Woes of Indian Muslims: Vast resources but to no avail
M Ghazali Khan
In spite of owning 600,000 acres of properties and thus being the most resourceful community, Indian Muslims are one of the poorest sections of the country, a gathering of Muslims, mainly of Indian origin, has been told at the House of Lords.
According to Dr Syed Zafar Mahmood, a senior bureaucrat and Officer on Special Duty of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s High Level Committee on Minority Affairs, the book value of these properties, calculated in the light of the figures recorded 100 - 200 years ago, is roughly Rupees 60 billion and generating an income of merely Rs 16.3 billion i.e. 2.7% annually.
Dr Mahmood was quoting these revealing figures from Sachar Commission’s report commissioned by the Indian Government to look into the causes of educational and economic backwardness of the Indian Muslims. The Commission was led by retired chief justice Mr Rajinder Sachar on which Dr Mahmood himself was a Deputed Official.
(L to R) Lord M.I. Sheikh,
Jafer Qureshi (Muslim Aid VP), Baroness K. Falkner, Lord Adam Patel, Dr Syed Mahmood
Waqf properties are the properties endowed by Muslims for charitable purposes and have a long history in the Sub-continent. During the Muslim rule in India there was no central body to look after waqf properties. In British India all endowments, Muslims and non-Muslims, were managed by provincial governments. In post-independent India the management of waqf properties was for the first time centralised by the formation of a Central Waqf Council.
At present waqf properties are managed by waqf boards at provincial levels and all of these boards come under the Central Waqf Council that acts in an apex advisory capacity. Some states even have Ministries of Auqaf headed by a Government Minister, a chairman and large teams of staff all of whom are Muslims.
Unfortunately, however, these bodies — with the exception of a very few individuals — are infested with corrupt and inapt people who are devoid of any feelings for the community they claim to represent and do not have any sense of answerability to the public, higher officials or to God. Ironically the list of encroachers, illegal occupiers and perpetrators of misappropriation of Waqf properties include the names of personalities as prominent as Ahmad Bukhari, the Imam of Jama Masjid of Delhi and organisations as well known as Jamiat-ul-Ulma-e-Hind.
The state of affairs in Indian Auqaf highlighted by the Sachar Commission might be revealing to the outside world but Indian Muslims, who might not be aware of the exact spastics, have never been unaware of the widespread corruption in the waqf boards. Although helpless and virtually leaderless, Indian Muslims have always longed for a revolutionary overhaul in the management of waqf properties.
Dr Mahmood’s recommendations are in conformity with this long desire of the community. He is recommending to the Indian Government that Chief Executives (CEs), with the knowledge of Urdu and Arabic languages and conversant with Shari’ah laws, be appointed to administer the waqf boards. According to Dr Mahmood, these CEs should either be selected from the cadres of Indian Administrative Services or through competitive exams — on the pattern of Indian Administrative Services — through a separate service to be known as Indian Auqaf Service. He said that the chairmen of some of the waqf boards were not even high school pass and were not taken seriously by anyone.
Over the years appointment of civil servants as university vice chancellors in some of the Indian universities has proved a successful experiment, as far as improvement in law and order and discipline is concerned. The appointment of CE’s in Waqf Boards will, hopefully, bring about vast improvements.
Quoting figures from the Sachar Commission’s report Dr Mahmood said that Indian Muslims lagged behind in education, business and employment, cause of which has been the discrimination practiced against them in these fields for so long. This has created a strong sense of disillusionment among them. He emphasised that in the case of Indian Muslims the old saying of English has to be changed to “You have to take the horse to water and have to make it drink as well.”
The Sachar Commission’s report has recommended several drastic measures to improve the economic and educational backwardness of Indian Muslims. Praising the initiatives of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Dr
Mahmood said, “He is sympathetic towards everyone who needs help.”
Dr Mahmood also said that pessimism was not allowed in Islam and being a Muslim he was optimistic about the future of Indian Muslims. He substantiated his optimism by quoting a number of measures Muslim community has taken during the past few years. He is not only preaching the Indian Muslims to be proactive but has himself shown its benefits by establishing several educational institutions and also a Zakat foundation of India.
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