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Misuse of Wakf lands in India

Outlook terms wakf misuse as the biggest land scam in Indian history

Thursday, September 17, 2009 04:07:30 PM News Desk

Wakf land now a club: Tollygunge, Calcutta

(Sandipan Chatterjee, Outlook)

Wakf at a glance

The institution of Wakf in India is 800 years old. It began when Muslim rulers donated huge lands for charity. The approximate number of registered Wakf properties in India is 3,00,000. Wakf properties account for 4 lakh acres of land. According to the deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha, K. Rahman Khan, this makes the board the third-largest landholder after the railways and defence. There are 35 Wakf boards in India, many of them non-functional. Each board is having 5 minimum number of members. The number, however, varies according to the Muslim population of a state. Members are nominated by ruling parties in each state. Wakf Acts The 1954 and 1995 central laws endow huge powers with the state governments that set up and run Wakf boards in their states

(Source: Outlook)

Malegaon: A vast majority of people in the country believe that if the Wakf properties - donated by Muslim rulers and individuals across the country, are properly utilized, they can do wonders for the upliftment of the Indian Muslims. Time and again the safety of the Wakf lands is demanded from the government. Of late, when it was reported that Mukesh Ambani procured a wakf land in Mumbai by paying 'a meager contribution', the lapses in handling the wakf properties vociferously came to fore. However, the storm brewed after the incident soon calmed down and Mukesh Ambani continued building the skyscraper on the said land.


With Outlook, the popular English weekly magazine in its September 21, 2009 issue carrying a detailed report of how the wakf lands across the country are being misused, the issue is in the limelight once again. The report has even termed the mismanagement of the wakf property in India as one of the biggest  scandals in Indian history.


Claiming that there are approximately 3,00,000 registered Wakf properties in India on about four lakh acres of land, the report says, "The properties that should have been used for the welfare of the Indian Muslims, are mortgaged, sold and encroached upon with the connivance of the very institutions and individuals responsible for safeguarding it."


Questioning the functioning of the Wakf boards and highlighting the corruption within, the report says, "The Wakf boards in most states of India are repositories of corruption, in league with land sharks and builders. They continue to get away with the daylight robbery of their own community because, whenever there is any demand for scrutiny, they crudely take cover behind the “Islam in danger” sentiment."


"Those who purport to be leaders of the community are complicit in the conspiracy to rob resources while perpetuating a siege mentality. They want to capture existing institutions and sell them off piece by piece. They are adept at fanning fears and feeding into the victimhood syndrome but quite incapable of building institutions or shepherding the community towards modernity", claims the Outlook report.


Questioning the very nature of the Wakf board formation, the report quoting from a senior bureaucrat says, “The boards are ill-constituted, not constituted or politically constituted. Often, they’re nothing more than a gang of thieves.”


"Mostly, political hangers-on and operators from the minority community are sent off to man the boards. The policies of successive governments have created a class of “sarkari Musalmans” adept at capturing institutions and bagging positions through which they can patronise others down the pecking order. The incentive they have, besides authority, is to pilfer as much as they can get away with", says the report.


Rahman Khan says...

“If the Wakf properties were managed properly, many problems of Muslims such as joblessness, lack of education and resultant poverty would have been resolved."

Detailing how actually the wakf lands are misused and how a small group of “insiders” at Muslim institutions benefit from the overall laxity in the boards, the report says, "For instance, there is the case of a member of the Delhi minorities commission running a private school on a large tract of Wakf land in the expensive Nizamuddin area and paying the board a pittance of Rs 1,000 rent per month. Mohammad Arif, section officer in charge of properties in the Delhi Wakf office, admits reluctantly that there are “some schools running on Wakf land but they are not for the poor and charge fees”. Further digging reveals that, two decades ago, Delhi Wakf ran a charitable dispensary but it was shut down. Now the main service they provide is paying salaries of imams attached to masjids."


Elaborating how the efforts to mend the irregularities are thwarted, the report quoted standing counsel for Jamia Millia Islamia Atyab Siddiqui as saying, "Whenever there is an initiative from educated Muslims to preserve a legacy, build an institution or perhaps even introduce modern education, there is a run-in with the Wakf board. “We believe the Wakf does not have the instruments to preserve old mosques and we have been arguing that the ASI is better positioned to manage properties. But the problem that enlightened sections of society face is that they run up against monetary interests of a few who hide behind the guise of religion.”


Quoting K.K. Mohammad, a veteran ASI archaeologist who has worked across India and now the superintending archaeologist for the Delhi circle, the report says, “My experience shows me that whenever people claim protected monuments as living shrines, there is a commercial incentive of occupying the monument or developing the land around it. All communities have people who do this.”


Interestingly, the report claims Salman Khursheed, the Union minister for minority affairs also admitting there are lapses in managing the wakf properties. "Wakf is one of those areas in which accountability has not been demanded. The community itself has not demanded accountability possibly due to a level of ignorance", the report has quoted him as saying.


Moreover, the report has claims deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha Rahman Khan is also of the view that the wakf lands are great assets for the Indian Muslims and if used properly, they can do wonders for the community.


“If the Wakf properties were managed properly, many problems of Muslims such as joblessness, lack of education and resultant poverty would have been resolved. Today, even if we presume that 70 per cent of these properties have been encroached upon or sold off, even the remaining 30 per cent is a huge resource that can be developed", the Outlook report has quoted Rahman as saying.


Rahman Khan was chairman of the joint parliamentary committee on Wakf that submitted its report a year ago. He has recommended to the Manmohan Singh government that there be a “total change” in the constitution of the boards and a national Wakf development corporation be set up with professionals at the helm.


So, can this Outlook report that claims the misuse of the wakf properties as a "collectively the biggest land scam in India’s history", work as an eye-opener for the Congress-led UPA government which otherwise leaves no stone unturned to claim a well-wisher of the Indian Muslims?







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