Whither Waqf?

Among the many myths recent floods have demolished in Kashmir is one fabricated around the use and potential of the Waqf Board. Once again it has been shown that when crisis comes, the Waqf disappears. The Board controls most of the Valley’s shrines, and has incomes running into crores, but was conspicuous by its absence in the ranks of individuals and organisations volunteering in relief efforts.

Thousands of people in Kashmir visit shrines that have been placed under Waqf management, and make big or small offerings in devotion, all of which goes into the Board’s coffers. And yet, it has not been able to afford even a brief statement of sympathy for flood-sufferers, not to speak of funding, organising or carrying out any relief activity. Is the Waqf Board not accountable to anyone? Or has been turned into a fiefdom of a few particular families that milk it for their own gain?

When so many religious, social and political organisations have rushed promptly for rescue and relief work, when NGOs and other groups, both within the state and outside, have come in to help, the Waqf Board has preferred inertia and inaction, refusing even to make a token donation for flood victims.

Several student organisations have carried out fumigation in schools and residential areas, but, if reports are to be believed, the Waqf Board has not bothered to do even this for the schools it runs. The large number of employees it has on its payroll may as well have not existed. It is saddening to see one of the oldest, and richest, institutions in Kashmir to have reduced itself to sloth, and become incapable of constructive and humanitarian effort.

The Waqf Board has opted for slumber in Kashmir’s difficult hour. This is as good a time as any for ordinary Kashmiris to ask what it does with its wealth.