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Muslim Personal Law Board up in arms against government

By A Correspondent
April 23, 2012 20:35 IST
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Members of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board were miffed with the government on specific clauses in the Right To Education (RTE) Act, the Direct Taxes Code Bill and the Wakf Amendment Bill of 2010.

A recently-concluded general body meeting of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board ended with a pledge to 'save the constitutional rights of Muslims'.

Mumbai was the site for the 22nd general body meeting of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), which took place over two days before concluding with a public meeting at the city's famed Azad Maidan.

About 440 delegates attended the conference, and over two days of meetings at the Haj House in south Mumbai, followed by the Azad Maidan gathering, the discussions often turned stormy.

Delegates were clearly up in arms against the government on several issues, but more so on specific clauses in the Right To Education (RTE) Act, the Direct Taxes Code Bill and the Wakf Amendment Bill of 2010.

The AIMPLB, by its own admission, was set up in 1973 "at a time when then government of India was trying to subvert Sharia law applicable to Indian Muslims through parallel legislation." The board has been vocal about protecting and continuing Sharia laws in India, by striving to remove Muslims from the ambit of direct, indirect or parallel legislation.

In tune with its continuing opposition to certain clauses in the RTE Act for over a year now, the board, at a meeting held in Lucknow last year, had asked the government to keep madrassas out of the ambit of the RTE. In the two-day general body meeting at Mumbai, this point was emphasised once again, starting with the fear that the government was seeking to close down madrassas by introducing the act.

"Certain provisions of the RTE Act will deny us the right to establish and run religious and educational institutions," said Abdur Rahim Qureshi, assistant general secretary, AIMPLB, during the meeting. The board's contention was that the RTE act diluted provisions of articles 29 and 30 of the Indian Constitution, that allow minorities in the country to establish and run religious institutions.

"While the Supreme Court judgement exempts unaided private institutions from reserving 25 per cent seats for the poorer sections, some loopholes in the act can be exploited to deprive the minorities from imparting education to their children," Qureshi said.

Another point that the AIMPLB will address the government on, is the Direct Taxes Code Bill, in which the board will demand that places of worship should not be taxed. "This (taxation) interferes in the religious affairs of all communities. We are not speaking only of mosques and dargahs, but also of the places of worship of other religions," he added.

Other members alleged that the government was trying to interfere in Sharia laws through various bills and acts, for instance, with the Wakf Amendment Bill 2010, which the board alleges, was pushed through the last day of the recent Parliamentary session with "undue haste."  

The underlying fear, feels the board, is that the bill passed in its present form will result in Muslims losing control over Wakf properties. Earlier, the AIMPLB had made specific recommendations to amend the bill, specifically clause 87, which makes registration of land mandatory, and in case of dispute, the unregistered lands would not have any legal standing. Clerics feel that the bill does not say anything about the thousands of acres of lands across the country that are not registered, but which the AIMPLB claims are the property of the Wakf.

Other recommendations include the removal of conditions on the lands donated by non-Muslim rulers, and upgrading entries in the revenue records so that Waqf lands that are reportedly encroached by the governments in various states for road-widening and other such tasks are stopped.
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