EXPLAINER Karnataka

Explained | Idgah Maidan row: Whose land is it anyway?

Muslims attend the Id-ul-Fitr at the end of holy month of Ramzan, at Chamrajpet idgah maidan in Bengaluru on May 03, 2022.

Muslims attend the Id-ul-Fitr at the end of holy month of Ramzan, at Chamrajpet idgah maidan in Bengaluru on May 03, 2022. | Photo Credit: MURALI KUMAR K

The story so far: The impasse between the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) and the Karnataka State Board of Auqaf over the embattled Idgah Maidan, an expansive playground located in the midst of Chamarajpet, one of the oldest localities in Bengaluru, saw a breakthrough on August 6 with the civic body dismissing the petition filed by Waqf Board for a Khata in its favour and declaring the Karnataka Revenue Department to be the default owner of the land.

The land ownership dispute, which erupted in May-June this year, saw the BBMP initially claiming that the maidan was a civic property while Muslim organisations argued that the land was a gazetted wakf property. Pending a resolution, the BBMP had clarified that no official permission would be given for any event on the ground, including those sought by Hindutva organisations to conduct activities on Independence Day.

How did the conflict begin?

The ownership of the Idgah Maidan ran into controversy in June 2022, after a few Hindutva organisations sought permission from the BBMP to hold events on the ground. The right-wing organisations petitioned the civic body seeking permission for all communities to host events at the ground, such as International Yoga Day. Meanwhile, fearing a communal flare-up, the city police requested the civic body to install CCTV cameras around the ground, then believed to be under BBMP ownership, in the event of any untoward incident.

On June 11, civic officials turned up at the Idgah maidan in Chamarajpet with an earthmover and started digging a trench to lay underground cables for CCTV cameras. In the absence of any prior communication, Muslim residents of the area mistook it as an attempt to build a compound wall and objected to the work. As tensions ran high, the civic officials retreated and the BBMP later decided to install CCTV cameras with overhead cables, instead of underground ones.

What was the BBMP’s claim?

The 1974 City Survey records show the Idgah Maidan as a playground, with a khata in the name of the BBMP, indicating the land to be a civic property belonging to the city corporation. In 2006, the corporation also built a building — a public toilet — on the land. According to the BBMP, there was no objection raised to either the entry in the city survey, its possession of the land or the building of a public toilet there.

The BBMP argued that the Karnataka State Board of Auqaf should have represented themselves during the 1974 City Survey and recorded their ownership of the land, or come forward with their claim even at a later date and got the khata transferred in their name, which had not been done.

What was the Waqf Board’s contention?

The Karnataka State Board of Auqaf contested that the 2 acre 5 guntas of land of the maidan was a registered waqf property and to substantiate their claim, the Central Muslim Association (CMA), which has been the caretaker of the Idgah maidan, also submitted a set of documents.

This included a 1964 Supreme Court order, which reportedly struck down a proposal to construct a building on the land, and a subsequent waqf gazette notification dated June 7, 1965, showing the land as a wakf property. Despite this, the land was shown as a playground in the 1974 survey and civic records, causing confusion.

Controversy over Idgah Maidan in Bengaluru
An attempt to lay underground cables for CCTV cameras at Idgah Maidan in Chamrajpet in Bengaluru led to tension in the area on June 11, 2022. | Video Credit: K Murali Kumar

How did the two bodies arrive at this impasse?

Once the confusion came to light, the BBMP initially claimed the land to be a playground under the civic body but later retracted it. It then served a notice to the Karnataka State Board of Auqaf to make a formal claim on the 2 acre 5 gunta land by providing proof of ownership and to get a khata in its name. 

According to the BBMP, a khata only reflects the present possession of the land and status of ownership, and doesn’t create ownership in itself, and therefore if the Waqf Board could get a khata in their name, it would resolve the dispute. 

The waqf board initially refused the BBMP’s request. It countered that the Board, an autonomous body, was in no way obligated to present documents to the BBMP, which was also a claimant for the same property. Furthermore, since both parties — BBMP and Karnataka State Board of Auqaf — involved in the row were government bodies, the final decision rested with the government alone.

The Idgah Maidan at Chamarajpet in Bengaluru.

The Idgah Maidan at Chamarajpet in Bengaluru. | Photo Credit: MURALI KUMAR K

Why did the maidan go to the Revenue Department?

On June 21, 2022, the board applied for khata by submitting the 1965 government gazette. However, since the gazette only listed “Idgah, Sunni, Chamarajpet” in serial number 137, but did not mention the survey number, extent of land, corporation number or the chakkubandi of the land parcel, the document was unclear.

The BBMP then served the board three notices. While the first two went unanswered, on the third notice, the board submitted a set of earlier court orders and sought more time to submit other documents.

But the BBMP declined to give more time and, on August 6, Joint Commissioner S.M. Srinivas ruled the Karnataka Revenue Department to be the owner of the Idgah Maidan at Chamarajpet (Survey number 40, Guttahalli village, 2 acres 5 guntas).

What does the order say?

According to the BBMP, the Supreme Court order of 1964 has only given the Muslim community “congregational rights” and the burden of proving ownership and possession of the land on behalf of the Muslim community continues to lie on the plaintiff. The order also argues that since the community only has congregational rights, it does not satisfy the definition of “wakf” as per Wakf Act, 1954. However, the Karnataka State Board of Auqaf can still claim and establish ownership of the land with Karnataka Revenue Department.

What is the Waqf Board’s next move?

The BBMP has only rejected an application for Khata and its order does not hamper the Board’s claim to ownership of land. Therefore, the Karnataka State Board of Auqaf has decided to continue their legal fight for Idgah Maidan and will take a call on whether to take it up with the Revenue Department or challenge in the High Court. 

How does this affect the demands of the Hindutva groups?

In July, when the row was at its peak, the BBMP had ordered maintaining of status quo on the property and said no Hindutva organisations or any other group would be permitted to hold events on the embattled maidan.

A newly-floated outfit Chamarajapet Nagareekara Okkoota Vedike had even called for a Chamarajpet Bandh with an aim to “save the playground and their rights to hold Hindu and national festivals at the ground”. The bandh on July 12 was met with a mixed response.

With the civic body now recording the Karnataka Revenue Department as owner of the land, various Hindu organisations have welcomed the order and have announced that they will celebrate Independence Day on August 15 on the ground by hoisting the national flag.

A deepening communal faultline

The conflict over the Idgah Maidan land has brought to the fore the communal divide in the 130-year old Chamarajpet, one of the earliest planned localities of Bengaluru. The area, with a mixed language demography and a diverse voter profile, has a sizeable population of both Hindu and Muslim communities. Along with the now embattled Idgah Maidan, the constituency also houses Keshava Shilpa, the RSS headquarters.


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Printable version | Oct 4, 2022 3:07:50 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/idgah-maidan-row-whose-land-is-it-anyway/article65626316.ece