UP: After Madrasas, Yogi Govt to Survey Waqf Properties; Muslim Citizens Doubt ‘Intention’
Representational use only.Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Lucknow: Amid the ongoing surveys of unrecognised madrasas across Uttar Pradesh, the Yogi Adityanath government has ordered a survey of properties managed by Sunni and Shia Central Waqf Boards in what the government says is an attempt aimed at preventing illegal encroachment of the properties in the state. It has also cancelled a 1989 government order under which uncultivable land at several places was "illegally registered" as Waqf property.
Chief Minister Adityanath has asked all district magistrates and commissioners to scrutinise and demarcate Waqf properties in the revenue records. The directive came in response to a letter written by the state minority affairs ministry that said that several properties have been illegally occupied by Waqf boards. Sources say that the survey aims to stop “illegal possession and sale” of Waqf properties.
A letter sent to commissioners and district magistrates by Shakeel Ahmed Siddiqui, deputy secretary, UP government, reportedly states that several Waqf authorities had neglected the regulations regarding property registration as per the Waqf Act-1995 and the UP Muslim Waqf Act of 1960. In 1989, an order was also issued to properly register such properties in the revenue records.
In the letter, Siddiqui reportedly alleged there were pieces of barren land that were registered as Waqf property by “manipulating” provisions of the Uttar Pradesh Muslim Waqf Act, 1960.
In the order issued by the government, it has been said there is no provision in the Act for the registration of properties without following due process.
Siddiqui’s letter states that according to the Act, only those properties come under the category of Waqf that are donated for religious and welfare work according to Muslim law and customs.
As per the directive, the state government has said that cemetery, mosque and idgah land should be demarcated because, on the basis of the 1989 ordinance, many such lands registered as banjar (barren), usar (uncultivable), and bhita (mound) were declared as Waqf properties. Also, gram sabha and municipal councils had land that could be used for the general public but was occupied by Waqf boards, it said. However, any change in management and nature of these areas is prohibited under the 1989 order.
Meanwhile, Danish Azad Ansari, Minister of State for Minority Welfare and Waqf, termed the exercise a “normal departmental process”, saying it has nothing to do with other Waqf properties.
Waqf properties are donated to be used for religious or pious purposes, such as building mosque, cemetery, orphanage or hospital.
At the centre of the UP government's latest move is a 1989 government order, under which uncultivable land at several places was "illegally registered" as Waqf property, PTI reported quoting an official. This has been revoked by the government with immediate effect with divisional commissioners and district magistrates being asked to examine all proceedings taken under the order to “correct revenue records” accordingly.
"Waqf properties are very important and they are god's property with nobody having the right to illegally occupy it. The state government, with a noble intention, has started a survey and we have given orders to first identify the Waqf properties and then take further action," Dharam Pal Singh, minister for minority welfare, Muslim Waqf and Haj, told mediapersons.
Under Islamic law and customs, properties that are donated for religious and welfare work come under the category of Waqf, which means a charitable, religious endowment. Once donated, it is treated as “god’s property”.
There are 162,229 Waqf properties, including 1,50,000 registered with the Sunni Central Waqf Board and 12,229 with the Shia Central Waqf Board in Uttar Pradesh.
Muslims React to Order
Reacting to the recent directives, Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahali, Imam Eidgah and a senior member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) told NewsClick: "For the last many years, the Waqf Board has been demanding that all government offices or any Waqf property encroached by any organisation or allotted by the government should either be handed over to the Waqf Board or rent be paid as per market rate."
A Waqf board member, wishing anonymity, told NewsClick: "First madrasa and now Waqf Board land within a month shows the intention of the government. If an honest inquiry was to be done, then massive corruption would be unearthed in Uttar Pradesh in the past 15 years, as everybody knows how government offices and its leaders grabbed Waqf land in the state."
Doubting the government's intention, he further said: "The old Shia Waqf Board chairman faced a CBI inquiry. The Sunni Waqf Board chairman who first took over during the BSP (Bahujan Samaj Party) rule, continued during the SP (Samajwadi Party) regime, remains on his post even today. If this survey is an eyewash, then I don’t have much to offer. But if the government is serious, then it’s a welcome step.”
The move comes amid a controversy surrounding an ongoing survey of private madrasas across Uttar Pradesh. However, Darul Uloom Deoband, an Islamic seminary, organised an 'Ijlas' (conference) on September 18 were the heads of over 250 major madrasas from across the state attended the event and said it had no objection to the survey of private madrasas.
However, the seminary noted that the entire system of madrasas —Islamic religious schools— should not be disregarded just because some institutions are found to have violated rules.
The government claimed it conducted surveys of "unrecognised and private madrasas" to gather information about the number of teachers, curriculum, and basic facilities available there, among other factors.
Saleem Shah, a Muslim intellectual, told NewsClick: "I personally read all the directives issued by the government to conduct surveys of madrasas and Waqf lands and can say that this issue will be raised ahead of Lok Sabha elections, portraying Muslims as land grabbers and villains. If an honest survey is conducted, the government itself will have to vacate many offices."
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