The seamy side of local Auqaf committees: A big expose
by Bashir Assad
The local Auqaf committees are under the administrative scanner, thanks to glaring instances of their heinous and inhuman acts coming to fore finally.
The local Auqaf committees, declared illegitimate by the Jammu & Kashmir WAQF Board in December 2022, are under the radar of the administration for their past extra-legal and extra-judicial activities. Glaring instances have come to the fore wherein Auqaf committees or their individual representatives have indulged in heinous and inhuman acts. According to sources in the police and the civil administration, the Auqaf committees or members of such committees have not only shielded rapists and molesters but in certain cases,
have fudged evidences and recommended action against the abused, giving a clean chit to the accused, merely for money. It may be recalled that post the inception of
militancy in 1990, the local Aquaf committees had got into prominence, owing to the collapse of the system in the Kashmir Valley. The committees took over the job of judge and jury, police and executive authority as the governance system had collapsed because of militancy. Extremist religious groups, particularly, took control of the committees in an
attempt to further their agenda. As the police and civil administration – either out of fear or complicity – detached from the public, the role of the local Auqaf committees in matters of civil and community disputes was overarching. As they enjoyed absolute power, they virtually became extra judicial and extra-legal bodies. Their intervention in all matters otherwise pertaining to the police, the judiciary and the revenue departments, were seen as mandatory.
After the institution of State reinforced, post the elections of 1996 and 2002, the legitimacy of Auqaf committees remained unchallenged because of the interests of the political class. The civil disputes, particularly, were settled by the committees without any reference to the law of the land. The settlements arrived at thereof were stamped as amicable. However, there was so much vested interest at play that the contending parties had no right to challenge the impunity with which the committees would function. There were both political and financial interests behind the authority of the Auqaf committees. When the Jammu & Kashmir WAKF Board declared by the local Aquaf committees as void ab-initio, the order invoked mixed response from various sections of the society throughout the Union Territory. However, the district police and civil administration immediately started scrutiny of such committees. Glaring, rather heart-wrenching instances came to the fore. In South Kashmir’s Pulwama district, some Aquaf committees were found indulging in crimes which could be seen as acts of flesh-trading. In a village, a father was allegedly involved in sexual abuse of his two minor daughters and when one of the victims approached the local Aquaf chairman, pleading for safety, the chairmen returned her with the remark that he would talk to her father. Rather than acting swiftly on the complaint of the minor girl, the chairman took the side of the guilty father, forcing the daughter to stay mute. In yet another glaring instance, a local imam in a Pulwama village allegedly received Rupees Two Lakh from an offender who had raped a physically-disabled girl. The shameless Imam then approached the Deputy Commissioner concerned for settlement of the matter outside court. In yet another case, a teacher who was also the member of the local Auqaf committee, had sexually abused a girl till she conceived. The matter was brought to the notice of the local Auqaf committee which brushed the issue under the carpet and did everything to save the culprit. While talking to this correspondent, the Deputy Commissioner of Pulwama gave a detailed account of more than 12 such Auqaf committees in the district which have the record of indulging in all kinds of immoral practices. Indeed, the writing is on the wall. It’s time to turn the tables on these committees and their morally irresponsible and heavily erring members.