A widening trust-deficit between influential Muslims and minority affairs minister Salman Khurshid threatens to stall a plan to put Islamic assets called wakf to profitable use — raising questions about how well the government’s schemes are taken by the community.
The UPA government is wary of murmurs of “wakf privatisation”, especially from the Muslim Personal Law Board and Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind.
“There is no question of…(interference) in the constitutional rights of minority institutions, be it educational, religious or charitable,” a government clarification stated.
Yet, Jamiat chief Arshad Madni has called a “wakf conference”. The BJP too has demanded that wakf be used purely for Muslim welfare, its minority department chief Tanveer Ahmed said.
Wakf assets — strewn countrywide — are Islamic endowments for charity, usually in the form of prime real estate. According to a parliamentary report, they can generate over Rs 10,000 crore in revenue.
“That’s an incredible sum for the community’s welfare,” said Rajya Sabha deputy chair K Rahman Khan, the lead author of the parliamentary report, which says of the 4-lakh hectares of wakf property, nearly 3 lakh remain encroached, often by government entities.
Now, plans for a clean-up – with a wakf development agency and mandatory wakf registration — by modifying an earlier law have come unstuck. Even Muslim MPs raised doubts, resulting in they holding back the legislation.
How a wakf is to be used depends on its creator’s intentions — a principle called mansha-e-wakf. Some wakfs, like a drinking-water facility, can serve everybody, unlike others, such as a school for needy Muslims.
The Cabinet recently approved the hiring of a consultant to suggest a finance mechanism — a tricky area, since wakf assets cannot be hired, mortgaged, gifted or sold.
Critics say such financing could route wakf revenue to non-Muslim entities if their funds are used. Khurshid refutes: “By creating an agency to finance wakfs, their properties cannot go into the hands of non-Muslims.”