Muslims’ Rights in India
Posted on September 25th, 2009

By: Afshain Afzal

 The Indian government has finally rejected a recommendation of the Sachar Committee to create Indian Wakf Services on the lines of the Civil Services to appoint officers to boards that manage Muslim religious and community properties. Although Minority Affairs Ministry has filed an application to find out for the reasons the rejection of the recommendation but the fate of this application would not be different from those being rejected since the division of Indian subcontinent into Pakistan and India. According to presently enforced Wakf Act of 1995, only Muslim officers from Indian Administrative Service (IAS) or an officer appointed by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) can be appointed as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the central and state Wakf boards. However, the Sachar Committee, which was appointed by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to study and prepare a report on the social, economic and educational status of Indian Muslims, found that there was an acute dearth of Muslim officers in the country. It is pertinent to note that the Wakf Boards across India are in a pathetic condition but the government is least pushed as if Muslims are not part of Indian society while an attempt to improve them has been sidelined by the Indian government.

 The concept of Waqf is rooted to the Quranic injunctions, which deal with charity. The followers of Islam transformed this concept of charity into an institution known as Waqf that formed the most important branch of Muslim Law for it is interwoven with the entire religious life and social economy of the Muslims. Literally, Waqf means endowment of moveable or immovable property dedicated to God by the Muslims for the welfare of needy and poor people. The Waqif (settler) in his deed appoints Mutawalli (Manager) for the administration of the Waqf. The Waqif is has authority to either appoint himself or any Muslim as Mutawalli. After the collapse of Muslim Empire the institution of Waqf remained under sustained controversy. During 19th century an Indian dispute over the Wakf was declared to be invalid by the British judges and they described the Wakf as “a perpetuity of the worst and the most pernicious kind”. It was Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah who persuaded the Legislative Council in Delhi to pass the Wakfs Act of 1913. Consequently, the British which confiscated several Waqf properties on the plea of anomalies in their administration restored them to the Muslims.

The British during their rule in India and later after independence, the Indian government, passed various regulations, judicial decisions and enactments of Waqf Acts like Religious Endowment Act 1863 to streamline the Waqf administration according to their own convenience. Same is the reason that till to-date solution to the problem could not be found. The Indian government passed Wakf Act 1954 which had provisions for survey of Wakfs, constitution of Central Wakf Council and State Wakf Boards. Certain changes were made in administrative structure of Waqfs through Waqf Amendment Act which provided more power to the Central Government over various Waqf Boards. Later the Act was repealed in 1995 with enactment of Waqf Act 1995. Although it is compulsory in India to register a Waqf but due to the reasons best known to Indian government there exact numbers in India are not known. Various surveys and registration of Wakf reveal that there are more or less 304000 registered Wakaf which are scattered all over the country. These Awqaf are either managed by the Waqifs (settlers) themselves or their descendants if mentioned in Waqfnama (endowment) or by their appointees or appointed by the Waqf Boards duly constituted my the Muslim community under the provision of Waqf Acts time to time enacted by the government. Most of the existing symbols of Islamic rule in India are theologically Waqf that often becomes a source of communal dispute in India.

There are 27 Wakf Boards throughout India, functioning under different state governments. Apart from these Wakf Boards there is a Central

Wakf Council which gives direction to them. It is ironical that most of the CEOs of the Wakf Boards in India are promoted officers and not of the appropriate seniority level, which is not in consonance with the Wakf Act. The Sachar Committee recommended in its report for the appointment of IAS or UPSC officers due to the fact that CEO is not high ranking in the hierarchy of the state bureaucracy so the interests of the Wakf Board often suffer. With the same spirit the committee recommended that in the Civil Services tests conducted by the UPSC, an examination for the cadre of Indian Wakf Services should also be included and those Muslims candidates who qualify in the examinations be made CEOs of Wakf Boards. However, the Indian government appears to least concerned with the development of Muslims’ institutions. Today an anti-Muslim atmosphere prevails throughout the India. In the name of secularism, the Indian government finds no difficulty to destroy the very basics of the Muslims rights i.e. the growth of Muslim institutions, culture, traditions and language. India should not confuse that creation of Pakistan meant that all the Muslims of subcontinent were destined to migrate to Pakistan. Pakistan was created for only the Muslims of Balochistan, Bengal, NWFP, Punjab and Sind as well as adjoining independent states willing to accede to Pakistan. It is true that mass migration from India to Pakistan and vice versa did took place but it was due to further division of Punjab and Bengal otherwise whole Punjab and Bengal would have been part of Pakistan. Now it is the responsibility of India government to accept all the Muslims residing in India states as citizens of India and treat them at par with other nationalities living in the country.

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