us. I have faith in the judiciary. I still believe that truth will prevail and the Modi government will fail in its plans. I will fight this ban, come what may, with all legal options to repeal it," Naik said.