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Seemandhra Muslims demand compensation for sale of Wakf properties

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By Siva G & Syed Akbar

Hyderabad/Visakhapatnam: With the division of the state now looking inevitable, Muslims in Seemandhra are demanding two Haj Houses and a mega compensation package for the new Wakf Board in their region alleging that the AP State Wakf Board's activities have always been Telangana-centric.

Over the years the Andhra Pradesh State Wakf Board has spent its money and energy on Muslims and Muslim institutions in Telangana while neglecting the community in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema, they alleged adding that the Wakf Board and various wakf institutions in Telangana were developed with the money from wakf bodies in Seemandhra.

Muslim leaders also alleged that properties of many wakf institutions in Seemandhra were sold for a song when Telangana leaders headed the minorities welfare ministry. The Wakf Board gets 7% of the revenue of institutions as maintenance fee, but the money was not properly utilized for development of Muslims or their institutions in Seemandhra.

"There has been virtually no development of wakf properties in Seemandhra ever since the region was merged with Hyderabad state on November 1, 1956. Successive state governments concentrated on development of wakf bodies in Telangana and neglected the institutions in Seemandhra. Government sold away thousands of acres of prime wakf properties in Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Guntur, Nellore, Anantapur, Kadapa, and Kurnool. The money from the sale proceeds was pumped into wakf institutions in Telangana," argues Mohammad Habibur Rahman, president of Muslim United Front, Vijayawada.

Of the 35,000-odd wakf institutions in Andhra Pradesh, about 32,000 are in Telangana, around 2500 in Rayalaseema and about 1200 in coastal Andhra. But 60% of wakf properties spread over about 50,000 acres in Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra have been either sold off or encroached upon.

The APSWB, Muslim leaders alleged, had failed to develop the Imdad Ghar, a multi-storey wakf complex in Vijayawada.

Social activist Abdul Azeez of Vijayawada accused the state government of always being biased towards Muslim institutions in Telangana. "A portion of the money from the sale of wakf lands in Visakhapatnam was utilized for Haj House in Hyderabad, while wakf institutions in the Port City were neglected. Not even a shed has been constructed at the Vizag Dargah for the convenience of pilgrims. The government should give back all the wakf lands sold away in Seemandhra or pay a hefty compensation to the new board that will come up in the region after bifurcation," he demanded.

The Dargah of Hazrat Syed Ali Ishaq Madani Aulia in Visakhapatnam once owned about 7800 acres of land, including 5000 acres at Devada and Palavalasa on the city outskirts. Around 2500 acres were given to coal-based power plants -- NTPC Simhadri and the Hinduja plant. Another 2000 acres at Yarada, abutting the Eastern Naval Command base, is disputed as the state government has been claiming that the land belongs to it. The Wakf Board filed a case in court claiming that the land belonged to the Alamgir mosque in the Old City.

The state government got about Rs 40 crore after it sold the Dargah land at a throwaway price. The government used a portion of the money for developing the Haj House in Hyderabad. Sources said the remaining money lying in the bank in the board's name has now grown to Rs 75 crore due to interest accruals. Muslims in Visakhapatnam are now demanding that the money be transferred to the new board in Seemandhra after the geographical division of the state.

Mohiuddin Basha, one of the heirs of Sheik Hussain, who received the Dargah land as donation about 300 years ago, that now heads Yarada Mokhasadars Welfare Association, said: "When the state was united we remained silent. Now, the money should be sent to this region. We need our money for the welfare of the Muslims here."

Visakhapatnam district Wakf Committee president Shaik Moula too joined the Muslim chorus demanding a return of the money accrued from the sale proceeds of Seemandhra wakf properties. Muslim leaders in Vijayawada, Kadapa, Guntur, and Anantapur echoed the sentiments of Basha and Moula.

(Courtesy: The Times of India)
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