Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi Friday announced that the government will set up two Waqf Boards in Kashmir and one in Ladakh. Naqvi said this is the first time that J&K and Ladakh will have Waqf Boards, which will map properties in the two Union Territories and digitise records.
Naqvi made the announcement at a meeting of the Central Waqf Council in New Delhi.
Naqvi told The Indian Express,: “There are 40,000 prime properties in Kashmir which include Dargahs and shrines, community centres etc.
These properties are not being utilised to their full potential right now. Because of Article 370, Kashmir has never had a Waqf board and this is the first time since Independence that it will have not just one but two. One Waqf Board will be for Shia Muslims and the other for Sunnis. In Kargil, since most Muslims are Shia, Ladakh will have just one Waqf board.
While Kashmir has so far not had Waqf boards, an Auqaf board was established by Sheikh Abdullah in 1932. He himself was its first chairperson. The Auqaf board functioned much like a Waqf board and was in charge of looking after Dargahs, shrines and Muslim community-held properties in Kashmir.
Why govt wants to map Waqf properties
There are 6,64,000 registered Waqf properties across the country. According to Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Waqf boards hold the largest number of properties in the country, second only to the Defence sector, and many have been “mishandled” — they are either encroached upon, are disputed or are being misused.
“This Auqaf board was run by private players and the chairperson and vice chairperson would usually be an academic… When Mufti Mohammad Sayeed came to power, he changed the nature of the Auqaf and restructured it so that it came directly under and was run by the government,” said National Conference general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar, who has also been a trustee of the Auqaf for 22 years.
Sagar said the Auqaf held thousands of properties across the state which, apart from the dargahs and shrines, also included hotels, shops and malls. The Auqaf would also provide interest-free loans to widows and to poor students.
Naqvi, however, said that the Auqaf properties were not organised properly or utilised well in Kashmir. “We have decided that if they now want to build schools, hospitals or infrastructure that will benefit the community on these properties, not only will this be allowed but that it will receive 100 per cent funding from the Centre,” he said.
Naqvi announced that his ministry had begun the process of digitisation, geo-tagging and GPS mapping of Waqf properties across the country.
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