The Delhi Wakf Board (DWB), despite being one of the richest landowners in Delhi, is unable to derive any financial benefits from its properties strewn across the city. The DWB owns a total of 1,977 registered (but not gazetted) properties worth crores of rupees across the city. However, the Wakf Board is unaware of the exact value of the Wakf properties many of which have been encroached upon by different authorities and the general public.
The 1,977 properties under the DWB comprise 827 mosques, 483 graveyards, 309 darghas and 358 other properties (shops, homes etc.).
A senior officer at the board said, “There is no such data available that could determine the collective cost of the Wakf properties in Delhi. But on an estimate, it would be no less than a few thousand crores. We will not be surprised if DWB emerges as among the richest landowners in the city.”
The total area of DWB properties is recorded in the traditional unit “bigha”, which may vary from region to region as it does not represent a particular size. Therefore, the DWB’s data on how much land and property it has is inconsistent.
Trying to explain the inconsistency in the data, a DWB officer said, “What matters more than the cost of Wakf property is whether or not it is being used for the right purposes. Ensuring that the property is used only for public benefits is of higher concern. It does not matter what it is worth because once a property is given away as Wakf, it can anyway never be sold or transferred.”
According to the data available with the DWB, the total area of Wakf properties in Delhi is 22,464 bigha 7 biswa. Out of this, 1,032 bigha land is in Mehrauli, 206 bigha in Palam, 682 bigha 12 biswa in Shahdara, 122 bigha 4 biswa in Najafgarh and 421 bigha 9 biswa in Narela.
The officer said that there are still more properties in the city that are under the board, but have not been accounted for or are in the process of being accounted for.
According to the data, 1,100 bigha of Wakf property has been “acquired” by different agencies. The DWB officer said that “acquired land” means the land that was initially marked away as Wakf, but was acquired by other organisations and is no longer DWB’s property. The officer did not clearly state how exactly the land was “acquired”.
The land around DPS Mathura was “acquired” by government agencies to build roads. The largest Wakf land “acquired” by agencies is in south district and measures 602 bigha 11 biswa. In the north district, 162 bigha 14 biswa of land has been acquired; 47 bigha 4 biswa in the east district; and 79 bigha 14 biswa in the west district. The DWB data also shows that a total of 669 Wakf properties have been encroached upon. 114 such properties have been encroached upon by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and 156 by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). One of these is the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) encroaching upon a Muslim graveyard in the western extension area of Karol Bagh, where it has constructed a car parking. Similarly, the ASI has encroached upon the Maqbara Mohammad Shah, popularly known as Mubarak Khan ka Gumbad on Lodhi Road, according to DWB data.
While there are 26 miscellaneous encroachments, the maximum number of encroachments — 373 — have been made by the public. Among public encroachments, a significant number of cases include mosques where people have set up shops.
In a few cases, the mosques were demolished too. For example, the data listed that “one Fahimuddin & others” have encroached upon 7 bigha and 4 biswa of Idgah land in Mehrauli (case number 2025/1666) and that Khasra No. 633 land has been encroached upon by Glorious Nursery, Nizamuddin.
Moreover, many mutawallis (Wakf property managers) have been exploiting their position by renting out the property and pocketing the rent owed to the board.
“The Wakf board is manager of the properties that have been donated as Wakf and it operates through mutawallis, who look after such properties and pay a certain amount of rent to the board. A large number of mutawallis, in absolute disregard of the Wakfnama, use the Wakf property for selfish commercial purposes and earn profit out of it, which goes entirely to their own pockets,” the officer said.
“These people, who are supposed to be guardians, have increasingly turned rogue,” lamented another junior assistant.