The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) has been out of power for more than eight years, yet the list of its alleged scams and appeasement policies is never ending. The UPA 2.0 was marred with countless allegations of corruption and the writing on the wall was clear. It had no chance of making a comeback to power. Amid all such clamours of despair within the Congress party, it seemed that it resorted to shattering all records of appeasement. Reportedly, at the far end of its second tenure, the UPA government “gifted” prime properties in the heart of Delhi to Wakf board in lieu of vote bank politics.
Was UPA doing the bidding for Wakf Board?
As per media reports, Wakf board holds the third largest land ownership in India only behind the Indian Railways and the Department of Defence. Reportedly, around 5 lakhs properties are registered under this “minority welfare board”. All these Wakf properties are spread across 6 lakh acres of land. The worth of this mammoth land bank is said to be to the tunes of around Rs 1.20 lakh crore. Apparently, all this land grabbing was legalised in the garb of religion and it ran unabated courtesy to the connivance of corrupt and power-hungry politicians.
However, the alarming capture of entire villages of Tamil Nadu including a 1500-years-old Hindu Mandir by the Wakf board have started a much-needed debate on this move of land grabbing. It has highlighted the grave extra constitutional privileges that are given to certain Minority Institutions in the name of Secular politics. It has also brought back an appalling case where the ruling UPA government was allegedly working as the agent of such Minority Institutions.
UPA waved a magic wand to win 2014 Lok Sabha election
The Congress party is in troubling waters for its past decisions. Apparently, it is alleged that right before the announcement of Model Code of Conduct in 2014, it gifted around 123 high-valued properties to the Delhi wakf board. Allegedly, with a stroke of a pen, it surrendered its ownership of these lands which it inherited after Independence. On 5th March 2014, the UPA administration denotified these 123 prime properties giving legitimacy to the illegal land grabbing of Wakf board.
The most bizarre story surfacing now is that in 2014, a night before model code of conduct applied for general election, UPA govt ‘gifted’ 123 prime properties in Delhi to Waqf Board.
UPA lost the election but not before selling the heart of Delhi.
— The Hawk Eye (@thehawkeyex) September 17, 2022
Records states that 61 of these properties were with the Land and Development Office under the Union Urban Development Ministry and 62 with the Delhi Development Authority (DDA). Notably, the Ministry was headed by Kamal Nath at the time of this cabinet ratification to this move.
These illegal properties surrendered by the UPA include high-value properties in areas such as Connaught Place, Janpath, Mathura Road, and Karol Bagh, among others. The said surrender of ownership rights allowed the Delhi Wakf Board to carry out construction and renovation work on these properties.
However, this glaring appeasement tactic was quickly challenged in the court. The Indraprastha team of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) challenged the UPA surrender in the Delhi High Court. The VHP accused the UPA government of giving “undue favour” to the Minority community.
In August 2014, the High Court disposed of the VHP petition asking the Union government, Land and Development Office to take appropriate decisions after hearing all the stakeholders. However, the court categorically directed to maintain the status quo which prevented the properties from falling in the illegal control of Delhi Wakf Board.
In 2016, the Union government constituted a one-member committee in this matter. It submitted its report in 2017. However, the Central government rejected the inconclusive report. Later, in August 2018, the Modi government appointed a two-member Committee for the same purpose. In November 2021, the Delhi Development Authority invited representations from the public with regard to the properties. In March this year, Delhi HC had issued a notice to the Union government in this property transfer matter.
The said land transfer case is a glaring example of appeasement politics, illegal land grabbing of special powers vested to some Minority institutions. The recent controversies have highlighted the mighty administrative and judicial powers of the wakf board. It is high time that the Wakf act which gives extra constitutional power to this body is scrapped so as to put a stop on this glaring land grabbing.
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