National

There will be no scarcity of space for Namaz in India if we do this

Central Waqf Council needs to be strengthened and activated

The Haryana State Waqf Board has submitted to the district administration a list of 19 Waqf properties in Gurgaon where Namaz is not offered for the reason that either the local residents object to offering Namaz there or they have even illegally encroached the Waqf property. Conversely, a couple of weeks ago the members of Sangh Parivar protested against offering Friday Namaz on unused roadsides in Gurgaon; whereafter the State Waqf Board has come forward with this plea. 


Praying on the road

Need to promote equality and fraternity

The Haryana Chief Minister has said that if some persons have objection on offering prayer on roadsides then this matter must be given a serious consideration. That is fully understandable, but the Waqf properties solely belong to Muslims, they may offer their prayers there and if someone creates trouble against offering Namaz at these properties then the Chief Minister must simultaneously take action against those who create such disturbance. The Waqf Board has also said that if, for facilitating Namaz, it is needed to carry out construction on these properties then the Board is ready even for that. 

On the other hand, the Government of Haryana has acquired two acres of land of Waqf Board in Chauma Village of Palam Vihar. The High Court has ordered the State Government to provide alternate land to the Waqf Board; that’s yet to be done. Also, Namaz is not offered in the mosques of Vazirabad, Daulatpur, Nasirabad, Dhankot, Meoka and Garhi Harsawar as the local safronites have objection thereto. Additionally, such elements have been creating hindrance in the construction of mosques on the Waqf Board land in Jharsa, Fazilpur, Naurangpur and Meoka. 

Remove encroachments from Waqf properties

The Justice Sachar Committee Report has listed those Wakf properties which are the mosques and tombs but are in the control of the Archeological Survey of India that does not allow Namaz there whereas such a ban is against the law. The purpose of giving a heritage property in the custody of ASI is that it protects and preserves the property, but the level of the ASI’s characteristic neglect is to be seen to be believed. Such Wakf properties under ASI’s control are widely encroached and these mosques and tombs are atrociously desecrated. 

Periodical joint meetings of ASI and CWC

As per the Justice Sachar  Report, the implementation of the Ancient Monuments and Archeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act, 1958 has often been at cross purposes with the Waqf Act. There are innumerable cases where a Waqf property, despite being a place of worship or otherwise deserving religious reverence, cannot be touched by the Waqf Board because it is declared as a ‘protected monument’. Given the pathetic state of large number of such Waqf properties under the control of the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), it would only be proper if their lists are annually reviewed and their condition is assessed in a joint meeting of senior officers of the ASI with the representatives of the Central Wakf Council. The minutes should be signed by both the parties, copies should be preserved by both of them as well as the ministries concerned.

The purpose of this Sachar recommendation was that those Waqf properties which the ASI cannot handle well should be given back under the control of the Waqf Board concerned. After the submission of the Sachar Report two or three such did occur during 2007-08 but no substantial discussion is reflected from the minutes and thereafter the meetings were discontinued. 

Raise the CWC Secretary’s rank to Joint Secretary to Govt of India

In this regard it is important to note that due to the non implementation of another vital recommendation of Sachar Committee the Waqf management has been suffering adversity. Para-4.1 on page-29 of the Report reads: “The Secretary of the Central Wakf Council should be an officer of the rank of at least Joint Secretary to Government of India so that meaningful and effective communication and interaction with government authorities is facilitated. In order to be effective, this officer must have a good knowledge of Wakf matters, Muslim scriptures and proficiency in Urdu.”

Here it is imperative to understand that there is a chain of Civil Services in the country and at every level more than 90% of the country’s governance is handled by these high ranking officers. If one Muslim officer of this bureaucracy is appointed as the Secretary of Wakf Council then the Central and State governments as well as district collectors will naturally hold him in high esteem, preempting inequity and dissipating impediments. Otherwise, the CWC Secretary (currently with no defined status in the Government hierarchy) does not command a level playing field vis a vis either the central and provincial ministries/departments/agencies or the district administration. 

On the other hand, according to the UP provincial law, four Principal Secretaries, Director of Cultural Affairs, Divisional Commissioner of Varanasi and District Magistrate jointly manage the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. If any of them is not Hindu s/he would be replaced by the next in command. For the Hindu religions institutions of Karnataka all the responsibility rests with a specially appointed Commissioner who, under section 3 & 7 of the provincial statute, must be an IAS officer professing Hindu faith. 

Under sections 3 & 4 of the related law of Andhra Pradesh only that person can be the Commissioner who has served as a District Collector and is Hindu. Under section of 9 & 10 of the Tamil Nadu statute the officer concerned must have served as member of higher judiciary and should be Hindu. Under section 8(c) of the law in Kerala only that Hindu can be the Commissioner of Malabar Devaswam Board whose rank is not less than a Joint Secretary in the State Government. 

Similarly, if the rank of the Secretary of the Central Waqf Council  would have been raised to be at least Joint Secretary to the Government of India, then the impugned meetings with the Archeological Survey of India would not have been discontinued and in each meeting the CWC would have had the upper hand, the minutes of those meetings would have been written at higher governmental level of the Council and the latter would have made it sure that the decisions so taken are implemented in letter and spirit.  On the same pattern the remaining Waqf work in the whole country would also be better monitored. The Minister for Minority Affairs would do well to give his kind attention in this regard. 

Appoint Working Chairman of CWC - Give him MoS rank

Besides, the Chairman of the Central Wakf Council is, ex officio, the minister himself and obviously he does not have eight hours daily to look after the CWC work. Therefore, if he appoints one senior member of the Council (as per the Sachar Committee a former high court judge is preferable) as the full time Working President of CWC and he is given MoS rank, then the Waqf management in India would get streamlined. 

Community’s Role

Simultaneously, the community would have to be proactive; it should persevere to restore the control to the Waqf Board in respect of those Waqf properties (a) whose upkeep is neglected by the ASI and (b) other umpteen properties under different kinds of encroachment. In Karnataka a selfless civil contractor has got freed dozens of hitherto encroached Waqf properties and Namaz has been re-started there.

Central Government should vacate Delhi Waqf land 

In Delhi, on 25 February 2017, the Land & Development Officer of the Union Ministry of Urban Development has allotted 2.33 acres (two plots) of Waqf land adjacent to the CGO complex to the Home Ministry for an amount of Rs 49,06,000 and handed over possession on 22 March 2017 for the construction of the offices, barracks, canteen and parking for the Central Reserve Police Force. The allotment order envisages that the CRPF will fight the ongoing civil case no. 397 of 2011 - Sri Habibur Rahman versus Union of India regarding the mosque and graves originally embedded in that plot. The allotment order also stipulates that another piece of adjoining land can be allotted to CRPF for which it will have to submit separate application. 

Thereafter, on 29 July 2017 the Delhi Waqf Board submitted a complaint to the SHO, Nizamuddin Police Station informing that the above mentioned plots of land are notified in the Delhi Government Gazette dt 31 December 1970 as Graveyard and Lal Masjid under Khasrah No. 360 and 361. It also complained that some government officers are trying to trespass the impugned Waqf property and they should be stopped. Copy of this complaint was endorsed to the Sub Divisional Magistrate, Defence Colony, Purani Gargi College Building, Lajpat Nagar IV and to the Deputy Police Commissioner, Sarita Vihar. The people of Delhi must get this land freed from illegal encroachment by the Government. 

The author is President, Zakat Foundation of India (NGO), zakatindia.org

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