Waqf Board Puts Graveyards On Sale

Waqf Board Puts Graveyards On Sale

4 September 2012
Greater Kashmir
Umer Maqbool

Srinagar: In a bizarre exposé it has come to fore that the Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Waqf Board, which looks after shrines and other Muslim properties in the Valley, is selling cemeteries through underhand deals. Highly placed sources told Greater Kashmir that the Waqf Board, Land Record Officer (LRO), G M Khawaja has provided a patch of the graveyard land at Malkhah in Srinagar to a family in clear violation of the rules governing such deals. “In the instant case, the LRO had provided physical custody of the piece of land at the graveyard to the family who subsequently fenced it. The officer had taken Rs 20000 from the family against the graveyard land last year, but the family was not provided the formal allotment order which was to be approved by the Vice-Chairman of the Board,” they said. According to sources, the deal had become suspicious as the money taken by the LRO was not deposited in the Waqf Board account and further the LRO was not supposed to handover the physical possession of the land to the family without formal approval of the VC. Pertinently, as per the official records Waqf Board is in possession of 700 kanals and 3 malras of land at Malkhah. According to sources, after the matter came to fore in May this year, the VC in a damage- control exercise constituted three member committee to probe the ‘dubious’ land allotment made by LRO. The probe panel comprising Syed Muhammad Yousuf - Tehsildar, Ejaz Ahmad - Controller Revenue and Mushtaq Ahmad Shah - Auqaf Officer was tasked to look into the matter and subsequently the LRO was disengaged from the services of the Board. But the scam took new turn when the accused LRO pointed fingers on a top official of the Board, saying that he kept the money in his custody on the directions of the Secretary of the Board. “The LRO filed an affidavit before VC stating that he has kept the money with himself on the directions of the Secretary,” sources said, adding that once the name of Secretary cropped up, the higher-ups in the Board directed the inquiry team to go slow on the probe. “After the shocking allegations were leveled against the top official, the inquiry committee was told not to proceed with the investigations,” Board insiders said, adding; “It was mandatory for the Board to get to the bottom of the scam given the seriousness of charges.” When contacted Secretary Waqf Board, GM Rather said that he has no information about the allegations leveled against him by the LRO in the affidavit. “LRO was suspended on charges of financial embezzlement and other allegations of misconduct,” Rather said. Few days back, Greater Kashmir quoting an official report of Waqf Board pointed out how the field staff is looting donations offered by the devotees at the shrines in the Valley. Pertinent to mention here that Waqf Board is the second largest asset rich body in Jammu and Kashmir after State Government. Thousands of kanals of land and 1500 shops are owned by the Board in Kashmir province, but the amount earned from these properties is very meager. In Srinagar, the Waqf Board has revenue and estates assets at prime locations like Khanyar, Karan Nagar, Hazratbal, the Boulverad, Munawarabad, Maisuma and Batwara.