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Monday, August 31, 2009

Should the Waqf Boards be disbanded in India?

It is true that the Waqf properties in India are so huge that they are enough to finance the educational and social needs of Muslims, however, gross corruption in most of the Waqf Boards and the greed of officials has wrecked the system.

For over a millennium, Muslims in India have been setting aside property [or part of property] and pledging it, in the name of God, for charitable works. The purpose was that the earnings would go to the upkeep of orphans, widows and for other social causes.

Even in rural areas there are waqf properties that can fetch earnings to the tune of crores. But this money that should go in establishment of orphanages, opening charitable hospitals, schools, colleges, disbursing pensions to destitutes and scholarships to poor students, is mostly gobbled by the corrupt bureaucracy.

How the earnings from Waqf properties is siphoned off? My personal experience. I would cite just a few examples:

1. Commercial establishments and shops on Waqf properties [like the shops around mosques or grave yards] are let out to relatives on nominal rent, sometimes as low as Rs 50 or 100. That's because the corrupt waqf officials take bribes to let out shops.

2. The corrupt 'mutawallis' [caretakers] and those in district waqf committees, even sell the Waqf land or 'allow encroachment', as they are in cahoots with encroachers. Often the caretaker himself grabs the land.

3. The legal cells don't fight cases. Lawyers of Waqf Boards are often 'bought' by the other party that has encroached a property and sold it after constructing a multi-storey complex on it.

4. Political-bureaucratic-land mafia nexus is always eyeing the Waqf land. Though a waqf property can not be sold or it's use changed till eternity, the exact opposite happens, because lands are mostly in prime locations. They are given on lease in lieu of money that goes in the pockets of officials. If cases go to courts, the files disappear and lawyers often don't put up defence.

5. In states where the upright officials want to pursue cases, the district administration doesn't take interest, citing that removal of encroachments may lead to law-and-order issue. The collectors, DMs, ADMs and tehsildars aren't interested enough to take the help of police and municipal corporation, to execute the anti-encroahment drive.

The earning from Waqf properties could be to the tune of tens of crores from any of the big states in India, but mostly the boards are in loss. Some of the reasons have been mentioned above, however, I will give more examples.

In case of an old mosque, there are nearly 100 shops on the ground floor, basement and on the land around the mosque. However, the rents were last fixed in pre-independence era and continue to be Rs 5-Rs 18.

The traders who earn lakhs a day because they sit on the most precious property in a town, won't pay more rent as the Board doesn't want it either. The officials go routinely every year and 'settle' the matter 'unofficially'.

The property of Dargah Baba Kapur on the border of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh is unimaginable. The waqf land is spread to over 500 villages. But not a penny reaches the Board. All money goes to a pre-independence era department and the Board never showed inclination to fight the case or get the revenue that could be spent on charitable works.

Wrecking the Waqf

Unfortunately, most of the corrupt officials in the Waqf Boards are Muslim. They understand the religious and social implications of the corruption but stilly they many not just change the intent of the 'waaqif' [the person who had endowed the property] but also sell it illegally.

For example, if a widow dies, and before his death she had pledged that her land should be deemed Waqf property, and a girls' school ought to be founded on it, it is not possible to change the intent.

But it is routine to find the land leased to a builder or shops constructed over it. What a shame! Blaming the government is wrong, as the levels of corruption and immorality among society is responsible for wrecking the Nizam-e-Awqaf [Auqaaf].

The apathy of Muslims is astonishing to say the least. Recently, the Deputy Chairperson of Rajya Sabha, K Rahman Khan, lamented that Waqf Boards aren't doing their work honestly, else Rs, 10,000 crore could be obtained each year just from rents.

In fact, this amount is also an underestimate. The truth is that the prime property of Waqfs [like the land in Mumbai where Mukesh Ambani's colossal building came up] is worth billions in each state, but is getting encroached, sold and wasted by the day. [See link to CNN-IBN story]

It is in context of this monumental corruption that Firoz Bakht Ahmad recently wrote in Roznama Rashtriya Sahara, that the Boards should be dissolved. He gave example that how the donations at the dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti is running the households of 5,000 khawaja-zaadgans.

Frankly, Firoz Bakht Ahmad has written what most of us feel but it's also impractical. Do we have an alternative model? There are Waqf Boards in a couple of states that are really doing well.

Successful Waqf Boards in Haryana, Andhra Pradesh

In Andhra Pradesh, even on small plots of land, ATMs and similar establishments were opened, and this brings revenue to Board that is spent on charity and education. In a small state like Haryana, the Board has done wonders and it is running engineering college and other institutions.

Sadly, in large states like UP,Bihar,Maharashtra,West Bengal and the Delhi-Punjab area that has huge waqf land, corruption on hitherto unimaginable proportions, has reduced the Waqf Boards to a status where they are permanently in debt and eternally crisis-ridden.
[Photo courtesy at Panaramio]

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Ban on headscarf in Indian college Vs British police

Just a few months back it was a schoolboy's beard that was at the centre of a controversy.

Now it's headscarf that is generating a debate. A college in Karnataka's Mangalore district has ruled that the headscarf is unwelcome.

This is in sharp contrast to what British police authorities recently did: designing hijab for policewomen.

Non-Muslim White women officials have been told by the department to cover their heads like Muslim women when entering a mosque. Even the headscarf has been designed to match the police uniform.

British policewomen wear headscarves, Indian Muslim student gets banned!

The British are surely going extra mile even though the Muslim population in England is just 2.4 million [24 lakh] or 3% and their country doesn't have an Islamic heritage of more than a century.

There are districts like Moradabad (Uttar Pradesh), Malappuram (Kerala) and Murshidabad (West Bengal)--each having more than 24 lakh Muslims. That's to give an indication of our Islamic population in a country that has 800-odd districts.

However, it's not about population. Here in India where Islam is as much part of our culture [and an Indian religion] for over 1200 years, and where even burqa is part of social life and customs, the denial of hijab or mere 'headscarf' does appear excessively insensitive.

Strangely, what happens far away in West, seems to find its echo in a more pronounced form in India. However, we have a penchant for controversies.

The college authorities had no problem with hijab when Ayesha took admission. There was no rule to prevent her from wearing the scarf but the principal later made a false claim that it was mentioned in the rules.

The pressure of a section of student leaders led to change in the stand. The girl, Ayesha, however had confronted the student leader and had retorted that she would not stop wearing the scarf. She even outwitted him by saying that she had no problem wearing a saffron headscarf.

Initiallly, the girl was asked not to wear headscarf to class. Later she was told that it was not allowed even on campus. Then she was followed and there were vulgar comments, even physical attacks.

Even lecturers were unhelpful and often sarcastic. And the incident at SVS College Bantwal is not a solitary case. This is happening across the colleges in Dakshin Kannada district and elsewhere. Tehelka correspondent Sanjana's report sheds more light on it.

The college principal later said that under no circumstances the girl could be allowed to set foot on the campus while keeping her head covered, as it was against the college's 'dress code'. The Sri Venkataramana Swamy college is located in Mangalore district.

In the last couple of years, the City that once known for its tolerance and affluence, has seen communal riots and rise in tension among Hindus, Muslims and Christians. Read an earliest post on school imposing ban on beard.

More on Mangalore soon, in another post.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Death centenary of forgotten revolutionary Madan Lal Dhingra

Exactly a century ago, a pioneering revolutionary and freedom fighter, Madanlal Dhingra, was hanged in Britain. He was just 26.

The young and bright, Madan Lal Dhingra, had fired five shots at Sir Curzon Willie, at a gathering in London. The daredevil assassination of a British official outside Indian soil, had caused ripples. Willie was killed on July 9 and after a speedy trial, Dhingra was hanged on August 17, 1909.

Today Dhingra's act may seem reckless or foolhardy and he may be termed a militant, but he was a hero to the generation of early freedom fighters including Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh and the entire generation of freedom fighters.

India was subjugated then and there were no signs of any change in the condition of the masses, due to the repressive policies of the British government. He knew the adage, 'One man's freedom fighter, another man's terrorist', too well.

But Dhingra wasn't a militant. He belonged to a generation for which 'slavery' was the biggest curse. He had gone to study Engineering but came in contact with revolutionary activists and ultimately shot dead the political aide of the Secretary of State for India.

When brought before the magistrate, he said, "I do not want to say anything in defence of myself but simply to prove the justification of my deed. As for myself I do not think any English law court has any authority to convict me or detain me in prison or to pass any sentence to me.

And I maintain that if it is patriotic for any Englishman to fight against the Germans if they were to occupy this country, it is much more justifiable and patriotic in my case to fight against the English. I hold the English people responsible for the murder of eight million of my countrymen in the last 50 years. And they are also responsible for taking away 100 million pounds every year from India to this country. I also hold them responsible for the hanging and deportation of thousands of my countrymen."

Dhingra's statement before he was hanged, is also historic. It is oft-quoted and inspired the later revolutionaries. He said, "I believe that a nation held down by foreign bayonets is in a perpetual state of war. Since open battle is rendered impossible to a disarmed race, I attacked by surprise. Since guns were denied to me I drew forth my pistol and fired....."

The sentiments aren't surprising if one considers the hurt and the desperation among Indians in the era. Congress was yet to become a major political force and the end of the Raj was nowhere in sight.

Dhingra was hanged just a year after Khudiram Bose was sent to gallows. Even after death, his body was denied a proper Hindu funeral. His family had disowned him. And it took nearly seventy years before the mortal remains were accidentally located and brought back to India.

Dhingra died when Bhagat Singh was barely two years old. However, along with many other revolutionaries and freedom fighters, today he is also a nearly forgotten name. Even the hundredth death (martyrdom) anniversary passed without a mention to the revolutionary. As India celebrated Independence Day, it is more pertinent for us to remember these sacrifices.

Also read earlier post on this blog:

Sher Ali: The forgotten revolutionary who killed British Viceroy on Indian soil

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Police brutality: Truth of an encounter in Manipur

In all 'encounters', the version is almost same:

The police cornered the person and asked him to stop, but he didn't and instead fired at police. While no jawan got injured, the person died in the exchange of fire.
Chongkham Sanjit, 27, was killed near Assembly in Imphal, and that was the version of the police commandos of Rapid Action Force until a lensman, who had shot the entire sequence of events, exposed the lies.

Initially, News weekly Tehelka published these photographs. Such encounters are common in North East, though they always don't make news, as they can't be contradicted and the citizens don't resent as long as the person killed is not 'related to us' or unless they can 'relate to him'.

The magazine tells us that Salam Ajit Singh, Okram Ranjit Singh, Taslimuddin, Laishram Dipson and Ningthoujam Anand were also killed in similar encounters. One of them was a mason, the other was lorry driver, another a labourer and one of them was a rickshaw driver.

Naturally, their kin can't be in a position to fight. The question is that why cops do it? There are numerous reasons ranging from personal rivalries, need to 'show' work by eliminating 'goons', the desire for rewards and gallantry medals, instilling sense of fear among others for easy 'earning' (extortions) and often just the urge to do it because they have tasted blood.

Less than a month ago, Ranbir Singh, an MBA student, was killed in an encounter in Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand. A probe was ordered after much hue and cry though the news channels had initially accepted the police version and termed him a militant. Had he been Shabbir instead of Ranbir, there wouldn't have been an inquiry either. In that case, the degree would not have come to his help, as stories like 'techies taking to terrorism' would have been planted intelligently.

We have one of the most inefficient, most corrupt and most brutal police force. The police force can't change. It can't become sensitive because it is governed by the same law and code that were devised in 1861 by the British to govern the 'natives'. There are castes, tribes and communities who were called 'criminal tribes' before independence and though they were de-notified, the police still treat the tribes like Pardhis as criminal. Children born in these housholds are seen as suspects from the day of their birth.

And our polity & bureaucracy have failed to form a new police act. When recruits get into force, within months they understand that they are not in the force to solve cases of thefts or murders and keep the area's lawlessness under check, but they have to 'manage', 'sort out' things, keep working relations with gangsters and gamblers so that they keep paying 'hafta', keep musclemen in good humour and ensure that everybody who matters among the political class and well-to-do remain happy.

If an offender wants to mend ways, he can't. Even if he is living a peaceful life, he would be arrested and interrogated every time for each incident of major crime, despite knowing that he is not involved in the crime. That happens because that's how the 'system' works. It doesn't treat poor [those who don't have connections] Indian citizens fairly. Justice is not delivered unless you are well connected.

State governments belonging refuse to act on this issue. Every time the Supreme Court asks them about the model police code and the implementation of the recommendations for change. Politicians don't want a change. Bureaucracy doesn't want police to get out of its hand.

The police remain an anti-people brute force in this country. It is not to serve the citizens as jan-sewaks but to serve the masters, who were Whites in the past, and have been replaced by the top brass that includes civil servants, filthy rich and well-connected. It has a licence to exploit and harass others.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

At last, Advani gets an Urdu publisher for his autobiography

At last, LK Advani's autobiography has been published in Urdu. He wanted to appear in print much before the elections.

But Advani couldn't get an Urdu publisher then. Most were reluctant to associate themselves with the book. Personally I feel the reason is that majority of Urdu publishers are now in business just because of sale of religious books, which are still sold in large numbers, rather than literature or other books--they might have feared reaction by associating themselves to Advani.

Delhi-based Urdu daily Hindustan Express extensively covered the event. It says that when a prominent Muslim leader of BJP tried hard to convince a well-known Urdu publisher, he agreed but on the condition that the name of the publication house would not be printed in the book. Naturally, the idea was dropped because it was thought that if a book is published without publisher's name and address, it would look undignified.

Telugu, Hindu and English editions of the book had been released during the ad blitz projecting him as Prime Minister. The aim was to reach out to Muslims but it couldn't happen. Now the book--Mera Watan, Meri Zindagi [My Country, My Life] has finally been released.

Speaking on the occasion Advani himself said that though the book has been translated in many languages, the Urdu edition has been the most important one and close to his heart. He also spoke on 'secularim', 'Hindu-Muslim harmon' and a lot.

Journalists MJ Akbar, Aziz Burney, Poet Chandrabhan Khayal, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, Najma Heptullah, Rajnath Singh and editor of Akhbar-e-Mashriq Waseemul Haq were present. At the function, Rajnath Singh, said that expressed his love for Urdu.

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan presided over the function. Aziz Burney lauded the book and said that it resembled with Maulana Azad's writings, reports Hindustan Express. Large number of Shia and Sunni scholars attended the event at FICCI auditorium. [Photo courtesy Hindustan Express]