Excerpts from a very interesting article on looting and mismanagement of waqf properties in India :-
Under Muslim rule in India the concept of Waqf was more broadly comprehended as aligned with the spirit of charitable contributions approved by the Quran. Waqf implies the endowment of property, moveable or immovable, tangible or intangible to Allah by a Muslim, under the premise that the transfer will benefit the deprived. As a legal transaction, the Waqif (settler) appoints himself or another truthful person as Mutawalli (Manager) in an endowment deed (Waqf-namaah) to oversee the Waqf (charitable trust). As it implies a surrender of properties to Allah, a Waqf deed is unchangeable and everlasting. In harmony with the true spirit of Islam, Indian Muslim rulers bigheartedly dedicated property such as land and its revenue rights to Awqaf (plural of Waqf) created with the aim of maintaining Mosques, Madrasas, Dragahs, Khanqahs, Maqbaras, Ashoorkhanas, Qabristans (graveyards), Takiyas, Idgahs, Imambaras, Anjumans, Tombs, Orphanages (yatimkhanas) etc. Besides the charitable intent that clearly underlined these donations, for instance, land could have been Waqf(ed) for the creation of a graveyard where poor people could bury their dead. These donations to Awqaf were also done with the interest of promoting the tenets of Islam. Under Muslim rule, the presence of Islamic courts overseen by Qazis ensured that the Mutawallis discharged their duties fairly. Their mismanagement of the properties was considered breach of the trust reposed in them for which they were duly punished. Therefore keeping all religious obligations in mind the Central Waqf Council, an Indian statutory body was established in 1964 by the Government of India under Waqf Act, 1954 for the purpose of advising it on matters pertaining to working of the State Waqf Board sand proper administration of the Wakfs in the country.
Loot of waqfs
The scam involving the Waqf properties that has surfaced in Karnataka is not an isolated case. Loot of the waqf estates has been going on all across the country. The mismanagement of the properties in India reflects the Muslim community’s failure to build a clean and organized establishment that could look after the vast estate efficiently. Most Muslims in India live in phenomenally bad socioeconomic condition. Poverty, lack of education and unemployment are rampant in the community. If the Waqf properties were managed or utilized the way they are supposed to be, many of the community’s perennial problems could have been resolved without any help from outside. Sadly, those, who wield power and have been installed as leaders in the community, have turned corrupt. Most of them sitting on top of the existing institutions that control the waqf estates have been found selling away the properties piece by piece, for personal gain. It frustrates us as we find that more than 70% of India’s Waqf estates have already been sold away in the past decades by our unscrupulous Muslim leaders.
There is a complex set of reasons for this state of affairs in institutions that claim to work for the benefit of the country’s largest minority and the world’s second-largest Muslim population. Even in the case of Waqf, 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 patronize others down the pecking order.
Even common Muslims just see the Waqf placard and believe the land belongs to them. They are encouraged to believe there is some higher religious purpose to Waqf, little knowing the fact that it has become a synonym for daylight robbery. The greatest hypocrisy perhaps is that the men who violate the spirit of charity behind the concept of Waqf then pretend to be committed and dutiful believers. This resource has been mortgaged, sold and encroached upon with the connivance of the very institutions and individuals responsible for safeguarding it, turning it all into a systemic rot. The Waqf boards in most states of India are repositories of corruption, in league with local 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 mischievously take cover behind the “Islam in danger” sentiment.
Some glaring examples of suspected land deals from across the land:
Chennai: In 1997, the Tamil Nadu Waqf Board took the decision to outright sell 1,710 square feet of land in the commercialized Triplicane High street in Madras for a paltry Rs 3 lakh. A sale like this would have required the sanction of at least two-thirds of the board members.
Mumbai: The Maharashtra Waqf Board got a measly Rs 16 lakh for 4,532square metres in the upscale Altamount Road on which none other than Mukesh Ambani has built his plush 27-storey home.
Bangalore: Developed on about five acres of land, the Windsor Manor hotel here was till recently giving the board a rent of Rs 12,000 a month for a property worth not less than Rs 500 crore.
Faridabad: The Waqf board has been leasing out about five acres of land on 11-month leases for several years at a ridiculously low rent between Rs 500 and Rs 1,500 per month. A factory was built at the place and land use altered.
Kolkata: Shaw Wallace was giving a miniscule amount as rent for the palatial building at the BBD Bag business district in Kolkata until the new Mutawalli of the Prince Ghulam Mohammed Waqf Estate dragged the corporate house to the court.
Modus operandi of the scamsters
Builder or businessman identifies a Waqf property.
They approach members of the board.
The land is sold for a pittance.
Board members get their cuts.
It happens in states where outright sale is not encouraged.
Builder/ businessman approach board members.
The land is given on a ridiculously low lease.
Land use is changed to facilitate commercial exploitation.
Members pocket their cuts
Obvious allegation of malpractice against board
Although Waqf is a national reserve for use in building institutions and earn income for Muslims, it is so awfully managed that it is the only system where practically no accountability is demanded. Cases of unashamed corruption flourish. Land is sold off to make way for private buildings, hotels, malls or factories for a trifle or given out for shockingly low rents to commercial interests. The boards have become an avenue for political patronage. Muslims who cannot be accommodated in ministries are sent off here. They mostly never do anything to help the community. In most cases, they are hand-in-glove with the land mafia and encroachers. The mess in the boards also reflects the apathy of state governments. Many have not constituted boards; none have carried out a survey of Waqf properties as required by the 1995 Act.
As matter of fact WAQF is one of those areas in which accountability has not been demanded by anyone. The community itself has not demanded accountability, possibly because Muslims are ignorant about these issues. However, things tend to change once awareness builds up as it’s happening in Kerala, where Muslims are literate and demand accountability. The Waqf board is manned by professionals and headed by two advocates, not by racketeers. Even the Bureaucrats in the ministry of minority affairs in New Delhi cite the work done by Kerala Waqf board as example of good work and ask other states to emulate it.
There is no doubt that widespread misappropriation of the Waqf properties is taking place across India. Safeguarding the estates was the duty of the successive federal and state governments. But none performed their duty. The community itself is also responsible for the build-up of this Waqf mess. Muslims must understand that Waqf is a national resource that should have been tapped for use in the welfare of the “Muslim Community”.