Money in Saudi treasury for four decades,debate in Kerala now

In the middle of the 19th century,a scholar from Kerala’s Malabar region built a shelter in Mecca for Haj pilgrims from his region

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram | Published: April 25, 2013 12:18 am

In the middle of the 19th century,a scholar from Kerala’s Malabar region built a shelter in Mecca for Haj pilgrims from his region. The shelter shifted location once but remained in Mecca for over a century,until the Saudi Arabia government demolished it in 1968. As compensation,the government deposited 1.40 million riyals in its treasury. The money has remained there since,with no heir identified.

Four decades on,two families in Kerala are disputing who,if anyone,should claim the money. The scholar’s family says no one has such a right. His in-laws’ descendants say they are the legal heirs. The state government has initiated steps to help find a resolution.

How much the money translates into is not clear. The scholar’s family says there cannot be interest in Saudi Arabia,but what isn’t clear is whether the amount will be adjusted for inflation since 1972. Neither the Kerala government nor the family would hazard a guess at its value in rupees.

The shelter,Keyi Rubat,was built by scholar Mayinkutty Keyi. Until then,pilgrims from the Malabar region (now North Kerala) had to put up in difficult conditions.

In 1956,as part of a mosque extension project,the Saudi government demolished the rubat and allotted it another area. It was rebuilt there with three buildings with 21 rooms. In 1968,it was pulled down permanently on account of a development programme.

The deposit of 1.40 million riyals in Saudi Arabia’s treasury was made in 1970,a document with the Kerala government shows. On November 28,1972,following enquiries by the Saudi government on who should inherit it,the Kerala government reported to the Centre that Mayinutty Keyi had no heirs. This too is being disputed now,one family saying he had a son and the other denying it.

The dispute cropped up in March 2012,when members of the Keyi family,based in Thalassery of North Kerala,held a press conference. They alleged that members of the Arakkal family of Kannur,erstwhile royals and descendants of Mayinkutty Keyi’s in-laws,had forged documents hoping to pocket the compensation. The Keyi family petitioned the chief minister and the state waqf board to look into the matter.

The Arakkal familys say Keyi had a son. Its members claim they are the legal heirs,since the royal family followed the matrilineal system.

Members of the Keyi family insist Mayinkutty had no children. They are of the opinion that neither of the two families has a right to the amount,since it was waqf property.

C P Alippy Keyi,who represents the scholar’s family,said the Saudi government had in 1970 asked his relatives C V Alippy Keyi and Moithu Keyi,through the district administration,about the compensation. “They refused to accept the money on the ground that it was waqf property. Once a property is given to waqf,it is given forever,” Alippy Keyi said. “We are of the opinion that the compensation should be used for building a new centre for Haj pilgrims.”

From the Arakkal family,Salam Hajji said,“The Saudi government is ready to give any amount to clear the matter in Mecca. Why should the Keyi family object to that? We have documents to prove that Mayinkutty Keyi had a son. Since the Arakkal family follows the matrilineal system,we have the right to the amount.”

About the government report that Mayinkutty Keyi had no legal heirs,Hajji alleged that the Keyi family was behind such reports. “We will soon submit a memorandum to nodal officer T O Sooraj,” Hajji said.

Sooraj is the Kerala government’s PWD secretary. He has been assigned the task of looking into the matter. He told The Indian Express that the Consul General of India in Jeddah has advised the Kerala government to identify the legal heirs,if any,to the amount. The Kerala government is keen to use the money to fund rubat-like premises,with facilities for pilgrims.

Keyi family sources cited from history to press their case for using the money for pilgrims. As per a sharia court ruling in Saudi Arabia following Mayinkutty Keyi’s death,the family sources said,Moosa Muhamed Malbari was appointed caretaker of the rubat. “It was stated in that deed that the rubat should be used for Haj pilgrims and the revenue from rent during the lean period should be used for supplying food during the month of Ramzan. That shows the charitable objective and establishes that the rubat was waqf property,’’says Alippy Keyi.

Kerala State Waqf Board member advocate P V Sainudheen agreed the amount should be utilised for the welfare of Haj pilgrims,as envisaged by Mayinkutty Keyi. As per Islamic laws,it cannot be taken back,he said.

On June 18,2012,Chief Minister Oommen Chandy wrote to the Consul General of India in Jeddah,“The state government is of the view that the compensation for acquiring Keyi Rubat should be exclusively used for Haj purpose of pilgrims from Kerala. The original sale deed and waqf deed relating to the property of Keyi Rubat are available neither with the Kerala Haj Committeen nor with the descendants of the Keyi family.’’

According to nodal officer Sooraj,if there is an heir for the property,the families will have to appoint a muthavally (manager),who in turn will have to appoint a Saudi citizen with a power of attorney for the transfer of funds from the treasury.

HOW MUCH

Rs 2 CRSaudi Riyal 1.4 million,according to online converters based on curent values. The exact rupee equivalent varies from website to website.

The family view

“One cannot make wild guesses… what I heard three years ago was that the amount was less than Rs 500 crore. Saudi Arabia does not give any interest,” says C P Alippy Keyi,whose forefather had built the shelter

Government says…

“We don’t know the present value of the deposit. It would be hypothetical cite any figures at this stage. The Saudi government has not disclosed any particulars about the present value…”

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