By Shaik Abdul Sattar
The RGI airport vanities itself to be the top airports in the world, with remarkable facilities like connectivity to the city through a 12 km express flyover running from the heart of the city, a gigantic 3000 acres of lush green space, and a well-planned architecture to please every onlooker and excellent connectivity to the National Highways. There are two terminals well placed to serve both domestic and international travels-including a special Hajj terminal. Often, it has been awarded as the best airports in the county.
But this article will not speak about the rosy picture which the airport exemplifies. But, the darker side of the airport. The airport was conceived during the time of the Telugu Desham party and was begotten to realization during the time of INC in the name of the former Prime minister-Rajeev Gandhi, who did his pilot training at Hyderabad. For bringing the envisioned airport into perspective, the government needed a gigantic piece of land. Which was overwhelmingly identified on 5495 acres, located in Shamshabad, not far away from the City. It was indeed no less than a treasure found to start the construction on 2000 acres of land initially.
But, here comes the twist in the story! Out of the 5495 acres of total land; 1100 acres is gazetted as Wakf land (land donated for religious institutions and philanthropic work). The Wakf land belongs to the Dargah Baba Sharfuddin of Pahadi Shareef. And to add impunity to that, there was also a Masjid (Masjid e Omar Farooq) adjoining with a graveyard on that very 1100 acres of land, which is history now, since it got demolished to construct the runway. On which turf, the planes take their run day in-day out.
Although there has been a gradual occupancy of the Wakf land throughout Hyderabad since the rule of Nizams was abrogated to give in for the democratic rule like any other princely states in India. Astonishingly, Over the last two decades since the Telegu Desam Party and INC were ruling and the boom of real estate and IT shot up, There has been a vociferous increase in the illegal occupation of Wakf properties across the Telangana state with more than 57,000 out of the 77,538 acres of land being encroached. The Telangana government, since its formation as an independent state, is no immune to it either. With thousands of crores rupees worth of properties, illegally being encroached under its nose.
The government, on the other hand, is soothing the aggravation in the masses by made-up promises and narratives to keep the people complacent in their competence. In the majority of the cases, the Waqf board has been a major accomplice in setting up these illegal deals; with many corrupt officers selling off lands to the government by either taking off the records or altering them (Classic examples like Jubilee hills, Microsoft campus or Lanco Hills and several other properties which haven’t come up to the surface). The officers of the Wakf Board chose to remain flustered without taking any legal actions against the construction companies or land grabbers when tall buildings were being erected on Wakf lands, and even today; there are hundreds of pending cases in the courts in futile without yielding any conclusions.
The big question which arises here: Out of the thousands of crores of money which GMR is fetching by running the airport how much of it is being utilized to give it to the needy and the poor when the very purpose of donating the land in the name of Waqf, was to utilize it for the needy and the destitute. Although GMR does CSR works to help the ruler area children which it pompously showcases on its website. But over the last 13 years, it has demeaned the people who work at the airport; the GMR staff, the airline staff, and the taxi drivers, to provide a Mosque for the sake of praying. This is when, the airport illegally occupies 1100 acres of Waqf land which was donated for religious institutions, seminaries, schools, and Mosques. Muslims have been offering the Friday prayers and the Ramadan prayers while observing fasts in the hottest sizzling sun and the wet rainy seasons. On exceptional occasions, there have been temporary makeshift tents, that were arranged in the month of Ramadan after much political intervention.
The once long made promises made by the Telangana government even before they came to power are still reverberating in the minds of the Muslims of the city of Hyderabad. But in practicality, they all look in vain with no serious intentions from the government. The present home minister of Telangana, who happens to be a Muslim has kept the Muslim community on a false promise since he, on several occasions said that: the Telangana government is inclined towards building the Mosque unlike other governments of the past who took it slackly on their part and made promises to construct the Mosque at the very brink of the formation of the Telangana state.
Lastly, our lone saviors, who market themselves as the champions of the Muslim community in Hyderabad and India, and the Noah’s ark on which the Muslims should be onto-The AIMIM hasn’t been able to do anything special in the last 12 years apart from raising issues or arranging makeshift tents for the month of Ramadan. Else a Mosque would have been erected today at the Airport.
The problem is, for the last 12 years we haven’t been able to claim what was legally ours be it politically or legally. As we do not have any respite from the courts either to come to the rescue of the Muslims and question the government; who have evaded away by neglecting a minimum request of constructing a mosque which was historically present in the first place and demolished to construct the airport and a humongous Waqf land as their backwaters. It was a matter of keeping their dignity and fulfill their promise by being ethically and morally well placed in their eyes.
The columnist holds an MSc in Engineering from the UK and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org