Every person fights to defend his property; every organisation struggle for a piece of property over which it has any direct or indirect claim. Understandably, the Indraprastha Vishva Hindu Parishad (IVHP), the Delhi state unit of VHP, pursued a legal and fight for around 40 years to save the Properties of the Central Government. After all, what belongs to central government is a national asset. Ironically, the VHP had to fight since the Indira Gandhi Government and later Sonia Gandhi-led Manmohan Government bowed down before Delhi Waqf Board, all for the sake of their Muslim votes. The property IVHP fought for measures around 1360 acre, valuing to the tune of Rs 20,000 crores approximately.
Finally, on February 8, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs and Land and Development Office, the Government of Bharat, in its letter No 74/EO, categorically stated that “Delhi Waqf Board does not have any stake in listed properties…” the letter further stated, “It is therefore decided to absolve Delhi Waqf Board from all matter pertaining to 123 Waqf Properties.” If we go into the brief history of the case, all these properties were acquired for the new capital of Delhi in the years 1911-1915.
As per the Government records, the acquisition was completed, possession taken, and all these properties were put under the control and management of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and Land and Development Office (L&DO). They never belong to Delhi Waqf Board (DWB). Currently, 61 of them are owned by L&DO under the urban development ministry while the rest lies with DDA. Most properties are in and around Connaught Place, Mathura Road, Lodhi Road, Man Singh Road, Pandara Road, Ashoka Road, Janpath, Parliament House, Karol Bagh, Sadar Bazaar, Darya Ganj and Jangpura. Given the prime location they are situated at, it is not impossible to determine their significance.
It was in 1970 that the Delhi Waqf Board (DWB) notified these properties as Waqf unilaterally. In each case, the Union of India (UOI) served a notice upon DWB challenging the notification and filed suits in all 123 cases, reasserting its ownership in these properties. The identical notices alleged, “that the actual survey made by the officials of the DDA on the spot also does not show the existence of the Wakf and wakif as notified.” It was stated that the properties were not “in actual occupation or the alleged wakf or wakif.” Also, “the Masjid/Makbara/Kabristan do not exist at all.”
Surprisingly, during the pendency of the suits, in 1974, the Government appointed a committee under the Chairmanship of Shri SMH Burney to survey the properties. Shri Burney was the Chairman of DWB at that time. It is very easy to understand what the committee could have delivered. Thus, it produced a dishonest report in favour of the Waqf. There were two properties—one in the lawns of Vice-President of Bharat and the second inside a wireless station—which the said Committee was not allowed to enter, as mentioned in its report. The Committee concluded that the properties are functioning Waqfs.
To appease the Muslim vote bank, the Government accepted the recommendations of the Burney Committee and decided to lease these properties to the DWB at Re. 1 per annum per acre. This was done vide office order dated 27.03.1984 vide no: J. 20011/4/74.1-II, Govt. of India, Ministry of Works and Housing.
It was here that the IVHP entered the fray. The matter was challenged in the High Court of Delhi through Writ Petition (C) 1512 of 1984. A stay was granted. The High Court repeatedly asked if the Government had any policy to give back lands for religious means. There was no policy, and the case was dragged by seeking dates again and again. The writ petition was disposed on 12.01.2011 with the following observations:
“Let the Union of India re-look in the matter and take a decision within six months from today, till then, the interim order passed by this Court on 01.06.1984 shall remain in force. Needless to say, when we have directed that the Union of India shall have a fresh look in to the matter, it shall keep in view the law in present and the factual position.” All other issues and contentions were left open.
Unfortunately, instead of framing policy, the Government stated that this order had been passed U/s 93 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. Section 93 (1) provides that, “the appropriate Government shall be at liberty to withdraw from the acquisition of any land of which possession has not been taken.”
Failing to protect its own property, on March 3, 2014, Govt declared that “The Cabinet has approved the de-notification of 123 properties in Delhi under the control of the land and development office and DDA and allowing the title to revert to the Delhi Wakf Board.” The matter got notified vide Gazette of India extraordinary No. 566 & S.O. No. 661(E) immediately after the declaration of the General election for the 16th Lok Sabha.
Shri Ashok Singhal, the then patron of Vishva Hindu Parishad, also wrote a letter to the president of Bharat praying to “intervene and restrain the outgoing Government on the eve of the general elections from indulging in such acts of vote-bank appeasement and discrimination against the Hindu society. He argued that:
“The GOI cannot arbitrarily denotify and transfer high-end prime properties, many of it at locations of strategic importance, to the Delhi Waqf Board without giving to the Hindu society the Sri Rama Janma Bhumi at Ayodhya, Sri Krishna Janmasthan at Mathura, Sri Kashi Vishwanath Prakatsthal at Varanasi, Indraprastha Durg (5,000+ year old Capital Fort of the Pandavas of Mahabharat fame/Old Fort) near Delhi Zoo, the Vishnu Dhwaj (Qutub Minar)…. The GOI has also flouted all legal processes in the matter. It is totally unlawful and unconstitutional.” Thanks to the present Modi Govt, which boldly asserted national right over national properties, the land is restored. But Looking at the case, the following observations can be made:
- Those who are duty-bound to protect its properties were escaping their prime duties
- Whether the Government can denotify and lease its properties to a religious committee, ignoring the other
- Why do Hindus were deprived of their right to get back their pious birth/spiritual place like Ayodhya, Mathura & Kashi?
- Was it not purely to woo the Muslim vote bank at the cost of the general-public?
- Was it not a communal act of a secular Government?
In the absence of a national policy in the matter serving the cause of national and cultural interest of the country, the pseudo-secular politicians may frequently play with the sentiments of the people and imperil the hard-earned property of public importance. Our judiciary and the Election Commission are also expected to impose curbs on these appeasement policies & political malpractices. Lastly, in no way could anybody be allowed to take such decisions, contrary to the public interest. It’s the responsibility of the Government to save its properties, not of an organisation like IVHP. The VHP entered in Shri Ram Janmbhumi legal case in July 1989 and took 30 years to settle the case in 2019, whereas, in this case, it took around four decades. Thus, the organisation has a legal fight for the case longer than Ram Mandir.