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Movement to save UP auqaf

Direct action: Maulana Kalbe Jawwad inspecting Husainabad Trust papers.

Rampant misappropriation of property and corruption in management of auqaf (Muslim trusts) properties in UP is not a new phenomenon. Unscrupulous mutawallis (trustees) have been misusing the auqaf properties since long. 

Properties worth billions of rupees have been disposed of on throw-away prices with connivance of the administration. Not only the mutawallis have been selling this precious land but even governments do not lag behind in illegally occupying auqaf properties and using it according to their own will without bothering to follow the law of the land. According to a rough estimate, there are about 1,28,000 Sunni and about 9,000 Shia auqaf in UP. 

In Lucknow, the Shia auqaf properties are higher in number, their value running in billions of rupees, perhaps due to Lucknow's Shia nawabs' munificence. Many government buildings, including the Raj Bhawan (it was Kothi Farhatbakhsh), are actually waqf properties. The multi-storey Jawahar Bhawan, Indira Bhawan, Akashdeep, district magistrate's residence and other buildings housing various government offices were constructed on waqf land. 

There is a continuous tussle going on between Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) and Shia/Sunni Waqf Board as Lucknow Development Authority is hell bent upon occupying prime auqaf land under every possible excuse. 

Unscrupulous mutawallis have sold prime auqaf land or ignoring the will of the waqif (donors) and have constructed commercial complexes and shops ostensibly to increase the trusts' income. Nominal rent and high pagri ("goodwill payment") is the way of business here. The pagri running in lakhs of rupees goes into the pockets of mutawallis whereas the meagre rent goes into the account of the trust. 

The Waqf Boards were constituted to protect and develop the auqaf and to fulfil the will of the waqifs, but over the decades it has become a sick department. Now both Shia and Sunni Waqf Boards are not in a position to even pay the salary of their employees. Sunni Waqf Board employees have not got their salaries for the last eleven months whereas Shia Waqf Board is running eight months behind schedule. Corruption has always been high in both the boards. 

Instead of protecting and developing the auqaf properties, the boards have masterminded the sale of and encroachment upon prime auqaf land with the connivance of mutawallis. It was because of the rampant corruption in the running of these trusts that Azam Khan as Waqf minister advised mutawallis not to pay the obligatory six percent to the board, resulting in the financial crisis and delayed salary payments. However, it has in no way benefited the community as the remaining six percent too went into the pockets of these mutawallis. It only increased the burden on state exchequer as many a times government was compelled to pay the salary of employees.

When Veer Bahadur Singh was chief minister, Waqf Development Corporation was created to provide financial help on reasonable interest rates to develop the auqaf land thus to increase their income. Kalyan Singh took the bold step of freeing auqaf land from rent control. These measures, however, failed to pull the boards out of the financial mess.

The Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawwad has decided to start a movement to protect the auqaf land in Lucknow and other parts of the state. On the other hand, Maulana Kalbe Sadiq filed a petition in Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court requesting a CBI enquiry into the management of auqaf properties. The court has issued notice to UP government. 

Maulana Jawwad made an appeal to the community to come forward for this noble cause and arranged a meeting at Dargah Hazrat Abbas in old Lucknow. His appeal got an overwhelming response and thousand of Shia youths, including women, came out in his support. Last year, he gave a memorandum to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on a 600-meter long cloth signed by more than one and a half lakh people requesting the prime minister to order a high- level enquiry into waqf affairs and release the auqaf land forcibly occupied by government. 

During the recent visit of Prime Minister to his constituency, Lucknow, Maulana Jawwad led a demonstration and was arrested with his uncle and Vice President of All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Maulana Kalbe Sadiq. Thousands of youth had come on the road demanding reform in auqaf management.

Maulana Kalbe Jawwad did not stop there and launched direct action. He started inspection and physical verification of the auqaf properties under Husainabad and Allied Trust. The historical nawabi buildings of Lucknow like Asifi (Bara) Imambara, Chhota Imambara and Shahnajaf are under this trust, which is separate from Shia Waqf Board. The district magistrate of Lucknow is its ex-officio chairman, whereas the day-to-day work, including performance of religious rituals is under the control of a secretary. Property worth millions of rupees under this trust has been occupied by various government departments, the biggest among them being Lucknow Development Authority (LDA).

Maulana Kalbe Jawwad has invited the wrath of the minister for housing and urban development, Lalji Tandon, who is an old RSS member. 

The physical verification process initiated by Maulana Kalbe Jawwad has inspired the Shia youth and they have started removing encroachment on auqaf land. This has unnerved the administration in general, and Lalji Tandon in particular, and a case under different criminal sections was registered against Maulana Khadim Husain and 14 others for checking and verification of Chhota Imambara documents. The Lucknow police deliberately avoided naming Maulana Jawwad, possibly to avoid popular resentment.

In the meantime, a delegation led by Maulana Kalbe Jawwad called on secretary minorities welfare Haj and auqaf, SP Singh, and gave him a memorandum. Mr. Singh assured the delegation that he would look into the complaints and try that the government paid the rent of all auqaf properties under its use. He was amazed to hear that the district magistrate of Lucknow was paying only one rupee per month as rent for his sprawling bungalow. He said that he would recommend reasonable increase in the rent. In specific cases of embezzlement in auqaf, the matter could be referred to the CBI for investigations.

Though no such movement has been started to protect the Sunni auqaf spread all over the state, the Sunni Youth Federation has appealed to the Sunni ulama to come forward to start such a movement. Unfortunately, Sunni ulama have yet not responded to the appeal of Sunni Youth Federation or to the offer of Maulana Kalbe Jawwad, who has offered help in this regard. 

Obaid Nasir, Lucknow

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