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Waqf properties never benefited Muslims both under BJP and Congress

IndiaWaqf properties never benefited Muslims both under BJP and Congress

The Waqf properties law has always invoked controversies over the ages, with no real perks for Muslims, what will this new law now bring forth?

The Union Ministry of Urban Development has issued a notice for the takeover of 123 properties, including Delhi’s Jama Masjid, from the Waqf Board.

The Jama Masjid was initially allocated to the Waqf Board during the tenure of the Manmohan Singh government. This development follows a decision made by the ministry in February of this year, wherein they decided to assume control of the 123 properties belonging to the Waqf Board, encompassing mosques, dargahs, and graveyards, based on the recommendations of a two-member committee.

In a letter dated February 8, the Deputy Land and Development Officer informed the board of their decision to relinquish it all responsibilities associated with these 123 Waqf properties, as reported by PTI.

The Land and Development Office (L&DO) within the central ministry stated that the two-member committee, led by retired Justice S. P. Garg and tasked with addressing the issue of denotified Waqf properties, reported that no objections or representations were received from the Delhi Waqf Board.

The L&DO letter stated, “It is evident from the above facts that Delhi Waqf Board does not have any stake in the listed properties, neither have they shown any interest in the properties nor filed any objections or claims. It is, therefore, decided to absolve Delhi Waqf Board from all matters pertaining to ‘123 Waqf Properties’.”

In May, the Delhi High Court ruled that the Union government was allowed to conduct a physical inspection of the 123 properties, for which possession was being claimed by the Delhi Waqf Board.

This decision drew a strong response from Aam Aadmi Party MLA and board chairman Amanatullah Khan, who expressed that it caused widespread anxiety, fear, and resentment among the Muslim community. He reassured that they would not permit anyone to take possession of the Waqf Board’s properties.

The issue of Waqf properties not adequately benefiting Muslims in India has been a matter of concern for many years, spanning multiple political administrations, including those led by both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress. Several factors contribute to this ongoing challenge:

The Waqf Act was originally enacted by the Indian Parliament in 1954 during the tenure of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s Congress party. Subsequently, it underwent significant changes, leading to a new version of the Waqf Act in 1995, which granted expanded powers to Waqf Boards. In 2013, further amendments were made to this Act by the UPA government, which were perceived by some as providing extensive authority to Waqf Boards to claim properties without the possibility of legal challenge.

In March 2014, just before the Lok Sabha Elections, the Congress party transferred 123 prime properties in Delhi to the Delhi Waqf Board using this law. This act raised concerns among some sections of society, and then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a statement suggesting that Muslims should have the first right to the country’s resources.

The Waqf Act has been criticized for various reasons, including its potential misuse and its impact on the ownership of properties owned by Hindus and non-Muslims, such as Buddhists, Christians, Jains, and Sikhs in India.

The Act grants the Waqf Boards significant powers to claim properties in the name of Muslim charity, which has raised questions about its fairness and implications for property rights. These powers have been controversial, and some argue that they may lead to encroachments on properties owned by others.

It’s worth noting that the historical context of the Waqf Act is intertwined with events related to the partition of India and the movement of people across the India-Pakistan border. Properties left behind by those who migrated were sometimes managed by Waqf Boards.

The Act has seen amendments and expansions over the years, resulting in a large number of properties being registered with Waqf Boards. The Act allows Waqf Boards to claim land based on their “thinking” that it belongs to a Muslim, without requiring concrete proof.

Critics have pointed out the asymmetry between the Waqf Act and other laws in India. For instance, the Places of Worship Act of 1991 preserves religious places as they existed at the time of India’s independence, while the Waqf Act grants broader powers to Waqf Boards.

Congress and BJP Used This Law with No Benefits to Muslims

The existence of such a law in a secular country like India has been a topic of concern for some, especially when compared to the absence of similar laws in many Muslim-majority countries. This situation has led to debates about the balance between religious and property rights in India’s legal framework.

It’s important to note that addressing the issues related to Waqf properties requires a multi-faceted approach involving government institutions, religious authorities, civil society organizations, and the Muslim community. Effective reforms, transparency, and community involvement are key to ensuring that Waqf properties are utilized for the benefit of the intended beneficiaries, including the Muslim community.

The takeover of 123 Waqf Board assets, including Delhi’s Jama Masjid, has sparked concerns and fears about potential consequences among various sections of society. This move, initiated by the Union Ministry of Urban Development, has raised several apprehensions:

Cultural and Religious Concerns:

Jama Masjid, as one of Delhi’s most iconic landmarks, holds immense historical, cultural, and religious significance for the Muslim community. The fear is that any changes in its administration or status may disrupt its traditional role and heritage.

Community Unease:

The Muslim community is understandably anxious about the implications of this takeover. There are concerns that this move might set a precedent for similar actions elsewhere, potentially affecting other Waqf properties that serve as religious and community centers.

Legal Uncertainty:

The legal aspects of this takeover are under scrutiny. Questions have arisen regarding the legality of the action, and there are fears of protracted legal battles, which could create uncertainty and unrest.

Impact on Minority Rights:

The takeover of Waqf properties, including mosques and dargahs, is seen by some as a potential infringement on minority rights. The fear is that this might be perceived as an encroachment on religious freedoms and minority identity.

Political Implications:

Such actions can have political repercussions, with some seeing them as divisive moves that could affect communal harmony and relationships between different communities.

Historical Precedents:

Historical experiences and precedents of similar takeovers or changes in the administration of religious properties have not always been smooth. There is apprehension about how the transition will be managed and whether it will respect the sentiments and rights of all stakeholders.

Impact on Civic Engagement:

Some worry that such actions could discourage civic engagement and community participation in the management and upkeep of religious and cultural sites.

In light of these concerns, it is essential for the authorities to engage in transparent and sensitive dialogue with all stakeholders, including religious leaders and the affected communities. Addressing fears and apprehensions through open communication and a commitment to preserving cultural and religious heritage is crucial in ensuring that the takeover process proceeds smoothly and harmoniously.

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