Wakf Land Scam Puts Congress in a Spot

0
201

Congressmen accused in the wakf land scam give the Karnataka BJP a reason to smile, reports Imran Khan

Proof of lie One of the encroached prime lands
Proof of lie: One of the encroached prime lands

THE RECENT explosive report on the Karnataka Wakf Board land scam has given the ruling BJP plenty of ammunition to hit back at the opposition, which has cornered the government on various corruption scandals in the past four years of its rule in the state.

The report submitted to Chief Minister DV Sadananda Gowda during the current Assembly session says the scam runs into more than Rs 2 lakh crore. Apart from powerful Muslim politicians, several Wakf Board members, Wakf officials, builders and real estate mafia are involved in usurping land donated for social and charitable causes. While the report has been welcomed by the community, the timing has been questioned by opposition parties.

“It is absolutely ridiculous. My report is based on plain facts that I have put forth before the people,” said Karnataka State Minorities Commission Chairman Anwar Manippady in an earlier interview to TEHELKA (See ‘Wakf Board chairman offered me Rs 4 crore as bribe’ TEHELKA 7 April 2012).

According to Manippady, who is in charge of BJP’s Chitradurga district cell, it was during a routine inspection of Bidar district that he came across several irregularities. He found that 1,800 acres of the 2,586 acres of Wakf land in the district was illegally encroached upon. This led to the arrest of four Wakf Board officials and two encroachers. “Based on complaints from other districts and media reports on the role of politicians and Wakf Board officials in the illegal sale of land (Betrayal of Trust, TEHELKA, 26 March 2011), a panel was constituted by the state government in November last year,’’ says Manippady. The 7,000-page report was completed in four months.

The report has highlighted that the total value of Wakf properties is Rs 4 lakh crore (based on land value). Out of the 54,000 acres registered Wakf land within the state, the reports says, around 22,000 acres have been subjected to illegal encroachment. “About 85 percent of encroachments have happened in city areas,” says Manippady.

Bringing to book KSMC Chairman Manippady (left); Mallikarjun Kharge and K Rehman Khan
Bringing to book: KSMC Chairman Manippady (left); Mallikarjun Kharge and K Rehman Khan

The report traced irregularities in the state’s Wakf properties since the year 1954 when the board was constituted by the government. Land worth crores of rupees was sold at throwaway prices to the real estate mafia in collusion with politicians, government officials and leaders of the Muslim community.

With state elections due next year, the report is being seen as a ploy by the BJP to disenchant the Muslim voters

In some instances, the head of the Wakf Board would denotify the land and later transfer it in his name. During the course of their investigation, the commission found that a survey of the Wakf properties was done in 1965 and then in 2000. The board also issued the requisite No Objection Certificate (NOC) for the land stating that the board has no right over the property; in turn allowing it to be sold at a throwaway price. The issuance of such an NoC has landed the current chairman of the board R Abdul Reyaz Khan in trouble. The Karnataka High Court has allowed the police to register an FIR against Khan for handing over 2.3 acres of Wakf property located next to Lal Bagh botanical garden worth Rs 90 crore for a paltry sum of Rs1 crore to Marwari businessman H Bhavarilal.

In Bengaluru, the most famous Wakf property is ITC group’s Hotel Windsor Manor, worth Rs 1,500 crore. Windsor Manor had obtained a lease of the property for Rs 4,000 per month for 90 years.

[box]

All in the Land’s name

Prime Wakf property encroached by the high and mighty

Windsor Manor Hotel
Survey No. 25, Sankey Tank Road, 1,65,752 square feet
Persons responsible: A Gangaram, Monarch Corporation; Windsor Manor Hotel, ITC Limited; Karnataka Wakf Board, Bangalore; Agha Ali Askar, Wakf Mutawalli (caretaker)
Persons involved: K Rehman Khan, MP and deputy chairman, Rajya Sabha

Kulsumbi Trust
Property No. 22-23, Pillayyar Koil Street, 7,329 square feet
Persons responsible: Mohammed Ghouse; Bhakshi Khan, caretaker; MV Mohammed Basheer
Persons involved: R Roshan Baig, Congress MLA, Shivajinagar

Hazrath Maniksha Dargah
Survery No. 55, Bilehalli, Cubbonpet, 602.29 acres
Persons responsible: Ubedulla Shariff, Chairman Organising Committee; and advocate Basha
Persons involved: CK Jaffer Sharief, former Union minister; and State Wakf Board

Muslim Graveyard On Armstrong Road
Survey No. 189 and 259, 100/ 200 feet
Persons involved: R Roshan Baig, Congress MLA, Shivajinagar; MA Khaleed, former KAS officer; Maaz Ahmed Sharief, KAS officer; and Mohammed Sanaulla, IAS

Hazrath Khaja Bande Nawaz Dargah
Survey No. 33/1, 33/2, 33/3, 33/4, 33/5
Persons responsible: Mallikarjun Kharge, Union Labour Minister; Dharam Singh, former CM; Qamrul Islam, MLA; CM Ibrahim, former civil aviation minister; Iqbal Ahmed Saradgi, former minister; Sajjada Nasheen Khusro Hussaini, Chairman, Indian Hajj Committee; Abdul Karim Muchhali, Asian Builders and Constructors

Hazrath Nawab Ibrahim Ali Sha Shatari, Kumbarpet 
Property No. 10, Sadar Patrappa Road, Zindawali
Persons responsible: CM Ibrahim, former minister

Hopcoms
Survery No. 18, Annepura Village (near Lal Bagh), 2.3 acres
Persons responsible: Khaleed Ahmed, former chairman of State Wakf Board; R Abdul Reyaz Ahmed, current Chairman Wakf Board; KM Ibrahim, former minister Hindasgiri; MA Khaleed, former Chief Executive Officer, KAS

Ghousia Technical Training Institute
Survey No. 71/2, 3 measuring two acres and survey No, 71/1(a), 112 guntas in Adugodi, Bengaluru
Persons Responsible: Dr Mumtaz Ahmed Khan, Secretary, Ghousia Technical Training Institute

[/box]

ACCORDING TO the state legislative Assembly report of 1999, “The Wakf board officials showed anxiety to lease the property for 90 years (rules stipulate only 30 years) to benefit an individual company’’. At that time the hotel was paying Rs 4,000 per month as rent. More recently, the hotel, located close to the CM’s residence, has been paying a rent of Rs 7,500 per month for an area of 1,65,752 sq feet.

When activists fighting to protect Wakf properties challenged it in the high court, the court asked the hotel to pay a rent of Rs 1 lakh. This was, in turn, challenged by the ITC group. The Wakf land scam report holds deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha K Rehman Khan responsible. Vineeta Ballet, head, corporate communications, ITC, refused to comment on this matter. The commission has now suggested reclaiming this Wakf land and converting it into a multi-speciality hospital for the poor.

Ironically, Rehman Khan was the chairman of the joint parliamentary committee (JPC) that probed irregularities in the dealing of Wakf lands across the country. The report had then found that there were around 30,000 Wakf properties in the state, holding a total of 19,000 acres; and the committee had found 189 cases of illegal encroachment of Wakf properties in the state.

Anwar Manippady hits out at the JPC report saying it is ‘utter non-sense’. “The report wants to legalise the illegal act committed by the mafia by arguing for joint development of the lands under disputes,’’ he says. Khan was recently re-elected to the Rajya Sabha for a fourth term .

The commission has implicated almost all senior Muslim political leaders — most of them belonging to the Congress party. Politicians who have been blamed include Union Minister Mallikarjun Kharge, MPs Dharam Singh and K Rehman Khan; MLAs R Roshan Baig, Tanveer Sait, NA Haris, Qamrul Islam; former union minister CK Jaffer Sharief, former MPs Suryavamshi, Iqbal Ahmed Saradgi; and among others Iqbal Ansari, late MS Ansari, and late Azeez Sait, Hindasgeri, for the loss of Rs 2 lakh crore. It recommended that the Centre amend the Wakf Act 1995 so that “persons who have misused, encroached upon and illegally occupied Wakf properties are banned from contesting elections/nominations, including to Wakf institutions and Board”. The report also suggests suspension of the board for 12 months till a thorough inquiry is conducted by the Lokayukta.

With state elections due next year, the report is being seen as a ploy by the BJP to disenchant Muslim voters. The opposition parties have demanded a CBI probe.

Though chief minister Gowda has said that, “every inch’’ will be reclaimed, it needs to be seen how well the current BJP government deals with the people indicted in the report. It could be an opportunity to discredit the Congress leaders named in it and get a foothold in the Muslim community. But in its zeal, the move could also misfire and the saffron party could end up looking anti-Muslim.

As for the properties, many questions have arisen regarding the market price, the kind of construction on them, and the kind of rent the board was getting out of them. The commission hasn’t been able to ascertain any of these facts since Wakf board officials boycotted the sittings. Some were placed under suspension after the boycott. The CEO of the board himself failed to appear before the commission.

[box]

In an interview to Tehelka the former Wakf minister Mumtaz Ali Khan clarifies the doubts raised by him in his letter.

You have said in your letter that there has been an over reach on the part of the commission. Can you please clarify? 
You have said in your letter that there has been an over reach on the part of the commission. Can you please clarify?

What is the job of the commission then? 
The commission’s job is to safeguard the constitutional rights of the minorities and, to create a space for communal harmony. Its job is to conduct surveys, research and assist in programmes of the minorities in several fields. The commission taking shelter under the garb of conducting surveys has brought out this report which is a violation. Study does not mean including reports. It needs to be done objectively and not to gain any political mileage. And I doubt whether the commission has followed any of the rules.

Do you agree with the finding of the commission that the scam is close to Rs 2 lakh crores? 
No. It is impossible. There has been an attempt on the part of the commission’s chairman to equate it to 2G scandal and make it sensational. Nobody will agree to that number. The assessment is not done by professionals. An independent judicial inquiry will be able to establish the whole truth.

You have said in your letter that the commission didn’t have the mandate as the term of the commission was over. Can you clarify? 
The term of the commission ended on 24th February 2012. And hence the commission as such doesn’t have the mandate to bring out a report when its term is over. Though the chairman of the commission remains for another year; the members cease to exist when the term is over. However, in this case the members are still continuing.

You allege in your letter that the report was not prepared by the commission and it was done by somebody else on its behalf. Why do you suspect so and can you name the institution or individual involved in it? 
I have been informed that a certain NGO by name Karnataka State Wakf Properties Protection Committee is the one behind it. They have prepared most of the report excluding the commission’s findings in Bidar. What Anwar has submitted is just an adoption of the NGO’s reports.

In your letter you claim that neither BJP nor RSS had any role to play in this report. But the names of the ministers were selectively leaked by the BJP’s media cell. What do you have to say about that? 
I would like to clarify here that neither BJP nor RSS has played any role in bringing out this report. There is no political agenda and no mileage that can be drawn from this report. The chairman is in the habit of interfering with all the committees.

So do you suggest that there is a personal agenda at hand here? Especially, since your exit, the state BJP doesn’t have a single Muslim minister? 
Absolutely. It was the personal agenda of the commission’s chairman in bringing out such a report. The report was to boost his own image. But the party knows who is who.

[/box]

Imran Khan is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka
[email protected]

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Comment moderation is enabled. Your comment may take some time to appear.