The Wakf Board is a statutory body that was established in 1954 for the proper maintenance and use of Islamic buildings, institutions and lands in India. The word ‘Wakf’ means a permanent dedication of movable or immovable properties for religious, pious or charitable purposes as recognized by Muslim Law, given by philanthropists. The grant is known as mushrut-ul-khidmat, while a person making such dedication is known as Wakif. The number of Wakf properties and their size in terms of land is huge.
It is estimated that the Wakf Board has around 4 lakh registered properties and approximately 6 lakh acres of land. According to a joint parliamentary committee the Wakf Board has the third largest ownership of Land in the country after the Indian Railways and the defence department. This enormous amount of properties and lands in the hands of Wakf board has made it a lucrative target for the Land Mafia and real estate businesses.
According to the Wakf Act any land belonging to the Wakf board cannot be sold or their use changed for eternity but still more than 70 percent of Wakf land remains under encroachment. It seems that the Wakf board has become a highly profitable source of illegal income for some of its high ranking officials.
The many allegations of Corruption against several officials of the Wakf board suggest that the real duties of these officials have changed from maintaining of Wakf properties for the benefit of Muslim community to using their authority and power in illegally selling off Wakf lands and properties at cheap rates in return for cut offs.
Today the Wakf Board stands smeared with serious corruption allegations. There are various corruption cases against them from all over the country. Here we will go through a few of the prominent ones :
The Maharashtra Wakf Board chief executive officer (CEO) ND Pathan was caught red handed taking bribe of 30 lakhs by the Anti Corruption Bureau. He is known to have issued several non-objection certificates to builders in Mumbai illegally.
The Wakf Board of Maharashtra gave out the No Objection Certificate for the sale of the 4,532 square metres in the Altamount Road, on which Mukesh Ambani have constructed his plush home, for just 16 lakhs. Why is the Wakf Board selling their lands in the first place and even if they are selling it then why take a pittance instead of crores? The deal has been termed by many as illegal or shady.
The Citi Central Mall which stands in Central Mumbai was constructed on land bought from the Wakf Board of Maharashtra. Before Citi Central was constructed on that land, an Orphanage under the Haji Zakariya Ahmed Patel Mohammadan Orphanage & Asylum Trust used to stand there. This land was sold for just Rs 1 crore in September 2004 to Neel Kamal Realtors & Builders Pvt Ltd. The estimated value of that land in 2004 was Rs 100 Crores!
There are further allegations of financial irregularities in the leasing of a part of The Pir Baghdadi dargah in Mumbai by the Wakf Board to a hotel for a mere 70 lakhs where as the property’s value is close to 14 crores. Similarly The Crime Investigation Department has registered four separate cases of criminal breach of trust and criminal conspiracy against former Andhra Pradesh State Wakf Board chairman Syed Ghulam Afzal Biyabani alias Khusro Poasha and others for allegedly causing huge loss to the board by misusing their official positions and leasing or selling Wakf Property at very cheap rates.
These cases are in connection to the leasing of 97 acres of land endowed to Dargah Hazrath Ishaq Madani Aulia in Peddagantiada village in Visakhapatnam, the Kottala Mosque lease of wakf property in Dinnedevarapadu village of Kurnool district to Nalanda Educational Society, the leasing of wakf property in Ashiana Kattalmandi in Hyderabad to Al Mahad Libhus Al Islamic Research Centre and the leasing of 4580 sq yards of land of theMuslim graveyard land in Madinaguda, Miyapur, Ranga Reddy district to Shaik Abdul Rafi on monthly rental of Rs 5,000.
Through these deals, it is alleged, the then chairman Syed Ghulam Afzal Biyabani used his position to give away these lands at throw away prices and received huge amount of cash as cut-offs.If Andhra Pradesh Wakf Board is mired in corruption cases then Karnataka wakf board is buried in the mud of corruption.
In a report submitted by Anwar Manippady, the Chairman of the Karnataka State Minorities Commission to the to the chief minister of Karnataka, D.V. Sadananda Gowda, it is alleged that that 27,000 acres of land, valued at $39 billion, has been misappropriated or allocated illegally by the Karnataka Wakf Board. Anwar Manippady has alleged in the report that the Karnataka Wakf Board had allowed almost 50% of its land to be misappropriated by politicians and board members, in partnership with the Land mafia for a fraction of its market value. A high level committee is currently investigating this matter.
There are allegations on Rahman Khan of Karnataka Wakf Board of receiving kickbacks on a deal where the Wakf board leased a land in the heart of Bangalore worth Rs 1500 Crores to the ITC Group Windsor Manor Hotel at a monthly rent of paltry Rs 4000. Similarly Rahman Khan along with other Wakf members is also accused of helping the caretaker of the Syed Khazim dargah in misappropriating funds belonging to the shrine in the Bijapur District of Karnataka.
There are many other such corruption allegations against the members of Wakf board in other parts of the country. These corruption charges highlight the level of misconduct and double dealing that plagues this powerful religious establishment. There exists a well established trend in which corrupt practices are carried out by the members of Wakf board and that is selling or leasing away of assets and lands of the Muslim community at a cheap rate and in return, receiving huge kickbacks from the buyers. For a religious body of the Muslim minorities of the country, who are lagging behind in many developmental indexes, such mendacity cannot be tolerated.
The vast amount of land that wakf board owns can be used for Educational and developmental purposes. If properly utilised, these lands can give the wakf board immense financial resources which can be used to uplift the Muslim community in the country. For this to happen, more and more educated Muslim from the civil society has to participate in the workings of the Wakf board. Transparent policies should be implemented regarding the deals made by the high officials of the Wakf board. Moreover CEOs of the state Wakf Boards has to be properly judged for integrity and purity of intent before appointing them.
If such steps are not taken and as per the demand of our wise Azam Khan, who himself has been accused of appointing corrupt persons in Uttar Pradesh Wakf Board, the Taj Mahal is indeed transferred to the Wakf board then don’t be shocked if in the future the Taj Mahal is sold to some Hotel for a pittance.
By: Avinandan Choudhury