How Waqf Boards have been insidiously encroaching upon and occupying various properties

In India, the issue of illegal land encroachment in the name of religion is not new. A slew of instances has clearly proven how establishments such as the Central Wakf Board may be illegally taking ownership of land by labelling it as ‘Waqf’ property. The same board has been accused over and again of fraudulently obtaining lands and public spaces, and the relevance of their actions has rightly remained questionable.

The Waqf Board is presently India’s third largest landowner, trailing only the Armed Forces and Indian Railways. The Central Waqf Council of India was founded in 1964 by the Government of India under the Waqf Act of 1954.

Waqf is not prevalent in the Islamic countries of Turkey, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Tunisia, and Iraq. However, thanks to vote-bank politics in India, not only is the Waqf Board the largest urban landowner, but it also has a law to protect them legally.

Notably, by the end of the nineteenth century, a case of waqf abolition in India came to light. During the time of British rule, a dispute over a waqf property began in the Privy Council of London. Four British justices who heard the case ruled that the waqf was illegal because it was “worst and most harmful.”

The decision by the four judges was, however, not accepted in India and the Mussalman Waqf Validating Act of 1913 saved the institution of Waqf in India. Since then, no attempt has been made to curb Waqfs, and Waqf Board is now the 3rd largest land owner in India.

In fact, political vote banks dictating the institution of Waqf have only been strengthened post-independence. The Waqf Act of 1954 passed by the Nehru government provided a pathway toward the centralisation of Waqfs. Central Waqf Council of India, a statutory body was established in 1964 by the Government of India under this Waqf Act of 1954. This central body oversees the work under various state Waqf boards which were established under provisions of Section 9(1) of the Waqf Act, 1954. In fact, the Waqf Act, which is an overriding law and there are no legislative powers over it, was made even more favourable to Muslims in 1995 by the then UPA Govt.

The country today has up to 30 Waqf Boards, which have thus far infringed on many properties and temple lands, with the pattern of operation being consistent in most cases. Muslims usually first start performing namaz on these lands. Then, villages are constructed around it after declaring it a religious site. It then becomes easier to sell or lease land near these illegal settlements.

There are currently 50,000 Waqf properties in the country, covering 6,00,000 acres. These properties have earned 150 crores in revenue thus far and consistent efforts are being made to increase this.

Below we have cited 21 such instances when the Waqf Board in India has mismanaged assets, encroached, illegally disposed of and infringed on various properties in the last few years.

1. Tamil Nadu Waqf Board claims ownership of a Hindu-majority village

A shocking case of the Waqf Board encroaching on a property came to light in Tamil Nadu in September this year, where an entire village with a Hindu majority population has been declared as waqf property. Thiruchenthurai village near Trichy, Tamil Nadu has been designated as a waqf property by the Tamil Nadu Waqf Board. Thiruchenthurai is a village situated on the south bank of the Cauvery river in Tamil Nadu.

The issue was uncovered when a person named Rajagopal attempted to sell his 1 acre 2 cents of land to one Rajarajeshwari. When Rajagopal, a resident of the nearby village Mullikarupur village arrived at the Registrar’s office to get the sale of his land registered, he was surprised to learn that the land did not belong to him and instead belonged to the Waqf Board.

In fact, days after news surfaced that the Waqf Board had encroached on an entire hamlet with a Hindu majority population in Tamil Nadu, reports emerged on how this village is not the only one. Reports suggested that the Tamil Nadu Waqf board has claimed ownership of 7 such Hindu villages in the state. The villagers have additionally, alleged that the Waqf Board has also claimed that the 1500-year-old Sundareswarar Temple belongs to them.

Notably, the Waqf Board has placed posters across the villages claiming ownership of the village land.

2. Uproar over orders to hand over Gurudwara land to Waqf Board in Haryana

In July of this year, residents of Jathlana village in Haryana’s Yamunanagar district flocked to the streets to protest court rulings granting the Waqf Board possession of a Gurdwara land.

Actually, there has been a long conflict going on concerning Gurudwara’s 14-marle land in Haryana’s Jathlana village. The Waqf Board had petitioned the court in this regard and the court, in turn, assigned this land to the Waqf Board. The court directed the Gurudwara committee to vacate the land and hand it over to the Waqf Board.

As the news spread, people of the village gathered outside the Giridwara to protest against the court order.

Gurdwara Committee members Manish Batra, Jaswinder Singh, and Sardar Satwinder Singh confirmed that since 1947, the Gurdwara has stood on this site and that there has never been a mosque on the property where the Gurudwara is located, a claim made by the Waqf Board to acquire the property.

3. Surat Municipal Corporation headquarters at Muglisara had been declared waqf property

In November 2021, the Surat Municipal Corporation headquarters at Muglisara had been declared waqf property. The board had claimed that during the Mughal rule of Shah Jahan, his daughter Jahanara Begum owned Surat and her confidante Ishaqbail Yazdi alias Haqiqat Khan constructed the building back in 1644 and named it Humayun Sarai. It was reportedly donated for Haj pilgrims to rest.

4. How property in Shiv Shakti society of Mora, Surat, came in Waqf possession

In February this year, OpIndia reported how the Waqf Board had got a stay on the demolition of illegal madarsa built on Surat Municipal Corporation land because the district administration reportedly did not update records on time.

As per local media reports, in ward no 3, city survey nos 4936 and 4939 a madarsa in the name of Anwar-e-Rabbani Talim-ul-Islam is operational. For a long time, it has been disputed that it is built illegally on the land owned by Surat Municipal Corporation. Hence earlier, to demolish the same, the district administration had asked for police bandobast as well. However, owing to the dispute between the Waqf and trustees on the madarsa registered with the Waqf board, the police force was not arranged for.

5. Sunni Waqf Board claims Shah Jahan gave them the Taj Mahal, SC demands a transfer deed with his signature

In 2018, the Supreme Court asked the Sunni Waqf Board to submit papers signed by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in which they were given the rights to the Taj Mahal. The Sunni Waqf Board is pursuing a legal battle against the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) for the ownership of the iconic monument.

The SC has given a week’s time to the Sunni Waqf Board to submit the papers signed by the Emperor. Shah Jahan died in 1666, 18 years after the Taj Mahal was built.

According to reports, the Sunni Waqf Board, which is the current regulatory body of the property for religious, educational and charitable purposes had passed an order in July 2005 which decreed that the monument should be registered as their property. There is a stay in that order currently. The ASI had filed a petition in the SC challenging the order.

6. UP Sunni Waqf Board’s claim that the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir is Waqf property

The Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board’s claimed that the disputed property upon which the Gyanvyapi Masjid stands today is a Waqf property. In fact, in August 2022, when the hearing of the Gyanvapi Mosque-Shringar Gauri case resumed in Varanasi in the court of the district judge, Anjuman Intezamia Masajid (AIM), the mosque management committee, argued that the civil court didn’t have the right to hear the issue related to the mosque as it was a waqf property and could only be heard by the Waqf Board.

The Gyanvapi Mosque complex is a disputed structure built over the ruins of the desecrated old Kashi Vishwanath Temple by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb after it was desecrated multiple times by Islamic monarchs such as Qutb al-Din Aibak and Aurangzeb.

To this day, parts of this ancient temple are clearly visible on the outer walls of the mosque. Even from afar, the statues of the bull Nandi and Maa Shringaar Gauri can be seen.

The Kashi Vishwanath Temple complex, which is adjacent to the disputed mosque complex and where devotees can do puja and prayers, was built by Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore in 1780.

However, the puja at Maa Shringar Gauri Temple, on the western side of the disputed Gyanvapi Mosque was restricted. The ongoing case is related to a plea regarding the removal of this very restriction.

7. Shia Waqf board grabs Hindu Shivalay in Lucknow

In July of this year, it was revealed that a Shivalay in Lucknow had been registered as a Waqf property in collusion with the Uttar Pradesh Shia Central Waqf Board. Local Hindi media had reported how the former Mutawalli Abbas Amir and former Shia Waqf Board chairman Wasim Rizvi alias Jitendra Narayan Tyagi were the ones who got the Hindu Shivalay land registered in the name of the Shia Waqf Board.

Speaking about the illegally acquired Hindu property by the Waqf Board, advocate Mahvish stated that the Hindu pagoda is mentioned in the revenue record of 1862, whereas the Waqf Board was created in 1908. He stated that the pagoda was placed in Waqf under section 35.

8. Waqf Board stakes claim on two islands in Bet Dwarka

In December last year, Waqf Board has written an application to the Gujarat High Court staking a claim on the ownership of two islands in Bet Dwarka in Devbhoomi Dwarka. As per a report in the Gujarati daily Divya Bhaskar, the hearing of the application was heard in the court of Justice Sangeeta Vishen.

The Waqf committee in its application claimed that the ownership of two islands on Bet Dwarka island belongs to the Waqf Board. On hearing this, the Gujarat High Court expressed disproval and hit out, “Are you aware of what you are saying? How can Waqf Board claim ownership of land in Krishnanagari?’ and refused to hear the application.

Bet Dwarka or Beyt Dwarka was the residence of Shri Krishna during the time he ruled Gujarat. It is a small island off the coast of Dwarka and one needs to take about a 30-minute boat ride from Okha. The small island is inhabited by about 7,000 families of which about 6,000 families are Muslim families. Bet Dwarka is one of the holy pilgrimage sites for Hindus.

9. Waqf Board is presently India’s third largest landowner

The Central Waqf Board is a central council established in 1964 to regulate and develop Auqaf/waqf in India. In Islam, auqaf refers to assets or properties given or purchased for religious purposes. The Waqf Board was established under Article 30 of the Indian Constitution to empower Indian minorities.

Waqf basically refers to religious property. A property can be deemed waqf if it has been used for religious or charitable purposes for a long period of time. When a property is designated as Waqf, it is administered by the Waqf Board.

Waqf Board has a tremendous amount of property. It has around 4 lakh registered properties and around 6 lakh acres of land according to a joint parliamentary committee report headed by K Rehman Khan in 2009.

10. Wakf claims ownership over Aurangabad’s Jalna road property

In August 2014, the Wakf Board sent a notice to the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) claiming ownership of a disputed piece of land near Jalna road and urging it to halt the process of obtaining the land from another party for road widening. The AMC’s town planning department recommended paying another party Rs 1.8 crore to acquire the land for the construction of a development plan road.

On July 19, members of the civic standing committee also opposed the proposal, citing foul play. Mir Hidayat Ali, a Congress corporator, stated that the municipal corporation was prioritising the plan for the wrong reasons.

11. Waqf board opposes Hyderabad municipal corporation’s move to acquire mosque land, calls it Waqf property

In the year 2013, a controversy erupted after the Telangana Waqf Board opposed the Hyderabad municipal corporation’s move to acquire a portion of land belonging to the green mosque in the city’s Banjara Hill for road widening. The board contested that the land was a Waqf property, while the government had maintained that the land belonged to them.

12. Karnataka Waqf Board scam: BJP alleges 29,000 acres used ‘commercially’

Republic TV reported in 2020 how citing a 2012 report by the Karnataka Minorities Commission, BJP alleged that the Karnataka Waqf land used 29,000 acres of land for commercial purposes.

The 7000-page study, issued in 2012 by the Karnataka State Minorities Commission, documented the commercial usage of land allocated to the Karnataka Waqf board which reportedly cost Rs 2 lakh crores – through exploiting state lands.

Notably, Waqf is the permanent donation of any movable or immovable property by a Muslim to any purpose recognised by Muslim law as pious, religious, or charitable.

The report stated that the Karnataka Waqf board had been allotted 54,000 acres worth Rs 410 lakh crore with 33,741 registered properties in the state, for religious or charitable purposes, however, the former Waqf Board heads misused assets, encroached, unlawfully disposed of, mismanaged, and indulged in fraudulent actions in Gulbarga, Bangalore Urban, Bangalore Rural, Ramanagaram, and Koppal in collusion with senior Congress politicians.

“In 2006, under PM Manmohan Singh’s rule, the resources meant for the poor minorities under the Waqf Board were being looted by his own party’s politicians. This political hypocrisy has been in play for a very long time,” BJP MP Rajeev Chandrashekhar was quoted as saying.

13. 1,700 new Waqf properties discovered in Maharashtra

In 2018, the Maharashtra government conducted a survey that revealed the presence of 1,700 additional waqf properties in two districts of Pune and Parbhani alone. “The survey of auqafs in Parbhani and Pune conducted by the Settlement Commissioner and the Directorate of Land Records detected 273 new properties in Parbhani and 1,465 in Pune. When the last auqaf survey was conducted in 2002, Parbhani and Pune had a total of 1,189 and 153 properties respectively,” said a senior official from the department.

14. 17,000 Waqf properties encroached in country

According to the government, Punjab has the highest number of Waqf Board properties under encroachment, with around 17,000 such properties across the country. Encroachment on Waqf Board properties totalled 16,937 across the country, with 5,610 in Punjab. Punjab is followed by Madhya Pradesh (3240), West Bengal (3082), Tamil Nadu (1335), and Karnataka (862), according to statistics from the ministry’s 24 state Waqf Board assets.

15. Telangana Waqf Board declares 4-acre Waqf property as private

Corruption and irregularities have become rampant in the Telangana Waqf Board. A serious anomaly was discovered during a government land survey in May of this year. Waqf land measuring 4 acres and 5 guntas have been designated private property.

On May 26, 2017, a letter was issued to the Collector Malkajgiri district, signed by Chief Executive Officer Mannan Farooqui, a copy of which is accessible with Siasat. The letter declared the land under survey numbers 648, 659, and 660 to be non-Waqf.

The letter indicated that the three survey numbers do not fall under Waqf. The letter referred to the application made by Narsingh Rao, a resident of Malkajgiri. Narsingh Rao had requested a NOC in connection with the three pieces of land.

16. Andhra Pradesh Waqf Board stakes claim on 1,654.32 acres of Manikonda village

In February this year, the Supreme Court ruled the decades-old litigation regarding the Manikonda Jagir land in favour of the state government saying that ‘all the lands are held with the state government only’. The Andhra Pradesh Waqf Board had claimed the ownership of 1,654.32 acres of Manikonda village and had said that the land belonged to Dargah Hazrat Hussain Shah Wali.

The final verdict pronounced by a division bench comprising Justice Hemnath Gupta and Justice V Ramasubramanian provided much-needed relief to several public and private institutes besides individual landowners. The lands in question are situated at Manikonda Jagir Village, Gandipet Mandal of Rangareddy district and are valued at more than Rs 50,000 crore as of today, as per reports.

17. Telangana Wakf board claims Hafeezpet land as its property

Last year, the Telangana High Court resolved a dispute over the title of 140 acres of prime land in Survey No. 80 at Hafeezpet in Serilingampally, Rangareddy district, by declaring it private property. Both the Telangana government and the State Waqf Board had staked claims on the aforementioned land.

While ruling that the land belongs to private individuals, a division bench overturned the Waqf Board’s resolution and the gazette notifying the land as its property. It also set aside items in the revenue records that favoured the government.

The court had also imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on the State government and Waqf Board, payable to each of the petitioners in the Hafeezpet land issue. It also directed the authorities not to interfere in the peaceful possession of the petitioners.

18. Delhi Waqf Board files plea against the delisting of its 123 alleged properties by the Centre arguing that they belonged to the board

In March 2022, the Delhi High Court refused to provide relief to the Delhi Waqf Board, which had filed a petition against the delisting of its 123 alleged properties by the Centre.

One of the properties sought by the Islamic body is a graveyard by the name of Qabristan Qadeem that was handed over by the Union government to the border patrolling organisation, India Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).

The Delhi Waqf Board argued that the 123 properties purportedly belong to it and that the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013 has no provision to recall the order of withdrawal.

19. BJP MP accuses the Sunni Waqf Board of land grab

Last year, Upendra Rawat, the BJP’s Barabanki MP, wrote to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, supporting the demolition of a mosque in the area and accused the Sunni Waqf Board of stealing government land.

“The Waqf Board has illegally registered mosques on government land,” Rawat stated, demanding an investigation into the problem.

The Barabanki administration razed the mosque in the Ram Sanehi Ghat tehsil, saying that it was built illegally and was being dismantled due to court orders.

20. West Bengal waqf scam worth Rs 1000 Cr under CBI scanner

In 2012, the CBI launched an investigation into an alleged Rs 1000 crore West Bengal state Waqf Board fraud.

According to State Waqf Board records, the total number of registered waqf properties with the State Waqf Board is 8,160. There are 7352 public Waqf Estates and 808 Aulad Waqf Estates.

The panel discovered that nine Waqf estates changed hands between 1980 and 1985, and 117 between 1986 and 1995. 28 were sold, 47 were leased, 21 were exchanged, and 30 were handed over to promoters.

21. J&K Waqf Board stakes claim over 500 Kanals of land

Recently, OpIndia reported how a petitioner in the case against Jammu and Kashmir Waqf Board complained that the concerned deputy commissioners in the case were deliberately delaying in responding to the court notices. Petitioner Ankur Sharma in the year 2018 had challenged J&K Waqf Board’s notification claiming authority over 500 kanals of land.

According to the reports, the J&K Waqf Board issued a notification in the year 1985 in which over 500 Kanals of land were notified as Waqf property in the Poonch district. Sharma challenged the notification in 2018 and accused revenue officers of deliberately delaying the case on September 22.

Source: OpIndia

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