Property donated by pious Muslims for charitable work are being misused or sold to land sharks in Karnataka. Imran Khan investigates
MUSLIM POLITICIANS and intelligentsia worried about the failing socio-economic status of the community should look into the use of wakf land, donated by philanthropic Muslims for the benefit of the needy. Across Karnataka, wakf properties are often misused or sold by mutavalli (caretakers) with the connivance of elements in the state Wakf Board. The situation becomes more piquant in the heart of Bengaluru.
“Wakf properties worth Rs. 25,000 crore in the city are managed by a first-division clerk. In a situation like this, there are bound to be discrepancies,” says Ibrahim Adoor B, former CEO of the Karnataka Wakf Board. The Sanjay Nagar area in Bengaluru is completely on wakf land. In Hegde Nagar, 600 acres of wakf property has been encroached upon.
“Due to lack of education and awareness, many do not even know that wakf properties are for their uplift. And that the Wakf Act empowers them to intervene in affairs of the board,” says MJ Ali, general secretary of the watchdog body Karnataka Wakf Protection Joint Action Committee.
“I was personally attacked thrice by people who had vested interests. Feeling threatened by my exposé of systematic corruption, they stabbed me twice in order to silence me forever. During the third attack, my face suffered 18 fractures. However, I will continue to work for the cause.’’
According to the 2008 report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on wakf, there are around 30,000 wakf institutions in the state, which hold a total of 19,000 acres. The report mentions that 189 cases of unauthorised encroachment on wakf properties were detected. Out of this, unauthorised occupation of gazetted wakf properties by government agencies was estimated to be around 42.
The Al-Ameen Educational Society was founded in 1966 by Mumtaz Ahmad Khan to provide quality education to weaker sections of Muslim society. For this, the society obtained around 6.8 acres of wakf land on 99-year lease in a prime Bengaluru locality next to Lal Bagh gardens.
For the past 30 years, the society has been paying a rent of Rs. 208 per month ( Rs. 2,500 per annum) for the 6.8 acres of wakf land it occupies. The society has also built commercial complexes in the name of Al-Ameen Towers along the campus boundary and makes a yearly profit of around Rs. 134 crore, of which just 10 percent is remitted to the Wakf Board.
Despite enjoying the monetary benefits of this prime property, the Society has been resisting demands for giving 25 percent seats to economically backward Muslims. Not surprisingly, the matter is now in court.
Documents available with TEHELKA show that Al-Ameen’s is not an isolated case: Wakf land is regularly targeted by real estate sharks who approach either caretakers or members of the board, who in turn sell the land for a pittance, duly taking a ‘cut’.
1. HAJ HOUSE
The most poignant and startling cases relates to 4 acres 1 gunta (40 guntas make an acre) belonging to the dargah of Hazrat Yakeen Shah Wali at Gerehalli, close to the Vidhana Soudha in the heart of the city. One person quietly sold it off in 2006 without the Wakf Board even coming to know.
This happened while part of the property measuring 2 acres 15 guntas was already embroiled in a court dispute, with the dargah committee objecting to the Bangalore Development Authority allotting sites to the general public for a residential project. That was in 1986, and the court granted a stay.
One G Sudarshan and other site owners approached the Dargah Committee in 1990 for a compromise. The site owners offered an alternative site of 4 acres 1 gunta at Yelahanka Hobli in the Bengaluru North taluk. The Wakf Board and the Dargah Committee agreed to a settlement in order to avoid complications and litigation.
The owners, Amjad Ali, M Sayeed and Shaheeda Begum, registered the said land in Yelahanka in favour of Md Ismail Khan, chairman of the Dargah Committee in 1990. However, the tahsildar failed to record this in the revenue records.
A 2008 JPC report lists 189 instances of encroachment on wakf properties in Karnataka
Exploiting this situation, the owners of the land sold the property to one MR Ansar Pasha for Rs. 11.25 lakh in 1996, who in turn sold the land to K Farooq Ali in 2006, thus making it a case of both forgery and fraud.
As per law, the institution that purchased the land in 1990 is the rightful owner. Besides, it has protection under the Wakf Act. Keeping the law in mind, a subdivisional magistrate of Bengaluru North granted a stay to the Wakf Board against K Farooq Ali on 7 July 2010. The land has now been acquired by the government for Haj House. However, it is sad to note that the trust has not appointed a committee even though it in close proximity to the seat of government and the Wakf Board.
2. HOPCOMS CASE
In another instance, the 2.3-acre plot located next to Lal Bagh botanical gardens and belonging to Muslim charitable institution Dargah Ataullah Shah, popularly known as Bada Makan, was ‘sold’ to H Bhavarailal for Rs. 1 crore by the Wakf Board, whereas the market price of 90,000 sq ft plot is close to Rs. 90 crore.
In an earlier affidavit, the Wakf Board had stated that survey No. 18 is wakf land, which the state-run HOPCOMS (Horticultural Producers’ Co-operative Marketing and Processing Society) has illegally occupied. Subsequently in 2008, however, the Wakf Board filed a joint memo in the high court in which only seven members of the board (out of 12) declared that the said land does not belong to the Wakf Board. They said that the amount given by Bhavarailal was a donation to the dargah. Due to public outcry, an FIR was registered against the chairman, members of the board, certain MLAs and MLCs. They managed to get a stay order later.
3. THE GHOUSIA INDUSTRIAL AND ENGINEERING TRUST
This trust was founded by Hajee Nabi Shareef with the sole aim of forming a wakf institution out of his donated property. The trust has three acres near Dairy Circle, one of the prime localities in the city, where it runs an industrial training centre and a polytechnic for women and a huge 70-acre plot in Ramnagram district (on the highway to Mysore), yet to be notified, where it runs a college of engineering.
Documents available with TEHELKA show that the trust has not been paying 7 percent of its annual income towards wakf contribution as envisaged in section 72 of the Wakf Act, 1995. Nor does it follow other rules like submitting its budget or notifying change in management.
‘They stabbed me twice to silence me forever. However, I will continue to work for the cause’
When these lapses were brought to the institution’s notice by the District Wakf Advisory Committee, Bengaluru, on 6 July 2010, the honorary secretary of the institution Dr Mumtaz Ahmad Khan, who is also the president of the Al-Ameen Society, responded by saying that the trust mentioned in the complaint — Ghousia Technical Trust, Sunni Adugudi — is not theirs. Content with this reply, the board closed the matter on 10 November 2010, despite mounting evidence and the gazette notification declaring it a wakf property. When contacted by TEHELKA, Khan refused to comment on the matter.
4. KHAJA EDUCATION SOCIETY
This society in Gulbarga runs around 14 educational institutions in the name of popular Muslim sufi saint Khaja Banda Nawaz on gazette-notified wakf property meant for the dargah without registering as a wakf institution, thus avoiding scrutiny. The board knows about it but hesitates to take any action due to the political and religious clout enjoyed by the society’s president Janab Syed Shah Khusro Hussaini Sahab, who is also the mutavalli of the Khaja Banda Nawaz dargah.
Speaking to TEHELKA, he said the land belonged to his late father Padmashree Syed Shah Muhammad Al Hussaini Saheb. “Most of these were agricultural lands donated to the society as Inami lands by my father. The allegation that it is wakf land is totally baseless,” Khusro Hussaini added.
In another instance, 12 acres 10 guntas, which included a graveyard at Nelamangla town, in Bengaluru’s rural area, belonging to the Hazrath Mushtaq Shah Vali Dargah, a wakf institution, was sold to private players. This allegedly happened with the connivance of the former mutavalli Janab Abdul Khayyum, the then CEO of the board MA Khalid, former chairman Khalid Ahmad and several office-bearers. This happened in 1981, with the caretaker declaring himself as the cultivator of the land.
The Wakf Board got the sale set aside by the land reform appellate authority in 1989. But in 2003, Khayyum again approached the chairman of the state Wakf Board, and got the land under the Wakf Act of 1995. More litigation later, he got the land in his name on 21 May 2010.
The mutavalli then sold 3 acres 13 guntas of land to Iqbal Pasha, an NRI doctor from Koramangala, for Rs. 9.5 crore. And 14 guntas of the land has been sold to Venkatesh and Sardar Shariff for Rs. 60 lakh.
6. STATE WAKF BOARD EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION
And here’s a case that shows how deep the rot goes: the state Wakf Board itself handed over three acres of wakf land of Yelahanka’s Jamia Masjid to its employee association through a mock public auction in 2003, in which the hammer came down for a meagre Rs. 23 lakh. Since then, staffers have been selling off plots to third parties. The decision of the board has been set aside by the Karnataka State Wakf Tribunal in 2010, which asked for recovery of the wakf land.
This illegal profiteering at the cost of the poor and needy is doubly reprehensible if one thinks of the opportunity lost to uplift the Muslim community.