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J&K: In a first, BJP leader elected new chairperson of Waqf Board

BJP’s rivals have alleged the move is the saffron party’s “next step” to implement “RSS ideology in religious institutions” in the country’s only Muslim-majority UT.

Written by Arun Sharma | Jammu |
Updated: March 18, 2022 2:28:32 am
Dr Darakshan Andrabi with PM Modi. (Twitter)

For the first time in Jammu and Kashmir, the Waqf Board, which manages Muslim shrines, mosques and educational institutes, will be headed by a leader of the BJP.

BJP’s rivals have alleged the move is the saffron party’s “next step” to implement “RSS ideology in religious institutions” in the country’s only Muslim-majority UT.

Elected chairperson unanimously at a meeting in Jammu on Wednesday, Dr Darakshan Andrabi, a national executive member of the saffron party, is also the first woman to lead the Board.

After being elected, she said the “pivotal’’ responsibility does not include only construction and maintenance of religious places.

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“Creating assets like schools, universities and hospitals, such as Narayana Hospital and Shri Mata Vaishno Devi University, are worth emulating,’’ she said, adding the Board’s utilities will be beneficial to all people irrespective of colour, creed or religion.

“The actions of the new body are going to be louder than its words. People are going to feel the difference after it works for some time,’’ she said.

PDP spokesperson and former MLA, Firdous Tak, termed Andrabi’s election as Waqf Board chairperson as “BJP taking the next step to control the religious beliefs and practices” in J&K.

“They want to implement the RSS ideology in religious institutions being run by J&K Waqf Board,’’ he said. “It is another leaf in the red book of BJP to humiliate and coerce people from a particular faith in the country.’’

The other members of the new Board included Syed Mohammad Hussain, an Islamic scholar; writer and columnist Ghulam Nabi Haleem; prominent journalist Sohail Kazmi; and Nawab Din, the Regional Director, Survey and Land Records, Udhampur. They were appointed members by the Centre last month, for a period of five years.

Until 2019, when J&K’s special status was revoked and the erstwhile state was divided into two UTs – J&K and Ladakh – the Waqf Board was headed by the Chief Minister who would also keep the Hajj and Auqaf portfolio.

Subsequently, the J&K Waqf Act, 2001, and the Specified Waqf Act, 2004, were repealed, paving way for the Central Waqf Act, 1995, to be extended to the UT.

The J&K Wakf Board looks after around 32,000 properties, including shrines, mosques, educational institutions across the UT. Of these, sources have told The Indian Express, 25,000 have been geo-tagged by the active efforts of various deputy commissioners and other basic revenue workers.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, UT Lt Governor Manoj Sinha congratulated Andrabi over her election as Waqf Board chairperson when she along with other members called on him at Raj Bhavan.

While interacting with the delegation, Sinha urged them to work earnestly and to contribute in taking the UT to new heights of socio-economic development.

“J&K is witnessing rapid development and growth under unprecedented reforms and a new vision,” Sinha said.

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