All 133 mosques and shrines with an annual income of Rs. 26 crore and 9500 kanals of land in Jammu and Kashmir have come under the Central Wakf Board under the J&K Reorganization Act
Mohammad Muzafar Thakur
SINCE the creation of Shia Wakf Board in Jammu and Kashmir is a hot topic these days I deem it important to put across my views on the issue which I’m sure reflects views of the society at large. Even though I live in America, I can’t detach myself from my community, culture and ethos. I have the highest regard and respect for every political leader, religious scholars, preachers and members of my community back home. However, this doesn’t stop me from having differences of opinion on the issues of public importance and it does not tantamount to arrogance or disrespect. This is in fact, the essence of democracy and necessary for creating a democratic temper in the society.
I heard many statements for and against the creation of the Shia Wakf Act, but I personally feel we should have a separate Wakf Act for better administration and management of Auqaf properties belonging to Shia Muslim community for the reasons enumerated below.
- Wakf Act will maintain transparency and accountability in the system. Every penny out of Auqaf property will be accounted for and if there is any mismanagement or discrepancy in the revenue, action under rules will be taken. Every member of our community will have the right to have access to any record after fulfilling certain formalities and the officer in charge shall be bound by law to publish income and expenditure statements duly certified by a firm of Chartered Accountants after every year in local dailies for the information of the general public.
- Some people are of the view that the ‘assistants’ appointed by the Mara’ja (scholars of jurisprudence) in Qom and Najaf at different places are only authorised to look into the wakf related issues. But I fail to understand that if the ‘assistants’ sell auqaf land to some private person or violate the fundamental principles of wakf property or conceal the income of the auqaf or there is no transparency in the system, whether that person will continue to hold the position? In fact, this is a misinterpretation of sharia and the Mara’ja have already conveyed their decision that ‘the donated land cannot be sold to anyone under any circumstances.” No person is above law. Everybody is accountable in this world and hereafter for every act they have done in this world. Even the prophets are accountable. I have never seen in my lifetime any income and expenditure statement of wakf properties in Kashmir being published in any newspaper.
- When a Wakf Board is constituted it will be manned, managed and run by local Shia persons of repute or who are elected for the post. No outsider will have a place in the Board. It is on this analogy that no Shia can be nominated on Sunni Wakf Board or any Hindu Trust. This is misrepresentation of the facts that outsiders will be nominated on the Shia Wakf Board. However, the Minister incharge who should be a Shia will be chairman. It is general guideline in respect all Muslim Auquaf Trusts or Boards that the Minister incharge heads the board.
- The Government is finalizing the formation of two Wakf Boards in Kashmir and one in Ladakh under the Central Wakf Act 1995 that would map up wakf properties in the two union territories and digitise records as well. The Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Auquaf Trust was established by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, former Chief Minister in 1978. He sent a letter to late Aga Syed Yousuf Almosvi of Budgam seeking his consent for enactment of separate Shia Auqaf. Unfortunately, this letter was ignored and we lost the opportunity of enactment of a separate Shia Auqaf. Notwithstanding the fact, that Trusts or Boards of endowments of less importance were established which brought tremendous improvement in the management of Wakf properties. For instance Jammu and Kashmir Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Act was enacted 1988. With the enactment of Act the revenue of Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board increased then the idea of University and Hospital was conceived, which is comparable to AIIMS.
On the contrary our Imam Hussain (AS) Hospital, Bemina was started much earlier but this institution is in a shabby condition. Much after its establishment many more acts were enacted like Jammu and Kashmir Shri Amarnathji Shrine Act 2000, Jammu and Kashmir Mata Sukrala Shrine Act, 1988 and Shri Shiv Khori Shrine Act 1999, Shri Mata Bala Sundari Shrine Act 2013 and Jammu and Kashmir Sikh Gurdwara Religious and Endowment Act of 1988 were enacted thereafter.
- The existing Jammu and Kashmir Board for Muslims Specified Wakf in Kashmir is awaiting the decision to be implemented as it plans to open a chain of general stores next to religious shrines and start a clothing brand that would be available at nominal prices. It also plans to establish diagnostic testing laboratories on nominal charges for the benefit of the patients. We must learn lessons from other communities. Sikhs have established low price medicine shops at Gurudwara Bangla Sahib, New Delhi where medicine and diagnostic facilities are available to everyone on nominal charges. The J&K BMSW also plans to provide interest free loans to budding entrepreneurs, especially women.
All 133 Muslim mosques and shrines with an annual income of Rs. 26 crore and 9500 kanals of land in Jammu and Kashmir have come under the Central Wakf Board under the J&K Re-organisation Act. The Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Wakf Board is a rich organisation and has pushed for modernisation of education in the Kashmir Valley by supporting the setting up of the Islamic University of Science and Technology between 2002 to 2008. The Jammu and Kashmir Wakf Board is taking care of 2000 buildings and kiosks and runs three Nursing Colleges. Compared with the centralized revenue collecting system of Jammu and Kashmir Wakf Board, the Central Wakf Board gives more powers to Mutwalis, the traditional caretakers of the shrines to collect endowments in the form of cash and jewellery and run the affairs on their own. The Central Wakf Act calls for 7% of revenue share from these shrines. However, unlike the rest of the country, the Jammu and Kashmir Wakf Board centralizes all revenue and plans for expansion of basic infrastructure. The previous J&K board given the assets and revenue model, was able to foray into the health and education sectors.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
Author lives in Denver, America and can be reached at: [email protected]
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