Islamic Voice
Zul-Qada / Zul Hijja 1422
February 2002
Volume 15-02 No:182

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Investigation


Paltry Gains

Paltry Gains

A Five-Star Hotel doles out Rs 4630 as rent each month to the Waqf Board, which is a sad reflection of the maladies afflicting the Muslim Waqf properties in India.

By A Staff Writer

Bangalore: A row has erupted here between the Waqf Board, the custodian of Muslim religious properties and the five-star Windsor Manor Hotel of the Welcom Group of Hotels owned by the Indian Tobacco Industries (ITC), over the lease of the four acres of prime real estate in the heart of Bangalore, on which the swanky hotel stands.

The land was leased out for the construction of the hotel in 1970. It currently fetches a rent of Rs. 4,630 each month, while any realtor would agree that the property is worth  Rs 40 lakh a month as rent. The sum could be enough to fund professional courses for nearly 4,000 Muslim students every month. That the deal was struck between the then Waqf Board officials and the Hotel Group under mysterious circumstances is slowly unfolding and pressure is being mounted on the hotel management to vacate the land. A group of well-meaning non-Muslim intellectuals have threatened to launch an agitation to get the land vacated for its transfer to Waqf Board, where they want a memorial and research centre to be built in memory of Tipu Sultan, the legendary hero of Karnataka. They have served notice on the hotel.

Windsor Manor Hotel

 

The four-acre piece of land (to be precise 1,65,000 square feet) belongs to Agha Ali Asker. Ali Asker, of Iranian origin, used to deal in horses and was the main supplier of horses to the Maharaja of Mysore and regents of the British government stationed in Bangalore. He amassed fortunes and built several mansions in Bangalore. His son, Mirza Ismail became the Diwan (Prime Minister) of former Mysore. The 4-acre land was dedicated by the family patriarch Agha Ali Asker for charitable purposes in the 1920s. It is located on Sankey Road, a thoroughfare that passes through important ministerial colonies in Bangalore.

It was on October 15, 1973 that the muthawallis of this Shia Waqf decided to lease out the four-acre piece to Ms/ Monarch Corporation for a 30-year period. A year later, the lease was mysteriously extended for another 20 years. At that time, the Waqf Board was headed by A. R. M. Iqbal Ahmed, an administrator. But again after two years, in 1976, the lease was extended to another 40 years, altogether 90 years from 1973. The Board was then headed by late Maqsood Ali Khan, a Member of Parliament. Interestingly, a public notice was given in the Government Gazette inviting objections. But even before the expiry of the deadline, the lease was given. The Waqf Board could have proceeded to annul the lease deed on this point. But this point was never raised by the Board to seek cancellation of the deed.

Secondly, the Waqf land has passed three hands, from original Monarch Corporation to Vishwivaram Hotels and currently to Windsor Manor Hotels owned by the ITC. Moreover, the lease was made on a Rs. 10 stamp paper which weakens the legal status of the deal. Says T. Chikkaralinge Gowda, an internal auditor and a historian: “The very basics of the deal smack of corruption. Gowda who heads the Tipu Sultan Bicentenary Committee, has threatened to launch an agitation at the Windsor Manor hotel to get the property back to the Waqf Board. He says, “A chowkidar at the Windsor Hotel receives a salary of Rs. 15,000 a month. And look how much rent the Shia Waqf authorities are paid, merely Rs. 4,630 a month.” Gowda contended that the Hotel authorities were serving liquor and pork to the guests, which was contrary to the original objectives of the Waqf and also the principles of Islam. He told this correspondent, that the Hotel displays frescoes of British generals and nude women which contravenes the spirit of the Waqf. The whole saga is a sad reflection of the maladies that afflict the Muslim Waqf properties in India. One has to wait and watch how the current Karnataka Board of Waqfs, an elected body, takes up the case against the hotel.

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