Lucknow: The inquiry into Waqf properties, ordered by the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh, is likely to open the proverbial can of worms and generate considerable political heat.
The Samajwadi Party (SP) and the AIMIM have already opposed the decision and said that it was designed to target one community.
Shia and Sunni clerics, however, have welcomed the decision though that also has definite political overtones.
An SP leader believes that the Yogi government’s decision is designed to target its senior leader Mohd Azam Khan.
“Waqf properties are already being probed by CBI so where is the need for this survey. We apprehend that this move is designed to implicate Mohd Azam Khan in false cases,” he said.
As senior minister in the SP governments, Azam Khan wielded considerable power of the Waqf Boards.
His former acolyte Waseem Rizvi, then chairman of the Shia Central Waqf Board, is said to be been involved in several major property transactions of that time.
It is said that prime properties were illegally transferred to politically connected people who have used the land for commercial purposes.
“It was only to escape the clutches of law that Rizvi turned into a BJP supporter almost overnight, converted to Hinduism, got the name of Jitendra Tyagi and has been flaunting his saffron robes ever since,” said a senior cleric in Lucknow.
The Sunni Central Waqf Board has over 1.5 lakh properties in the state while the Shia Waqf Board owns over 12,000 properties in the state.
Former state minister for minority affairs, Mohsin Raza said: “The Congress, SP and BSP government have looted Waqf properties in a big way. The investigations ordered by the Yogi Adityanath government will reveal the extent to which there has been misuse of power in the Waqf Boards.”
The 1989 order which has now been revoked by the Yogi government, was issued when the Congress was in power in the state with Narayan Dutt Tiwari as the Chief Minister.
Uncultivable and barren land is allegedly being used in an illegal manner after its registration as Waqf property. Only those properties come under the category of Waqf which are donated for religious and welfare works.
The state government has directed all the Divisional Commissioners and District Magistrates to examine all public properties that have been listed as waqf land.
It will also re-examine all the cases registered as Waqf property after April 7, 1989.
The move is aimed to ensure that no government property has been encroached upon after its listing as Waqf land.
Minister of State for Minority Welfare and Waqf, Danish Azad Ansari termed the exercise as a routine departmental process and added that it had nothing to do with other Waqf properties.
Within months of coming to power in June 2017, the Yogi government had announced the dissolution of the Shia and Sunni Waqf boards over corruption charges against them.
The dissolution process started after considering all legal aspects.
Subsequently, an inquiry conducted by the Waqf Council of India had also found many irregularities in this regard.
The role of the chairman of the Shia Waqf Board, Wasim Rizvi, as well as the minister for Waqf in the previous SP government, Azam Khan, had come under scanner after the inquiry by the Waqf Council of India.
A report by the fact-finding committee of the Central Waqf Council (CWC) indicted Khan, one of the most controversial ministers in the erstwhile Akhilesh Yadav government-of corruption, mismanagement and misuse of office.
The fact-finding committee, constituted after the CWC received several complaints from UP, was headed by Syed Ejaz Abbas Naqvi, who is also the in-charge of the Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand Waqf boards.
The committee in its report elaborated on how Khan as minister allegedly misused his position to grab properties under the boards.
It said Khan made the Maulana Jauhar Ali Education Trust and diverted funds from Waqf properties to it.
The report pointed out discrepancies in maintaining rent collection records on Waqf properties.
It recommended that the Uttar Pradesh Waqf Board be dissolved immediately and all accused officials be barred from entering Waqf offices pending investigation.
The state government ordered a CBI probe into the matter.
In November 2020 , the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) took over two cases alleging illegal sale, purchase and transfer of Waqf properties by the Uttar Pradesh Shia Central Waqf Board and the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board.
Among those named as accused were the then Shia Waqf Board chairman Wasim Rizvi, its former administrative officer Ghulam Sayyeden Rizvi and Waqf inspector Waqar Raza, besides Naresh Krishna Somani and Vijay Krishna Somani.
The Uttar Pradesh government had referred both cases to the CBI on October 11, 2019, and also recommended a probe into illegal sale/purchase and transfer of Waqf properties by the state’s Shia Central Waqf Board and Sunni Central Waqf Board.