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Putting heads together to protect Waqfs

Muslim religious leaders, academics and politicians gathered at a three-day (October 25-27) conference on Waqfs of Rajasthan, at Jaipur unanimously underlined the need for institutional development of Waqf properties. According to them, it would help to ensure their productive utilisaton for welfare of Muslims.

The conference was organised jointly by the state unit of All India Milli Council and the Institute of Objective Studies, New Delhi. Participants from 30 districts of Rajasthan and all over India discussed the laws relating to Waqf, history of Waqf endowments in the state, Waqf management and new surveys, protection of Waqf assets, and strategies for their development in future.

At the end of the conference, they passed a 16-point resolution calling for establishment of a Waqf Development Corporation in the state and government support to the plan for social, economic and educational development of Muslims through Waqf earnings.

Delivering the valedictory address, Justice Sagheer Ahmed, chairperson of the Rajasthan State Human Rights Commission said, "a direct link between Waqf and Article 30 of the Constitution, providing rights to minorities to establish and administer educational institutions, could be established if the latter were set up as Waqf."

He opined that Waqf properties could be utilised to open medical and engineering colleges and the minority status of such institutions could not be challenged.

Senior Congress leader Ahmad Patel said that the strengthening of Waqf institutions and streamlining of their assets was in the national interest as they could render significant services to the largest minority community in the country. He added that the restoration of its properties could solve the socio-economic problems confronting Muslims.

According to Islamic law, a Waqf endowment is made for a pious purpose and the title of property endowed vests in God. No individual has the right to sell or gift these properties to others.

In Rajasthan, the estimated number of Waqf properties is 25,000, of which 18,000 are registered with the State Waqf Board. A large number of Waqf properties worth crores of rupees are situated at prime locations in cities and towns, but are either under unauthorised occupation or being misused, and their benefits are not reaching the intended beneficiaries.

Participants included economist AM Khusro, lawyers Mohammad Yusuf Muchala and Mushtaq Ahmad, general secretary, All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Maulana Nizamuddin, Patna High Court’s Justice Aftab Alam, anthropologist AR Momin, former governor of Bihar and West Bengal, AR Kidwai, Prof. ZM Nizami, Prof. Ishtiaque and Prof. ZM Khan of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.

Among men with considerable administrative experience regarding Waqf administration were Manzoor Ahmad, a retired IPS officer and former V-C of Agra’s Ambedkar University, who was once the administrator of Punjab and Haryana Waqf Board, and Siraj Hussain IAS, V-C Jamia Hamdard, and formerly associated with Waqf administration. These men provided the administrative perspective to complement the legal inputs from Justice Sagheer Ahmed, Justice Aftab and others from the legal profession.

In his keynote address, Dr Manzoor Alam, chairman IOS, provided a well-knit framework for the participants of the conference to discuss over the three days of intensive sessions. The conference was inaugurated by Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, who has been sensitised to the needs and difficulties of Waqfs in Rajasthan. Gehlot has also initiated a fresh survey, along with to video film the state’s Waqf properties for their better protection. His government has also helped the Waqf Board in effectively protecting Waqf properties by fencing with government help.

Considerable stress was laid on involvement of NGOs in development of Waqfs. Guest speaker Sheikh Mohsin Al-Usman, who is the director of Waqf section of Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Jeddah, said the bank was soon to start a $ 10 million fund for Waqf development. Waqf administrations working with NGOs could get loans from it for development. Others, including Member of Parliament K. Rahman Khan, were of the opinion that institutional loans could be obtained for development of Waqf properties. Khan is a member of a joint parliamentary committee and a chartered accountant by profession. He has made substantial contribution to the development of Waqfs in Karnataka.

¯ Jeelani Khan

Auqaf - between friends and foes, p. 23

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