“Muslims can only be helped if they help themselves,” I am told by Chaudhary Mateen Ahmed, the chairman of the Delhi Wakf Board. He is a typical appointee to the Wakf. A four-term MLA from Seelampur, a huge Muslim-dominated slum, he could not be accommodated in the Sheila Dixit ministry as other members of his community got their foot in. So, he has been cooling his heels in the Wakf board since 2004.
There is merit in his suggestion that only those who help themselves can be helped by others. But Chaudhary Mateen is saying so to justify the fact that the Delhi Wakf Board has done nothing for the community. Ask if he has developed any resource for Muslims as is the purpose of Wakf—indeed as a believing man, his religious duty—and Mateen stares back. “Madam, you live in south Delhi. I live in a little lane in Seelampur with the qaum (community). I can tell you that individuals who want to move on and do things with their life will. But no institution can solve their problems,” he says.
Namazis want this ASI-protected monument as a functioning site for prayer, Jamali Kamali, Delhi: The Delhi Wakf Board is not doing anything to stop members of its community from forcibly entering the area. “They have the right to pray in those places,” says its chairman.
So has he even tried to do anything? He racks his brain, turns to the staff and says with some pride: “I’ve raised the salaries of imams to Rs 5,000 and of muezzins (who call the community to prayer) to Rs 4,000.” Is prayer the only advice he has for Muslims? “If there is nothing else, madam, there is prayer,” he replies. Chaudhary Mateen now delivers a gem: “It is because the Wakf board has increased the salaries of imams in Delhi that everyone wants to find a mosque so that they can be appointed imams. So people are wandering around looking for properties they can call mosques to get a livelihood.”
That, he reveals, is why for the past two months every Friday there has been a standoff between security forces and namazis trying to force their way into protected monuments of the Delhi Sultanate period in the Mehrauli area near the Qutub Minar. He then states that he has no intention of stepping in or persuading the namazis to stop their agitation although they are a public nuisance and the road linking Delhi to Gurgaon is now shut every Friday afternoon. “They have a right to say that monuments under ASI should be mosques. They have the right to pray in those places or get jobs there as imams if they can. Why should I stop them?”
The chairman’s ramblings give a fascinating insight into the economic incentive to an apparently religious mobilisation. There are more astounding declarations from the man. What about the huge encroachments in Delhi in mosques and graveyards under the Wakf board that he is supposed to prevent? The reply is quite priceless: “Muslims themselves are encroaching, so the community is benefiting, is it not?”
Maybe it’s best to engage with Mateen at his level. Question: Is the community benefiting or only a few individuals who pay bribes to make you people look the other way? “Those individuals who run shops or live in shrines are also Muslims, madam. And no one pays us any bribes.”
With so much land at its disposal, why has the Wakf board not developed any institution for the community? “You tell me what to do for them, madam please,” he says dramatically. He then reveals that his constituency Seelampur was the only part of Delhi that was selected as specially backward after the Sachar Commission report and given special funds for spending on assisting the Muslim community. “Do you know that money has been returned? No one had any idea how to spend it. Not the bureaucrats, nor even me. I feel it is pointless to give loans to Muslims as they never return it. So what do we do?”
Obviously, he intends to do nothing at all but look the other way while community resources are pilfered and wasted. As he said in the beginning of the conversation, it’s pointless....
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