‘Successive governments not serious about Waqf property protection’

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The office of the Telangana State Waqf Board in Hyderabad, an autonomous body that deals with Muslim endowments, is grappling with a host of issues such as encroachments, and hundreds of court cases.

The office of the Telangana State Waqf Board in Hyderabad, an autonomous body that deals with Muslim endowments, is grappling with a host of issues such as encroachments, and hundreds of court cases.
| Photo Credit: File photo

Calls to repeal the Waqf Act, 1995, have become shrill of late. Waqf properties have been subject to controversy over their status. Members of the Telangana State Waqf Board (TSWB), on one hand defend Waqf as a concept, but indicate that successive governments have remained insincere in their commitment to protect the institutions.

The Act defies Waqf as a permanent dedication of properties for purposes considered as pious and charitable under Muslim laws. This dedication has a waqif, or one who dedicates the property as waqf, and mansha-e-waqf, or object or purpose of waqf.

“The reality is that various governments have not been serious in protecting waqf properties. Waqf boards have been a place of political rehabilitation. The mutawalli (manager) of waqf institutions has more often than not been an easy target for those who criticise the management of waqf institutions,” says Syed Akbar Nizamuddin Hussaini, a member of the Telangana State Waqf Board.

Activists and board members said that more attention needs to be paid to the situation on the ground. Alluding to the rampant encroachment of waqf properties, they say that official data indicates that about 75% of these land parcels have been encroached. Removal of encroachments is tedious. To increase rents is an uphill task. Furthermore, a reconciliation of waqf and revenue records is long overdue as is the finalisation of the second waqf survey.

Observers and activists say that a narrative is being created against waqf with calls to repeal the Act made frequently on social media, and in other settings as well. “Every few days, we get to see posts on ‘X’ seeking repeal of the Waqf Act. Three days ago, the topic was trending with hundreds of posts under the waqf hashtag,” an observer, who did not wish to be identified, says, adding that a private member’s Bill to repeal the Waqf Act, 1995, was moved in the Rajya Sabha in 2022. “This is worrisome.”

Syed Bandagi Basheshah Quadri, a TSWB member, says that if the Act is repealed, the Waqf Tribunal, the first judicial body that adjudicates waqf disputes, is likely to cease to exist. “What matters is that the spirit and letter of masha-e-waqf (object of waqf) and the waqf deed should not be disturbed,” he says.

In a separate development on Friday, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) floor leader in the State Legislative Assembly, Akbaruddin Owaisi, claimed that waqf in the State was “in ruins”. He said that the TSWB has been losing cases in courts of law, leading to a loss of waqf properties.

“The TSWB has been destroyed,” he said. “I appeal to the government to protect waqf properties. Sir, on my demand, the TRS (now BRS) had agreed for a CB-CID enquiry on irregularities that have happened in the Waqf Board. I demand and request that the Chief Minister complete the CB-CID inquiry and table the report so that we get to know who are destroying waqf properties, and those who have looted waqf properties,” Mr.Owaisi had said.

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