Afroz Alam Sahil and M Reyaz, BeyondHeadlines
Bettiah/Patna (Bihar): In a blatant case, Bihar state officials are found indulging in illegally confiscating of waqf properties.
The mutawalli (caretaker) of a mosque and waqf property in Bettiah town of Bihar’s West Champaran district has accused some former and working state officials of seeking bribery and illegal confiscation of waqf properties.
Mohamamd Riyazuddin alias Tunna, the mutawalli of Jangi Masjid in the town, has alleged that former Narkatiyaganj Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Surendra Prasad , former Gaunaha Circle Officer (CO) Pramod Kumar and Anil Thakur , assistant of the SDM, asked for a bribe of Rs 50,000 and that when he refused to pay, they took hold of 13 acres of waqf land at Gaunaha by forging documents.
Riyaz was involved in a legal tussle over the waqf properties with Salma Khatoon and the state government. Although Riyaz won the title suit, he was later charged with “unlawful assembly armed with deadly weapon,” continuing it even after “knowing it has been commanded to disperse” and rioting under Sections 144, 145 and 146 of Indian Penal code (IPC).
Concerned officials further forged waqf documents and “illegally confiscated” the said properties, Riyaz alleged.
Riyaz even wrote letters to state Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and the lokayukta in this regard but has not received any response so far. He further used the Right to Information and collected many documents. But none has been of much help.
In his letter to the chief minister (written in Hindi), Riyaz alleged: “On March 16, 2008, Gaunaha Circle Officer Pramod Kumar came to my residence and asked for Rs 50,000 as bribery; else Narkatiyaganj Sub-divisional Magistrate Surendra Prasad and his assistant Anil Thakur would forge documents and confiscate 13 acres of land of the Bihar State Sunni Waqf Board in the Gaunaha circle.”
The mutawalli further wrote, “He (Pramod Kumar) threatened that any court or documents or any attempt would be futile in regaining the waqf property once confiscated.”
As Riyaz had refused to pay the bribe, the then SDO confiscated the land on June 2, 2008. The SDO had refused to accept any proof or documents, Riyaz alleged.
According to Riyaz, then CO Pramod Kumar has further kept insisting on bribe.
The SDO office said in response to an RTI application, “The SDO has no right to make any comment on the appointment of the mutawalli by the Bihar Waqf Board.”
However, this did not dither the concerned officials from challenging his appointment as the mutwalli, alleged Riyaz.
Riyaz then filed a writ petition (306/73) in the Patna High Court, and the decision went in his favour.
Ironically, mutawalli Riyaz has been paying the land revenues since 1965 but has not been able to get control over the land.
Both the session and the district court have further decided in his favour in the rioting charges slapped against him.
When BeyondHeadlines contacted former Narkatiyaganj SDO Surendra Prasad, he refused to comment, saying that “Betiah did not come under his jurisdiction.”
Prasad added, “He does not have any interest in this issue as public servants are used to such baseless allegations.”
The lokayaukta has ordered an enquiry, in which division officials shunned all allegations. The chief minister has hence disposed the accusation.
The Patna High Court had further ordered for the disposal of the case within four months last year as the SDO has no jurisdiction over waqf properties. But the SDO has only been adjourning it for over a year now.
In response to an application filed under RTI, the Minority Welfare Department of the state said: “Many waqf properties have been illegally confiscated by political henchmen. Hence the income of the waqf board has gradually been decreasing, and it is becoming difficult to even pay the staffs.”
It further adds: “If all waqf properties could be released from unauthorized control, the board then can not only stand on its own but also initiate welfare schemes like some other states.”