The fight for the control over the Uttar Pradesh Shia Waqf Board, the custodian of real estate worth thousands of crores, is snowballing into a no-holds-barred battle between Shia and Sunni leaders. While Shias are rallying behind Twelver cleric Maulana Syed Kalbe Jawad Naqvi, Sunnis have extended their support to Samajwadi Party’s prominent Sunni leader and Minority Affairs Minister Mohammad Azam Khan.
The battle reached a flashpoint during the holy month of Ramzan as Jawad organised a protest march against Khan in Lucknow, which resulted in a police lathicharge and led to the death of one person. The intervention by SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, who ordered the state government to postpone the Shia Waqf Board election, helped somewhat defuse the tense situation.
However, tension continues to simmer as there is no let-up in the verbal duel between Jawad and Khan. Mulayam’s intervention has created yet another set of problems for Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav as the postponement has miffed Khan, who is in a sulking mode.
To press for his demand for Khan’s dismissal from the Cabinet and against the election, Jawad had given a call for a protest in Lucknow on 23 August. However, the state government persuaded him to postpone the event, which has now been deferred to 6 September. Apart from the waqf board election and Khan, the ‘Shia maha rally’ will focus on international issues such as the plight of Palestinians in Gaza and the killing of Shias in Iraq.
The split within the Shia ranks has added bitterness to the already acrimonious battle. Former Shia Waqf Board chairman Wasim Rizvi, once a crony of Jawad, has joined Khan’s camp, providing him the necessary ammunition and insider information about the cleric.
Jawad, who is the Imam-e- Juma (leader of Friday prayers) at Lucknow’s landmark Shahi Asafi Masjid, and also a Mujtahid, is spearheading the battle for the postponement of the election until the inquiry into the alleged irregularities in the board committed during Rizvi’s tenure is completed and he is brought to justice.
Jawad is also demanding a fresh survey of waqf properties across Uttar Pradesh as per the provisions of the Waqf (Amendment) Act, 2013, and the inclusion of those properties in the records of the Shia Waqf Board.
Khan is leaving no stone unturned, seeking early polls to the waqf board and is also said to be aiming for the Shia Central Waqf Board. But Jawad is no easy target: Thanks to his involvement in the waqf movement, or Tehreek-e-Awqaf, his influence can hardly be discounted.
Both Khan and Jawad have freely used invectives against each other in a war of words fought in the media. Khan has termed Jawad as a “kalank” (slur) to the Shia community and a “BJP stooge”, while the latter has called Khan a “Taliban agent who set up a private university with funds from Afghan terror organisations”.
“As the mutawalli (caretaker) of many waqf properties in Lucknow, Jawad has sold land worth several hundred crores,” says Khan. “Handcuffs are awaiting him.”
The stakes are high as the Shia Waqf Board is the custodian of vast real estate across the state, including mosques, graveyards, dargahs, agriculture and commercial land as well as residential buildings.
Once upon a time, Lucknow was the capital of Awadh, which was ruled by Shias. The rulers were subedars of the Mughal emperor until the death of Aurangzeb in 1710, after which they were declared to be sovereign kings. The kingdom had vast waqf properties worth thousands of crores spread in Lucknow and neighbouring districts. The British annexed Awadh in 1857 and the last Awadh king, Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, was exiled to Matia Burj in Kolkata.
Following Jawad’s campaign, Rizvi was forced to resign as the chairman of the Shia Waqf Board, which was dissolved on 31 August 2012. Akhilesh had also ordered for an inquiry by the Crime Branch of the CID into the alleged financial irregularities committed in the board.
The CB-CID has lodged six FIRs against Rizvi — three in Saharanpur, two in Agra and one in Kanpur. In five of these cases, he has been accused of taking money for appointing mutwallis for various waqf properties and one pertains to the sale of waqf land in Saharanpur. However, no chargesheet has been filed against Rizvi so far.
Meanwhile, Rizvi has rubbished all the charges against him. “Maulana Jawad and his supporters are gunning for me as I had dared to issue a notice to him for selling graves at the Imambara Gufranmaab at exorbitant rates; for the illegal construction of a hospital on the Imambara land, operation of a workshop inside Imambara Zainul Abideen and plotting on waqf land in Alamnagar without seeking the prior approval of the Shia Waqf Board,” he says. “Imambara Guframaab is a holy place for Shias as Imam Guframaab was an Ayatollah. During my tenure in the waqf board, I detected irregularities committed by Maulana Jawad in several waqf properties in Lucknow.”
Demanding a through investigation into the charges of irregularities, Rizvi says, “Let there be a high-level probe by some agency of the Central government against me and Maulana Jawad, so that the truth comes out.” Rizvi claims that all the FIRs against him were lodged as the state government succumbed to the pressure mounted by Maulana Jawad, but the CB-CID has not been able to file a chargesheet because it could not find any evidence.
Rizvi also alleges that under the cover of election, Maulana Jawad has created the turmoil only to save his skin and that of his brother-in-law. “The land deal in Saharanpur took place in February 2011 during the tenure of his brother-in-law Kamaluddin Akbar, who was the acting chairman. I succeeded him in July 2011 and ordered a probe into the land deal in August 2011.”
Jawad’s detractors allege that the cleric’s sole aim is to get the waqf board election postponed until the Assembly polls scheduled for March 2017. They allege that the maulana is confident that the BJP will be voted to power and will ensure his control over the waqf board. They add that Lucknow MP and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has assured the maulana of all possible help.
The Shia Waqf Board has 11 elected members, including two Shia MPs, two Shia MLAs, two members of the Bar Council or senior advocates, two mutwallis, one Shia scholar, one member from an NGO/trust and one government official of the Shia community. The state government nominates five of the 11 members.
Mutawallis of only those waqf properties that have an annual income of more than Rs 1 lakh and also contribute 7 percent of their total income to the Shia Waqf Board are eligible to vote in the election.
According to Shia Waqf Board chief executive officer Nazmul Hasan, there are 7,388 waqf properties in Uttar Pradesh, of which 588 are located in the state capital.
Jawad claims that there are more than 500 waqf properties with an annual income of Rs 1 lakh that are not registered with the Shia Waqf Board. He says that a fresh survey of the properties must be conducted and the election can be held only after these are registered and the names of the mutawallis are added to the voter list.
But Rizvi counters Jawad’s claims. “Let the maulana name five such waqf properties with an annual income of Rs 1 lakh that are not registered with the waqf board,” he says. “If his claim has any substance, then what prevents the mutawallis of 500 such waqf properties from coming forward and registering those properties with the waqf board? What is the locus standi of Jawad in this case?
“The noise over the alleged corruption during my tenure is nothing but humbug created by the maulana to stall the election of the Shia Waqf Board and to prevent the law from taking its own course in the cases of his corrupt deeds.”
‘The so-called religious leader sold 22 bighas of waqf land’
What prompted you to call Maulana Kalbe Jawad a ‘saffron maulana’?
He is a saffron maulana who is working for the interests of the BJP. I am told that the BJP has promised to accept all his demands pertaining to the Shia Waqf Board. He had met me in September 2013 and requested my help for the installation of his brother-in-law as the chairman of the waqf board, but I refused.
Who is stalling the election to the Shia Waqf Board?
The saffron maulana is opposing the election to the Shia Waqf Board because the result will reveal their true status and hold within the community. The so-called religious leaders know that they have no support within the community. Moreover, they know that they will end up in jail for the unauthorised sale of waqf properties. The election to the Shia Waqf Board should be held as early as possible as it is the requirement of the law.
I have referred the matter to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. I find it strange that the government had postponed the election due to a protest by some so-called religious leader. People oppose elections to the Assembly and Parliament, but they are never stalled. I find it strange that the Uttar Pradesh government finds itself so helpless that it cannot hold an election with such a small electoral college.
Do you have any proof of Maulana Jawad’s involvement in corruption in the Shia Waqf Board?
The maulana has no right to be a religious leader. He is responsible for the destruction of mosques and karbalas. I had sent three letters to Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, requesting him to conduct a CBI inquiry into the massive financial bungling in the waqf board and unauthorised sale of waqf properties in Lucknow and other parts of the state.
The so-called religious leader who is spearheading a campaign against me sold 22 bighas of waqf land. This waqf property was registered with the Shia Waqf Board but neither the board has any information about the sale of the land nor does it have any idea as to who pocketed the money.
‘Azam Khan is a liar of the first order’
Why are you against the Shia Waqf Board election?
I am not against holding election in the Shia Waqf Board. It is a false propaganda spread by people with a Taliban mindset who are out to destroy peace, tranquility and communal harmony in the country. In fact, the people against the election are those who have looted the board and waqf properties for so many years and are afraid of honest people taking over the reins of the board. To maintain their vice-like grip on the board, they have prepared a list of fake voters. The people controlling the board have taken huge amounts as bribe for preparing the fake voters list. I want a high-level inquiry to settle the issue once and for all.
But Azam Khan has alleged that you are the one trying to scuttle the election.
It is an absolute lie. Azam Khan is adamant on reinstalling Wasim Rizvi as the board chairman. On my demand, the state government had ordered a CB CID inquiry against Rizvi. Azam Khan is giving him protection, enabling him to roam freely. Rizvi should be arrested and sent to jail for financial irregularities. The CB-CID probe has vindicated my stand against Rizvi, who had indulged in corruption on a massive scale.
Azam Khan has levelled serious charges of financial irregularities against you. He has accused you of selling properties that you had controlled as the mutawalli.
Azam Khan is a liar of the first order. He has set up the Jauhar University in his hometown of Rampur with funds received from dubious sources, including the Taliban. I am ready to take oath on the holy Koran. If I am proved wrong, then I will quit my office; otherwise Azam Khan should quit politics. I am ready to face any inquiry and I have myself asked for a high-level probe.
It seems both of you are involved in a slanging match on a daily basis.
I am not concerned about Azam Khan’s diatribe against me. Neither have I considered it necessary to respond to every criticism by Azam Khan. The people are watching everything and they will give a fitting reply. The state government has assured me of justice and I will wait for its action. My fight is not against any individual but against corruption. This fight cannot proceed further until Azam Khan is dismissed from the Cabinet. The state government should also conduct a CBI inquiry into the affairs of Azam Khan’s Jauhar University.
Azam Khan has called you a ‘saffron maulana’ and has also alleged that you had approached him for his help to make his brother-in-law the chairman of the waqf board.
It is yet another lie being propagated by people with a Taliban mindset. During the Lok Sabha election, Rajnath Singh, the BJP candidate from Lucknow, visited my place for a courtesy call. Azam Khan is lying when he says that I met him and asked for his favour for my brother-inlaw. I never met him, so there is no question of seeking any favour.