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Corruption at its peak in Bengal Waqf Board
By Anwaar Alam Khan

This extract of a statement made by the present chairman, Hannan Mulla (MP) of Bengal Waqf Board on July 11 is with me wherein he has admitted that ‘unless suitable amendments are made in the laws pertaining to auqaf, prevention of loot of auqaf properties is not possible. In spite of seeing and perceiving every thing, we can only be silent spectators. There should be at least some provisions in law under which waqf properties could be taken back and the sellers as well as the buyers thereof could be given suitable punishment.
Before that, when Maulana Abu Mahfoozul Kartami Maasoomi, former Imam who led Eids prayers was elected unopposed as the new chairman of Waqf Board on 29 October 1996, the famous senior journalist, Ahmad Sayeed Malihabadi had expressed his feelings in these words: ‘Maulana Maasoomi has been the professor of religious education in Calcutta madrasah who has now retired. It is hoped that under his leadership the Waqf Board will look after the interests of the auqaf in accordance with ‘Shari’at’ commands and the aims and objectives of waqf. The chairman of Waqf Board, Maulana Maasoomi has great responsibilities. He is a learned religious scholar and has also served as a teacher of religious education. He has also led Eids prayers for a long time. If something goes wrong the maximum responsibility thereof will befall on Maulana Maasoomi. May God give him success in this responsible and trying assignment’. It may be mentioned in this connection that the secretary of Trinamool Congress, Sultan Ahmad was also a member of this Board.

The performance period of the Committee or Board headed by Maulana Maasoomi also came to an end on October 9, 2001 which had begun five years ago, but even then there was no change in the overall situation. Every thing went on in the same way as had been going on in previous years.

Then, it came to be known through a notification issued on Oct. 22, 2002, by the Secretary to the Bengal government, T.K. Burman that a new Waqf Board comprising eleven (11) members has been formed for the next five years. The new Board included, in addition to Hannan Mulla, MP (Chairman), two MLAs, government prosecutor in Calcutta High Court, two representatives of ‘Mutawallis,’ Dr Nazeer Ahmad, Qari Fazlur Rahman and religious scholars. We do not know with which Muslims’ organisation Dr Nazeer Ahmad is associated. We also could not understand as to why no one from Calcutta Khilafat Committee, Muslim Institute, Islamic Orphanage, Jamaitul Ulema, Jamait-e-Islami, Muslim Majlis Mushawarat, Muslim Personal Law Board could find a place in the new Board as representatives of Muslims. The present Waqf Board is also going to complete nine months approximately but there has been no voice of protest against the serious allegations made regarding the scandals, misappropriations and usurpation of Waqf properties. It is all calm and quiet and every where a mysterious silence, a terrifying darkness and death-like silence.

Cases of corruption and scandals going on in the Waqf Board ever since 1947 invited public gaze when some Muslim organisations started making complaints in their individual or collective capacities to the concerned departments from 1995 onwards. The scandal in the Waqf Board took a serious turn on April 12, 1996 when in pursuance of an appeal or complaint filed by Mamta Banerji in the Supreme Court, its registrar forwarded the complaint to Bengal government and asked for a report based on facts. In this way waqf affairs took a political turn.

Bengal’s chief minister, Jyoti Basu in order to find out the facts about Mamta Banerjee’s complaints issued an order on Sept.1, 1995 to judicial secretary, government of Bengal, P.K. Sen Gupta asking him to look into the matter and submit a report within a month. Sen Gupta submitted his report on Dec. 20, 1995 to the state government wherein he clearly mentioned that there is no practice in the Waqf Board of maintaining any annual accounts of income and expenditure or audit of such accounts. The last order in this respect was issued in 1980-81 after which there was no audit of its accounts. He also said that at the time of sale or of giving waqf properties on lease to any one or on hire or their transfer in any way whatsoever, neither any public intimation, announcement or advertisement is given nor was ever given to any one on long term public lease. In this way, the highly precious waqf properties were sold at throw-away prices.

The famous senior journalist and intellectual, CK Irani once wrote in an article in the Statesman that ‘in the initial days Bengal’s chief minister, Jyoti Basu very much appreciated the above mentioned report but speaking in the Bengal Assembly on July 1, 1996, he rejected this report on the ground that the said report was contrary to law and since it is prepared without any proof, it does not merit even basic justice’.

Before that the same CK Irani in another article of July 4, 1996 while strongly opposing the judicial enquiry had written that ‘such enquiries can be successful and useful only when, under the given circumstances, the commission is also authorised to interact with witnesses which has not been done in the report under consideration. When Sen Gupta submitted his report there was lot of criticism by opposition parties regarding the waqf’s activities and irregularities.

In view of the ciriticism and pressure from the opposition parties, the chief minister Joyti Basu appointed on July 9, 1996, under the Commission of Inquiry Act, a Calcutta High Court judge, Justice G.R. Bhattacharya to inquire into the alleged irregularities and corruption in the Waqf Board activities. Justice Bhattacharya, after about five and a half years submitted his report, comprising 4 volumes and 1355 pages, on December 31, 2001 to the government. In this report, he cautiously mentioned the irregularities and scandals going on in the Waqf Board and put most of the responsibilities for all these on one ordinary person, Samimul Huda who had come some years ago from District Siwan of Bihar, in consequence of which he is cooling his heels in jail. What is strange and beyond comprehension is that all his other companions, while making fun of law, are roaming freely. In accordance with the scandals and irregularities identified by Justice Bhattacharya in his report and also according to the information available from other sources, the total amount involved as a result of scandals and irregularities in respect of 160 waqf properties only is worth Rs 1300 crores.

In 30 years ( between 1947 to 1977) there have been 159 cases of transfer of waqf properties. ‘Prince’ Gulam Muhammad waqf properties only are worth thousands of crores of rupees which are under government occupation in one way or the other. In a brief period of 12 years ( between 1982 to 1995) waqf properties in Calcutta only have been looted or illegally occupied which are estimated to be worth billions of rupees. If inquiries are made about the waqf properties in the whole of Bengal, particularly in Hugly, Malda, Midnapore, Murshidabad etc, their value will reach thousands of crores of rupees.

More than 32 waqf properties and extremely valuable pieces of land worth Rs 600 crores and historical buildings have been sold illegally to non-Muslim capitalists, middlemen and builders at throw-away prices.

Fourteen waqf properties and valuable assets worth Rs 400 crores and and lands measuring lakhs of sq. ft have been given on 100 years lease at throw-away prices.

Dozens of waqf properties of historical importance worth crores of rupees have been divided and sub-divided.

Historical buildings built on waqf lands have been demolished and grand buildings are being constructed there.

More than half of Bengal Waqf Board lands and properties have been lost by way of misdeeds and misappropriations by Muslims themselves.

Within a small period of 13 years only, waqf properties at approximately 160 places at Theatre Road, Jhao Talla, Park Street and Dharam Talla Street upto Alimuddin Street have been sold at extremely cheap rates or agreements have been entered into for their sale at the same rates.

Waqf lands measuring approximately 10 lakhs sq ft have been gobbled up and reduced to 32,000 sq ft only through cheating and have been distributed by the cheats among themselves.

Ownership rights for 200 khattas of land together with the residence of Tipu Sultan’s family situated at Tolley Ganj and Satish Mukherjee Road under Prince Ghulam Mohammad Trust Estate set up for the betterment and welfare of Tipu Sultan’s family have been given to the famous businessman Manpurya.

Precious lands and other properties of Auqaf have been given at extremely cheap rate to famous Marwari businessmen Seth Kishan Dhariwal, Daleep Sing, Babu Poddar, Mehta Barapatri, Sonawat and Manpuriya and middlemen and builders.

More than forty (40) stately buildings of waqf are under illegal occupation of Muslims themselves. Almost 6 khatta of land of 70/74 Shakespear Sarani were taken on 99-years lease for only Rs 2 lakh for the improvement of Muslim Girls Hostel but given to others whereas the market value of this land at that time was Rs 20 lakh per khatta. Losses worth crores of rupees were thus incurred.

Samimul Huda transferred highly precious waqf lands to his sons on monthly rents ranging from Rs 24-240. Every thing is gone now but our Milli leaders are keeping mum even now. No one knows the reasons or expediencies behind their silence. Some well wishers of the community who were shedding tears in their sympathy for the community are no longer doing so probably because springs of their tears are dried up and their fiery tongues have become dumb. No voice is audible any where nor there is any activity. There is wilderness every where. Why?

If we do not introspect ourselves and refuse to listen to the voice of our conscience, we become insensitive and culprits. In the same way communities and nations which do not learn form their past, avoid criticism and introspection of the present, do not think and plan for the future and be content with ‘whatever is there is OK’ attitude are always victims of difficulties and oppression.

There have been different thinkings and views about the history of rise and fall of nations but facts indicate that Muslims mentality today is such that without any effort and planning they want to see the forward march of time in accordance with their own liking. The conditions in which we find ourselves today are because of centuries of our inactions, life of ease, lotus eaters mentality and living in the utopian world of romantic poetry. They think that the world of imagination is their real world, little realising that the world of dream and reality are totally different. Several generations have to struggle in order to change the world of imagination into reality. (Translated from Urdu)

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