International Seminar on ‘Awqaf in India’ calls upon government to hold fresh survey of waqf properties involving Muslim organizations
By Abdul Bari Masoud, MM News,
Bangalore: An international seminar on “Awqaf in India” has called upon the Central and state governments to hold a fresh survey of waqf properties by involving reputed Muslim organizations and institutions. The two day seminar, organized by Islamic Fiqh Academy (IFA) of India in collaboration with the Jeddah-based Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI) of IDB and the Kuwait Public Awqaf Foundation here, also called upon the community to launch a nationwide movement for retrieving those waqf properties which are under illegal occupation of government and private institutions.
Inaugurating the seminar at the Darul Uloom Sabeel-ur-Rashad (Arabic College) here, Minister of Minority Affairs K Rahman Khan said onus of recovering lost waqf properties is on every Indian Muslim. He made it clear that most of the properties are encroached upon by Muslims themselves as the properties encroached upon by the state agencies are by and large, the ones where there is a legal dispute. While stressing upon the need to preserve and develop the huge awqaf assets in the country, he urged the community to be vigilant against its own unscrupulous members. “A disguised form of encroachment that is quite common is the case of leasing out waqf assets at grossly below-market rates to members of the community. This is often tolerated on the basis of a false argument that the asset after all is serving the interests of the community members”.
On the development of waqf properties, he asked scholars to show direction on the sensitive issue of developing vast tracts of unused land that are categorized as burial grounds as if these are not developed, these may be lost. He informed the audience that newly constituted NAWADCO is the first corporation of its kind that would function in a Shariah-compliant manner.
In his key note address, Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rehmani, Secretary General of Academy traced the history of waqf institution. He said Academy has given due importance to waqf issue as its 10th Fiqhi Seminar in 2001 was to deliberate upon Shariah rulings pertaining to awqaf in the context of India.
Representative of IDB Group, Dr Mohammed Obaidullah has highlighted IDB’s various initiatives taken in the awqaf sector, such as, research and documentation, training and capacity building (development of training resources), organization of seminars and conferences etc. He specifically highlighted the activities of the Awqaf Properties Investment Fund (APIF), which has IDB as the mudarib of the Fund. With a paid-up capital of about 76.4 million dollar, it has so far developed properties worth Rs 6200 crores in 58 projects across the 30 countries. Dr Obaidullah said that NAWADCO would also be able to undertake waqf development on a similar scale, benefitting from lessons learnt from the APIF experience. He expressed hope that the partnership between IRTI and IFA would continue to produce many seminars and workshops in future that would provide intellectual guidance and show direction to policy makers for development of the awqaf sector in India.
After due deliberation by a number of Awqaf officials, lawyers, ulema, social activists and intellectuals on the issues of illegal occupation, encroachment, protection and development of awqaf and use of their income and resources for the benefit of Muslim community, the Seminar unanimously adopted a number resolutions and recommendations. It asked for setting up a committee consisting of experts of waqf affairs, lawyers, and ulema at district-level for protecting waqf. A movement should be initiated for removal of encroachment and illegal occupation of all such waqf properties including mosques, maqaabir (mausoleums), Khanqahs, chilla khanas, Inam lands, etc which are in the possession of the government or private entities. Their possession should be restored to the concerned Waqf Board.All such mosques and graveyards, which are in possession of Archeological Survey of India, should be identified and surveyed. A comprehensive list of such waqf properties should be prepared and concerted efforts should be made to have permission for offering prayers in such mosques and burial of dead in such graveyards so that wishes of the waqif may be fulfilled. Fiqh Academy made appeal to all Muslim organizations to make organized and planned efforts for emancipation of all mosques under illegitimate occupation as they have been in case of Babri Masjid. It also asked all state waqf boards to compile full information about the waqf properties whose disputes are pending before various courts of law, including waqf tribunals, and secure documents pertaining to these properties and diligently pursue these litigations. The seminar appealed to the National Waqf Development Corporation to select and appoint experts of planning, law and social sciences for preparation of plans for development of waqf properties by so as to increase their income and to make them more beneficial. It urged Muslim organizations and charitable institutions to prepare literature like booklets, leaflets, etc., for promotion of awareness about importance of waqf, both religious and social, their present situation.
The seminar recommended that waqf Protection Committees, consisting of conscientious members of local Muslim community, should be formed in every city of country to keep a watch over the affairs of awqaf so that waqf properties are protected.
While welcoming the enactment of Waqf Amendment Act, 2013 by the central government and the seminar expressed the hope that coming government shall continue the commitment shown by its predecessor government on issues of waqf and shall further strengthen and get the currently pending bill on eviction of illegal occupants of waqf properties passed expeditiously. The seminar felt that Muslim community should become proactive and use all legal methods to ensure transparency and accountability of mutawallis and waqf boards.
Justice Abdus Sattar Qureshi (former Judge, Gujarat High Court), Saleem Beg (former Director General, Tourism and Culture, Jammu and Kashmir), Dr M R Haque (former Secretary, Central Waqf Council), Dr Shakeel Ahmad Samdani (Deptt of Law, Aligarh Muslim University), advocate Salar M Khan, Advocate Zafaryab Jilani, Dr Ghirtirf Shahbaz Nadvi, Mufti Mohammad Ashraf Ali Baqvi and others also spoke in the seminar.