You recently exposed some scholarship irregularities claiming that injustice has been done to minority students. Could you elaborate on that?
In Bangalore, something called as the Taj Educational Trust was formed by IAS and KAS officers. It is supposed to have been set up to train Muslim students to face IAS and KAS exams. For the purpose they had built a building at the Navbahar Makan Wakf property of about 12 acres of land in Bangalore’s Bharatinagar constituency with classrooms and library facilities. But now, there are no classrooms and hardly any classes are being conducted there. The building has been converted into a lodge in the first and second floors and the ground floor has been converted into a Shadi Mahal. In the library, I found many gunny bag bundles. When I got them opened I found lots and lots of unopened covers bearing applications addressed to the Directorate of Minorities from students for scholarships, along with affidavits and photographs. I was later told that the Directorate of Minorities had been treating this library room as a godown and from the last 4-5 years these bundles were being stored at the place.
If students are not eligible for the scholarship, it is the duty of the Directorate to write back to them and inform them about it. But forget about responding back to students, they had not even opened the covers. This shows that the scholarships have been going to people whom they decide or they must be giving some benaami names and taking the money themselves. Even now I get complaints from places like Kolar, Bhatkal and so on stating that students who had applied for scholarships have not got their money. Sadiya Sultana, the present Director of the Directorate of Minorities, Karnataka, has been indicted of manipulating Wakf property in Bidar. The Muslim bureaucrats along with the so called leaders are all hand in glove and are depriving the rights of the Muslim have-nots.
Your expose on Wakf irregularities and submission of a report to the Chief Minister on the same created quite a few ripples. Did you find irregularities in Wakf properties in Mangalore too?
In a gazette notification I found that Nadu Masjid in Bunder area of Mangalore owns 15 acres of land. It has also been registered in the records of the Wakf Board in Bangalore. I thought 15 acres in Bunder is an interesting mention as that would mean that almost one third of the entire Bunder area would belong to the mosque. When I checked with the mosque authorities I was told they own just 19 cents of land. The rest of the land has been occupied by shopkeepers.
In the coastal belt people give land as Wakf to a mosque in the form of property or land elsewhere maybe in the form of arecanut farms and so on. But the Wakf Board officials sell them to other people which is not right. According to the Supreme Court, once a Wakf property always a Wakf property, but these irregularities have taken place and Mangalore is no exception.
What is the status of the Windsor Manor Wakf property in Bangalore which you highlighted in your report?
The High Court has directed for mediation between the Wakf Board and the Hotel. In other words, it has asked for a compromise. The people who are in the Wakf Board are a bunch of jokers and they will even go for a compromise rather than trying to get back the property which belongs to the community. As per the norms, pork and wine business has no place on a Wakf property and that is what is happening at the hotel today. It would be a disgrace if the Wakf Board members contend with a compromise with the hotel. I personally feel the hotel must be converted into a high standard hospital which could benefit the community and many Muslims have expressed their support in this regard.
Why is that only Congress and JDS leaders have been named in your report? Many allege that it is a political ploy of the BJP for which you have been used…
No it is not political at all. From the last 60 years the state was ruled by the Congress. So all these years it was their leaders who were governing the Wakf Board. So there is no real substance in the allegation that only Congress and JDS leaders have been named in my report. But still, I have spoken against Mumtaz Ali Khan, who was our Wakf Minister and who happens to belong to the BJP. Even during his tenure he did not take complaints of Wakf property irregularities seriously. For instance, the Ramnagara Wakf property measuring about 7 acres where an Eidgah is also existing, has been taken over by one Timmegowda, a liquor baron. A PIL was filed and the Wakf Board won it in the High Court. It was clearly established that there was an encroachment and the government order was also in favour of the Wakf Board. The government order is with the Wakf to get back the encroached land but none of them including Mumtaz Ali Khan took action. When it came to my notice, I went there with the documents and the orders and made it clear that I want all the encroachments demolished. Tomorrow I am scheduled to visit Ramanagara and I will make sure that I myself bulldoze the encroached walls and property. I have made it clear that I want everything to be cleared in this month of Ramadan and that I would offer my Eid prayers at that very Eidgah.
True that you did take on Mumtaz Ali Khan but there is also this allegation against you that you went against him with an intention to emerge as the more powerful Muslim leader in the BJP with an eye on the ministerial berth in minority quota. How do you respond to that?
I have not gone against anyone with an eye on a ministerial berth. I have given it in writing to the Chief Minister that I am not aspiring for a minister post at all. I have made it very clear by staying away from lobbying for a minister berth in the recently formed Jagadish Shettar cabinet. Now that the cabinet formation is over and my mission of carrying out my duties as Minorities Commission chief is still on, I don’t think anybody should be making this allegation against me that I am a ministerial aspirant. My political ambition is simple – I want to complete my responsibilities as a Minority Commission chief before I think of minister-ship.
What do you have to say about the three Chief Ministerial changes and constant cabinet reshuffles in the state in the current BJP term?
Multiple changes in Chief Minister’s post is something that has happened in the Congress governments of the past too. It is the decision of the party to make changes.
Are you happy with C T Ravi being made the district in charge minister for Dakshina Kannada or do you feel that somebody from the district itself should have been given the post?
I don’t think C T Ravi being given the post of Dakshina Kannada district in charge minister is a bad move as such. The cabinet posts have been filled and since he is the nearest person from another district to Mangalore, he has been chosen for the job. He is a man who has an eye for development. In Chikmagalur too he has done a lot of development works and those have not been done to please anyone. They have been done for the people. Even the minority Muslims are happy with his work as an MLA.
The role played by RSS leader Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat in the recent Shettar cabinet formation was widely discussed following Haladi Srinivas Shetty’s remarks against him. You have in the past come out in support of Mr. Bhat in a public programme when he was being criticized for his anti-minorities speech. Now that voices are being raised against him even from within the BJP, what do you have to say?
I would say that I came out in his support in a public programme for something that he had not said. I had heard the recording of his speech and some sections of the media had published things that he had not said at all. The media misunderstood his words regarding the burqa and Muslim women. He was only saying that instead of wooing Hindu women, Muslim men should go after ladies in their own community. He said Muslim women are more beautiful than Hindu women and in this context he said that this beauty of their lies behind their veils. But some media carried reports saying that Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat had advocated opening of veils of Muslim women and so on. I stood by him because I felt he was misunderstood.
I think it would be wrong to say that Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat has been dominating and interfering in local politics. Barring Haladi Srinivas Shetty, I have not come across anyone who has said so. Yes, Haladi Srinivas Shetty may be an aggrieved party but to blame Kalladka Prabhakar Bhat for that is not right. I was in Bangalore when the cabinet formation was going on and I was keeping a close eye on all the developments because I also happen to be a spokesperson of the party. As far as I know, he has not tried to interfere in those matters at all.
A murder attempt was made on Rahim Uchil, also a leader who associates himself with the BJP, not too long ago. Are you worried about you being targeted in the future too because you associate yourself with the BJP? Have you received any threats?
The attack on Rahim Uchil was carried out by a few who are misleading the Muslims and have wronged their happiness. As far as I am concerned, I would say I am under constant threat even by individuals as I have put my hand into the property irregularities of many people. But I have not asked for any security and neither am I scared. In fact, if something happens to me, the cause for which I am fighting will get a huge boost and the Muslim community will benefit immensely. There will be a great reaction and the support for my struggle to bring the so called servants of Muslim Community to book will increase ten times than what it is now.
What else has the Commission been doing for the minorities?
Minorities Commission has got a responsibility towards the minorities in every field. The government has made many provisions for the minorities and given them lot of sops. But many officials in various departments have failed in their duty to give the minorities their due. I regularly hold reviews in an open court format with a prior announcement in the newspapers that I would be holding a review meet. I invite people with grievances to inform me and attend the meet. In the presence of media, the officers and the aggrieved people, I hold the meet. During the meet I get complaints against officials and accordingly I take steps. Because of my initiatives many officers including education officers, child welfare officers, health department officials etc have been suspended for not doing their duty. We are supposed to monitor the progress made by the respective departments as far as minorities’ development and their rights are concerned. We have been doing a good job. In fact, many people might not have been aware of the Minorities Commission until my party came to power. After we started functioning, people have come to know what the powers of the Commission are. Until we came, the Commission was just there lying dormant. But now exciting things are happening under the Commission and we would continue to keep up the good work.
Photo by Ahmed Anwar