ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Waqf Laws in India

Colonial Conceptualisations and Contemporary Concerns

Over the last few years, waqf and its associated laws have been the centre of attention in political and legal circles. While these laws are scrutinised on the principles of religious equality and secularism, the very process of secularisation and economisation present in the genesis of these laws is neglected. This article attempts to lay bare the undercurrents in these laws, bringing forth theological, historical, and legal perspectives of these laws.

In a conclave organised by a news channel, the incumbent union minister for minority affairs claimed that they seek to achieve equality of all religions and end any preferential treatment to any particular religion (Vardhan 2023). This remark came in response to a question regarding the National Waqf Development Corporation, which was set up by the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to look after the development of waqf properties in the country. This was another instance in a series of such problematic utterances regarding waqf properties, especially by the people associated with or sympathetic to the ruling dispensation. The Supreme Court and other lower courts are hearing numerous petitions challenging provisions of the Waqf Act, 1995. Some of these petitions claim that the existence of the Waqf Act is prejudicial to other religious communities (Thomas 2022).

There is also a challenge to the waqf system from within the Muslim community. The inability of the waqf boards to contribute to the material upliftment of the Muslim community, even though it remains the third-largest landholding body in the country (Begam 2023), has forced community members to raise questions against it. These questions have focused on the waqf system’s structure, control, and objectives. However, these criticisms primarily focus on the instrumental aspects of the waqf system without going into the structural elements of the legal system and its effect on the nature of Muslim religious spaces.

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Updated On : 5th Dec, 2023
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