The Tamil Nadu Waqf Board’s claim of ownership of seven Hindu-majority villages and a 1500-year-old temple in Tiruchirappalli have left the Hindu residents of these villages and the nation shocked.
Thiruchenthurai, a village near Trichy, has been designated as a Waqf property by the Tamil Nadu Waqf Board. Thiruchenthurai is a village in Tamil Nadu located on the Cauvery river’s bank in the Tiruchirapalli district.
The issue unfolded when a Hindu resident, Rajagopal, attempted to sell his 1.02 acre of land to Rajarajeshwari. Rajagopal, a resident of Mullikarupur village, arrived at the registrar’s office to get the sale of his land registered; he was shocked to learn that the land did not belong to him and instead belonged to the Waqf Board. The local Sundareswarar Temple, built 1500 years ago – much before even Islam was born – also belonged to Waqf.
To a shocked Rajagopal, Murali, the registrar said, “The Waqf Board owns the land on which you have come to register the deed. This contract cannot be registered, according to the Waqf Board’s directive, you should obtain a no-obligation certificate from the Waqf Board in Chennai.”
“Why do I need to obtain a no-obligation certificate from the Waqf Board to sell my land which I purchased in 1992?” Rajagopal inquired.
The registrar then showed a 250-page letter from Tamil Nadu Waqf Board to Rajagopal and said that any sale of land in Tiruchenthurai requires a no-objection certificate from the Waqf Board. “The Waqf Board has informed the deeds department by letter and documentation that the entire village is theirs. It has also been stated that individuals who come to register a deed for land in the village should obtain a certificate of no objection from them, “Registrar Murali said.
When Rajagopal narrated the whole incident to the villagers, the entire villagers were shocked to learn that their land was not theirs but belonged to Waqf. They were amazed how the Waqf Board could claim ownership of the entire village when the villagers had all the necessary land documents for their respective residential and agricultural lands.
When this issue was brought to the District Collector’s notice, he said that the matter would be investigated and action would be taken soon.
Allur Prakash, Trichy BJP leader, has asked the administration that “Tiruchendurai village is an agricultural area dominated by Hindus. What is the Waqf Board’s connection with Thiruchendurai Village?”
“There is Manendiyavalli Sametha Chandrasekhara Swamy temple in the village. According to many documents and evidence, this temple is 1,500 years old. The temple holds 369 acres of property in and around Tiruchenthurai village. Is this temple property also owned by the Waqf Board? What is the basis for this? How can the Waqf Board proclaim without any fundamental evidence when the revenue records belong to individuals?” Allur Prakash further questioned.
The villagers who were not able to believe the claim by the Waqf gathered outside the district administration’s office and said that there was no evidence regarding Muslims residing in the area, and papers proved that resettlement took place in 1927-1928. However, the Waqf Board has written a 20-page letter to 12 registration offices in Trichy, claiming property in numerous districts.
An Act of Discrimination
The Waqf Act 1995 is highly discriminatory and goes against the spirit of the Constitution as it grants special status to Waqf properties denying equal status to Hindu Trust, Mutts, Akharas, Societies. The Act confers unbridled powers to Waqf Boards to register any property as Waqf property.
Shri Ashwini Upadhyay, Supreme Court lawyer, said there was no safeguard for Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, and other communities to save their properties from inclusion in the list of Waqf issued by Waqf Boards. “The Act discriminates against Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, Bahais, Christians, and Zoroastrians. It offends Articles 14-15,” he said. Upadhyay sought appropriate direction that the State can enact only Uniform Law for Trust- Trustees, Charities-Charitable Institutions and Religious Endowments-Institutions as enumerated in Item 10 and 28 of List-III, Seventh Schedule in consonance with Articles 14-15, and can’t make separate law for Waqf and Waqf properties.
Upadhyay says the several provisions of the Waqf Act 1995, made under the garb of managing waqf properties but there are no similar laws for followers of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Judaism, Bahaism, Zoroastrianism & Christianity. “It is against the secularism, unity, and integrity of the nation. The Waqf is not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution. The Waqf Act has given uncontrolled powers to Waqf Boards and Waqf properties have been placed over and above other charitable religious institutions. No other enactments referred to above have conferred such wide powers and status to Hindus and other non-Islamic religious institutions, said the plea. The plea further sought the issuance of direction that the dispute relating to religious properties shall be decided by the Civil Court only under Section 9 of the Civil Procedure Code 1908, and not by the Waqf Tribunal.
He also sought direction to the Centre or Law Commission of India to draft a ‘Uniform Code for Trust-Trustees and Charities-Charitable Institutions’ in the spirit of Articles 14-15 and publish it for public debate and feedback.
Meanwhile, to counter the Waqf Board’s assertions, the villagers have displayed documents proving that the land has belonged to them for centuries. They have urged the Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin to intervene and stop the Waqf from snatching their properties.
UPA’S Land Largesse
After the Tamil Nadu controversy became public, more such cases came up in the media. Months before the general election, the erstwhile Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government, in a clandestine move. gifted 123 Government properties in prime Lutyens’ Delhi to Waqf in 2014. This came to light days after incidents related to Tamil Nadu Waqf Board were reported.
According to media reports, the decision was taken by the Cabinet and conveyed through a secret note, just before the 2014 General election. The ownership of the properties, located in prime locations such as Connaught Place, Ashoka Road, Mathura Road, Lodhi Road, and other key locations, was given to Board through the secret note dated March 5, 2014. The Government note was signed by Additional Secretary JP Prakash.
UP surveys Waqf properties
Amid the ongoing survey of madrasas, Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh Government has decided to undertake a survey of all the Waqf properties in the State.
The Government has directed all the district magistrates and commissioners to re-examine the documents of all the properties which have been registered under Waqf since April 7, 1989 and to record the status of such lands.
Shakeel Ahmed Siddiqui, deputy secretary, UP Government, issued letters to Commissioners and District Magistrates asking them to investigate such properties. The letter stated that several Waqf authorities had neglected the regulations regarding property registration as per the Waqf Act 1995 and the UP Muslim Waqf Act of 1960. In 1989, an order was also issued to properly register such properties in revenue records.
The Government has further stated that under the Muslim Waqf Act of 1960, no Waqf property can be automatically registered. Whereas in the 1989 order, it has come to the fore that many properties were registered with the Waqf board without any application, which is why the ordinance.
It is believed that the Yogi Government is keen on stopping the illegal possession and transfer of properties related to Waqf.
After it came to power, the National Democratic Alliance Government vowed to probe the deal. The development came after the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) moved the Delhi High Court against the decision. According to the VHP, the prime properties identified under Section 48 of the Land Acquisition Act could not be released. Commenting on the issue, then Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said, “I have received a representation against Salman Khurshid… On the eve of his demitting office last year, he was instrumental in the transfer of these properties, keeping vote bank politics in mind.” According to a senior official at the Ministry, the de-notification process was done in haste (one day prior to the implementation of the Model Code of Conduct). Reportedly, 61 of the 123 properties were owned by LNDO while the remaining 62 properties were owned by Delhi Development Authority.
Another prominent park in Delhi, Andolan Park, at Savitri Nagar is being encroached upon in a systematic way by a group of Muslims. They have built houses and shops illegally on a patch of one acre of land with the support of the police and a local AAP representative. It is suspected that they are planning to house Rohingya Muslims. The area falls in the Greater Kailash Assembly constituency. They also encroached the kuda-dan (garbage dump).
Meanwhile, the locals approached the DDA to remove the encroachment in the area which is posing threat to their security. “The entire thing is happening in a clandestine manner. Nobody is allowed to visit the area,” said Shantanu Singh (name changed), a local resident. According to Singh, the authorities are hand-in-glove with the land grabbers. Local residents said AAP is helping the encroachers, as they are a support base of the party, for now. When Organiser representative tried to take photographs of the encroachments, a few people tried to intimidate him.
Singh said Mohammad Anwar, the former Congress MLA, was instrumental in allowing uncontrolled encroachment in the area. Now, Anwar had joined AAP.
“A Muslim builder, Liyaqat Ali, supported by Bharti, grabbed the graveyard and built properties. He is earning in lakhs. Now he is encouraging people to encroach upon public property” —Shailendra Singh, Local Resident
Three mansions have already been built in the park. There are an equal number of shops operating in the area. “Slowly more houses are coming up in the park,” said Rakesh, a local resident. Already a mosque has been built illegally in the area. Locals complained that illegal work is going on in the mosque.
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi has also turned a blind eye to the encroachment, allege local residents.
It has come to light how the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is enabling encroachment by Muslims. Residents of Hauz Khas alleged that the spacious Deer Park in the locality is being encroached upon and turned it into a graveyard. Shailendra Singh, a local resident, said they were shocked to find one day that dead bodies were being buried in the park where they used to go for the morning walk. Residents alleged that AAP MLA Somnath Bharti installed a board stating that the area belonged to Waqf and it is a Muslim burial ground.
Talking to Organiser, Shailendra Singh said, “A Muslim builder, Liyaqat Ali, supported by Bharti, grabbed the graveyard and built properties. He is earning in lakhs. Now he is encouraging people to encroach upon the public property.” Meanwhile, the residents have approached the DDA to remove the encroachments on the public land.