People fume as Muslim Wakf Board fails to complete renovation
With the Muslim Wakf Board under intense public criticism over its ‘failure’ to provide assistance to the needy, it has also failed to undertake renovation works on some of the revered shrines in Kashmir. The famed Hazratbal shrine on the Srinagar outskirts is a case in point.
The central dome of the Hazratbal shrine, housing the holy relic of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), is being renovated for half a decade now. The Board, which boasts of spending a whooping Rs 72 crore on different under-construction works, has spent Rs 3 crore on marbles used on cladding of the dome.
In September 2013, the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who is also the Chairman of the Board, gave nod to marble-cladding of the dome and fixed December 31 of the year as deadline for its completion. The project was awarded to the Jammu and Kashmir Projects Construction Corporation (JKPCC), a government-owned company incorporated in 1965.
In the same month, after Omar’s nod to marble cladding, patches of the dome crumbled during Zuhr (afternoon) prayers. The Government had initiated a magisterial inquiry into the incident which didn’t see the light of the day.
Panicked by the dome disaster, locals staged a massive anti-government demonstration in the neighborhood.
“These Wakf Board people are thieves who have plundered the charity raised in the name of shrines,” the protesters had alleged. The crumbling of the dome marble also highlighted the negligence of the Board in commissioning different works. The resentment among locals against the Wakf Board continues as completion of the marble-cladding on the dome sees no end.
“Marbles and stone worth lakhs were earlier used on the dome but it all crumbled,” said an elderly local, Muhammad Shaban Ganie, who offers five times prayers at the Shrine.
“I saw the dome crumbing. I cried that day. I have been offering prayers here for the past 40 years. I must say the Wakf Board is neglecting this revered shrine.”
Even, members of a local committee, which oversees issues relating to Hazratbal shrine, criticized the Wakf Board for “not being held accountable.”
“My assessment says the work on the dome has been going on since 1947,” said a member of the committee. “There is no one interested in it. Omar Abdullah (Wakf chairman) is also not taking any interest in the Wakf affairs.”
Another member said, “Wakf is doing nothing. Our national asset is being neglected. And money is being wasted.”
M Y Taing, known historian and critic, slammed the “lazy approach” of Muslim Wakf Board for failing to complete construction work of the dome.
“It has been long since construction work on the dome was started,” he said. “Hazratbal is a revered shrine of Kashmir. Lakhs of people assemble there every Friday to offer congregational prayers. The dome should have been completed by now.”
Prof. M Y Qadri, Chairman of Muslim Wakf Board, estimated that the dome would be completed by the end of Ramadhan.
“It was a complicated construction. We had to work on it three times due to its complexity,” he claimed. “But till Eid it will be competed.”
Kushal Chand, JKPCC’s General Manager for Kashmir division, said of total 38 layers of marble, they have completed 21 on the dome.
“We took the work in October 2013 and the work on marble was started in April this year,” he said. “We are trying to finish it by the end of this month.”
In the month of Ramadhan, the public voice against Wakf Board has grown stronger and analysts say the body was being used by mainstream politicians as their “political fiefdom.”