The All Muslims Welfare Society on Thursday accused the Punjab government and the state Wakf Board of not getting encroached board land vacated, with adequate space not available even for burial in Amritsar and its satellite towns.
Of the 400 mosques and 20 burial grounds existing in 1947 in Amritsar and its outskirts, only 18 mosques and two pieces of land for burial are in the possession of the community for religious rituals and prayers (for a Muslim population of more than 2 lakh), while the board is not making any effort to retrieve the rest of the assets encroached upon by private people, society chairman Manik Ali said at a press conference here on Thursday.
Manik also demanded the review of the entire record of board lands across the state and check alleged corrupt practices in the state administration in connivance with encroachers to retrieve land so that the Muslim community should not suffer as a minority in Punjab.
He said the society had been knocking at the doors of the board time and again, but to no avail so far.
Ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MLAs Inderbir Singh Bolaria (south Amritsar) and Gulzar Singh Ranike (Attari) were also approached, but their assurances did not prove fruitful, he said.
"People from Verka and Ajnala Road areas take bodies 25 km away for burial to the ground at Sultanwind," Manik said.
He gave examples of two pieces of the board's prime land that were encroached upon, including an 8-acre agricultural land near Verka and an old Anjum Islamia park at Subzi Mandi.
The community would be relieved if these lands are vacated, especially to solve the problem of shortage of space for burial, he added.
Manik also stated that only 20 poor Muslim families had the blue card for the atta-dal scheme. "There are more than 2,000 families who deserve to be covered under the atta-dal scheme in Amritsar alone," he said.
He also demanded that the state government cover Muslims under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category.
Manik said the complaint was that Muslims in Punjab were denied benefits as OBC, despite the fact that the community in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were duly covered under the OBC category.
He also pointed out that the community was denied 'cashless health insurance' cards by the Amritsar civil hospital administration.
Rs 22,000 properties encroached upon'
When contacted, Wakf Board chairman Izhar Alam said the local administration (at the SDM level) was not implementing court orders for the eviction of various lands of the board across the state.
"Of some 25,000 properties, about 22,000 are encroached upon across the state," he said, adding that hundreds of cases for their eviction were pending in courts.
He said he was already looking into the problem of scarcity of land for burial grounds in the state.