A former Samajwadi Party corporator who is fighting several cases of forgery, Wasim Rizvi, the chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Shia Waqf Board who claims to have a solution to the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute, is not new to controversies.
Rizvi recently met Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath as well as Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar over the issue. On behalf of the Shia Waqf Board, he had submitted a proposal before the Supreme Court on November 18, suggesting that a temple be built at the disputed site, while a masjid should come up in Lucknow’s Hussainabad area, to maintain peace.
The forgery cases filed against Rizvi concern waqf properties and three of these were registered under the present BJP government. The Yogi government has also recommended a CBI probe into an alleged scam in transfer and misuse of waqf properties under him. Rizvi, 46, claims the cases are born out of vengeance. “All the cases against me were lodged when I started taking action against the maulvis (clerics) for corruption related to waqf land seven years back. These people had political links and I was wrongly framed. I have moved court regarding the three fresh cases,” says Rizvi.
The son of a Class II railway employee who never finished college, Rizvi won as an SP corporator from Kashmiri Mohalla ward of Old City in Lucknow in 2000, and in 2008, became a member of the Shia Waqf Board during Mulayam Singh Yadav’s regime. He is considered close to controversial SP leader Azam Khan.
In 2012, Rizvi was expelled from SP for six years after falling out with prominent Shia cleric Kalbe Jawwad, who once took out a protest march demanding his removal. Jawwad accused him of siphoning of funds. Following Rizvi’s expulsion from the SP, the Shia Waqf Board was itself dissolved. But Rizvi later got relief from court and was reinstated. Rizvi has now been chairman of the Shia Waqf Board for 10 years, through the Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav governments, and his term will last till 2020.
Recently, his position again came under threat after Minister for Minority Weflare Laxmi Narayan Chaudhary recommended removal of chairmen of both the Shia and Sunni Waqf Boards. The government went ahead and removed six members of the Shia Waqf Board, who secured relief from court on the grounds that they were not given a proper hearing. The process of removal of chairmen was eventually not pursued by the government. “We are elected to our posts, so the government cannot remove or dissolve the board,” Rizvi told The Indian Express.
Sayed Ejaz Abbas, a member of the Central Waqf Council who as then in-charge of UP submitted a report regarding alleged scam of waqf properties in Uttar Pradesh, says, “I recommended a CBI probe, especially into the functioning of chairmen of the Shia and Sunni Waqf Boards as a large number of costly waqf properties are transferred or sold in a wrong manner. I also mentioned that there are about 12 cases registered against Rizvi, all related to fraud in transfer of waqf properties.”