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Villagers protest against Waqf Board illegal encroachment around Kolhapur’s Mahadev Temple

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The villagers in Kolhapur (Maharashtra), observed a complete bandh. The bandh saw widespread participation from various Hindu organisations and local residents. This collective action was a clear demonstration of the village’s unified stance against the perceived injustice regarding the land dispute.

This action was a protest against the alleged land grab by the Waqf Board involving the land surrounding the Mahadev Temple. Reports indicate that the villagers have expressed their concerns through a formal statement submitted to District Collector Amol Yedge, representing the interests of the Hindu community.

The villagers have accused the Gram Panchayat of failing to effectively present its case during the ongoing legal hearings concerning the disputed land.

According to local sources, despite assurances from District Collector Yedge to investigate and escalate the matter to higher authorities, he advised the villagers to first seek intervention from the Zila Parishad administration.

Local villager Piraji Sankpal voiced his concerns to the media, stating that – “The land, ‘Agricultural Survey No. 89’ at Wadanage, belongs to the Gram Panchayat. The Waqf Board claimed this land 25 years ago, and the hearing has been ongoing since then. Due to the Gram Panchayat administration’s inability to present its side effectively, this land has been transferred to the Waqf Board. In protest, all the Hindus of the village observed a bandh. This situation has arisen because the Gram Panchayat administration’s role in the case has been suspicious”.

In a post on the social media platform X, Legal Rights Observatory alleged that the temple committee previously allotted shops around the Mahadev Temple to Muslim individuals who had submitted high bids during an auction process. They noted that local Hindus had cautioned the temple committee about potential future issues, predicting that such actions might lead to the temple losing its land.

The bandh in Wadanage is a significant event reflecting the villagers’ deep-seated grievances and concerns over the handling of the land dispute by local administrative bodies. The situation underscores the complexities involved in land ownership and religious trust properties in Bharat, particularly under the legal framework governing Waqf properties. The villagers’ protest serves as a call for more transparent and effective administration and adjudication in such disputes. The outcome of this situation remains to be seen, as it hinges on further actions by local authorities and higher judicial or administrative interventions.

Waqf Act

The Waqf Act, enacted on November 22, 1995, outlines the powers and functions of the Waqf Council, State Waqf Boards, and the Chief Executive Officer. It also defines the responsibilities of the mutawalli (custodian of Waqf property). Importantly, the Act establishes Waqf Tribunals, which function as civil courts with comprehensive judicial powers under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Decisions made by these Tribunals are final and binding, precluding any civil court from hearing matters under the Tribunal’s purview.

The concept of Waqf implies that once property is dedicated (waqf) to Allah, it cannot revert to private ownership. Thus, any land designated as Waqf remains perpetually under Waqf status.

Some Other Cases

Similar cases emerged in January 2023 as well in Ranipet and Vellore, where lands owned by Hindus were being claimed as Waqf properties. In Veppur village near Arcot Union, 57 acres of land held by Hindu families for generations were suddenly claimed by authorities, despite legal rulings in favour of the Hindus. The affected families, dependent on these lands for their livelihood, protested against the unjust actions, but their pleas fell on deaf ears, reflecting what some see as minority appeasement measures.

The Tamil Nadu Waqf Board’s claim to the 1500-year-old Manendiyavalli Chandrashekhara Swami temple land, totalling 369 acres in Tiruchenthurai village, Tiruchi District. The Waqf Board’s claim arose when local farmer Rajagopal attempted to sell his land.

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