The case of Wakfs and Economic status of Indian Muslims

Is Indian Muslim community really marginalized? Almost every other week if not month we all hear that socio-economic status of the Muslims in India is worse than any other community. Is it true? Not only do we hear this but we also hear about a report published in 2006 called as Sachar Committee report. Ever since the report was published Mr. Owaisi refers to it every other day.

I finally I read the complete report. I agree to the findings in the report. However, Mr. Owaisi intentionally or unintentionally forgot to mention a few critical aspects from the report that contradict the narrative he and a lot like him try to build. Or rather have succeeded in building. He is a busy person, so, I thought, I should do the honors of bringing those facts to light, especially when he loves the report so much that never forgets to mention it as soon as condition of Muslims is spoken about.

At any point in time if you feel I am lying or hiding some facts or have ‘forgotten‘ some facts exactly like Mr. Owaisi, you could download the report (Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community of India, published on Nov, 2006.) using this links. Although, the report is 400 pages, but you can still verify the facts mentioned by me in this article if you only read complete Chapter 11 (Leveraging Community Initiatives: The Case of Wakfs) which is only 17 pages. Be the judge yourself and decide if Indian Muslim community is really marginalized or not.

Before I begin, let me introduce you to a few terms, if you already don’t know about them.

Wakf: Generous Muslims adhering to the principles of ‘endowment’ embedded in Islam often bequeath large and valuable acreage of properties in the name of God. The proceeds from these properties are dedicated to meet the exclusive needs of the poor and also to the perpetual maintenance of the bequeathed property. This type of property bequests made by Muslims is called ‘Wakf’.

Waakif is a person who so dedicates his or her property.

Mutawalli is a person nominated by the Waakif to manage the affairs of the Wakf property.

Wakfs in India include Mosques, Dargahs, Khanqahs, Maqbaras, Ashoorkhanas, Qabristans (graveyards), Takiyas, Idgahs, Imambaras, Anjumans and so on. However, the Wakf premises mean “any Mosque, Graveyard, Mazar, Takiya, Eidgah, Imambara, Dargah, Khanqah, Maqbara, Anjuman and land appurtenant or belonging to them, the property dedicated for their maintenance, the property purchased from their income, the land, garden, well, baoli, school, hospital and other institutions dedicated as Wakf and the passages used leading to the Wakf premises”.

After the basic definitions, lets move on.

There are more than 4.9 lakh registered Wakfs spread over different states and union territories of India. The total area under Wakf properties all over India is estimated at about 6 lakh acres and the book value at about Rs 6,000 crores. However, the fun part is that these numbers are half a century old. That is the area and the amount are from 1960s and ’70s. As per the report this 6 lakh acre of Wakf property as in early 2000s market rates can be put at Rs. 1.2 lakh crores. Wakf properties in Delhi alone is in excess of Rs. 6,000 Crores. And along with this, these properties can generate at least a minimum return of 10 per cent which is about Rs. 12,000 crores per annum and an average return of 20 per cent. As a matter of fact, British during their rule in India extracted 1.1 million pounds by just imposing taxes in Bengal which were formerly tax-exempt. The report does not give the maximum potential, I will come back to it in just a few minutes.

We could technically build four Statues of Unity by just using a year of return from the Wakf properties (3000*4=12000). Even if we leave compounding and other complex mathematics aside, the average return would help us build some where around eight of them if not more. Am I correct? Don’t forget the area under consideration is from the ’60s. And just to give you a perspective of how big 6 lakh acres is; if these fragmented pieces of properties are put at one place it would be more than twice of the total area of today’s Delhi (NCT).

So, coming back to the maximum potential. The report does not give the maximum potential, because the government has no data about the Wakf properties in the country as of today. In fact the very first mandate of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Wakfs 1996-2006 asks the concerned authorities to assess, ascertain and Identify the Wakf properties in the country. And also identify the Wakf properties illegally gifted, transferred, mortgaged, leased or sold etc.

I don’t know about you, but as soon as I finished the chapter, four specific questions came to my mind:

Question 1: Is #KagazNahiDikhaenge (will not show the papers) a strategy to avoid declaring properties like this? Will not get an Adhar Card, will not use a bank account, linking account with the Aadhar does not even make sense, as both of them don’t exist. In short, will not do anything that would give the government a lead on where the properties are and how much the properties are. Just put the poor and women in the front and the discourse of the discussion goes to a different tangent altogether.

And by the way, I forgot to mention earlier that there are two types of Wakfs, Public wakfs and family wakfs (alal aulad), the report only and only talks about public wakfs. It does not even touch the surface of family wakfs.

Question 2: Land acquisition issues. Since Wakf properties are scattered all across the country, they are at both the prime locations as well as the sub-urban areas, are they the reasons why governments face serious issues while acquiring land to build anything? Just put the faces of farmers and tribals and once again the narrative changes altogether.

Question 3: Where are the funds generated from these Wakf Properties or assets being used? Are these funds used in Shaheen Bagh like events? Money had to come from somewhere. Right?

Question 4: Is it a form of Land Jihad? I could explain this using following diagrams:

If you consider the bigger rectangle as the area of India and the smaller circle within as the Wakf land, the bigger rectangle has a fix area and will not increase unless India starts invading other countries, which is never going to happen. But the smaller area is expanding at a rate that we are not aware of. But what we are aware of as per the deputy chairman of the Rajya Sabha(2004-12), K. Rahman Khan, the Wakf Board was already the third largest land holder in the country after Defence and Indian Railways. At the time when the government faces difficulties acquiring these pieces of land, what is a common non-Muslim going to do? What happens to the non-Muslims? Where will they go? Moreover, one of the court cases talking about the similar situation has been quoted in the report too.

If you are thinking, Wakfs are used only for social causes, the report clearly debunks this thought and states a variety of instances where the Wakfs are used for private purposes to build shops, complexes, buildings etc. There are innumerable instances where Wakfs are treated by Mutawallis as their personal properties. From dargahs, the offerings are sometimes appropriated by them. By the way, have you been paying your visits at Dargahs and peers for some miracles? Good!!!

So coming back to the original question, Is Indian Muslim community really marginalized and at economic disadvantage? I will not answer this, but instead I will rephrase the question for you and leave you to ponder upon. Is the Muslim community in India investing everything they got in their religious agenda even at the cost of their socio-economic well being?

Think about it and do let me know your views in the comments below. And if it does make sense to you, please do share the article with others. Everyone should be aware of what is going on in the country. This is extremely important because once they know things like this, they would come up with better arguments when people want religious Hindu institutions to make contributions for non-religious purposes. Different states and governments were able to impose taxes on Hindu temples and were able to control them, when other religious institutions were kept out of purview of the state only because Hindus did not give a damn about these things. I urge every reader to share this article or share the chapter 11 of the report or write a similar article and do his/her part.

Thanks for your time and patience. Stay safe and stay healty!!!

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