'Rent out waqf properties to pay imams'

Twenty-two Muslim organisations, including 12 of imams, Tuesday demanded that the muezzins and imams be paid a monthly stipend from revenue generated by renting out waqf board properties, days after the Calcutta High Court cancelled a similar allowance announced by the state government last year terming it unconstitutional.

"We are not beggars, we don't need alms. We demand our rights. There are more than 29,000 waqf estates across the state. In Kolkata itself, many prestigious establishments such as the Governor's House, the state Assembly and the Akashbani Bhavan are constructed on waqf property. We demand that rent, as per the prevailing market rates, should be paid to the waqf board and through that we can get our allowances. We do not need any money from the government fund," said ATM Rafiqul Hassan, president, All Bengal Imam and Muezzin Samity.

Addressing the meeting at Rani Rashmoni Avenue, Hassan also took on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee saying "it was time she should tell the media that imams and muezzins would not be deprived of their right."

Mamata had in April 2012 announced an allowance of Rs 2,500 for each imam and Rs 1,500 for each muezzin, ó a move which was recently quashed by the high court as unconstitutional. However, Hassan suggested that if the money (state government was paying) was given to the waqf as a grant, the imams could be paid out of it without any legal hassles.

Md Qamruzzaman, general secretary, All Bengal Minority Youth Federation, said police and administration should clear the waqf properties of encroachers and then put those properties to commercial use. "As opposed to the Rs 2,500 being paid to 30,000 imams, there would be enough to pay Rs 10,000 each to 50,000 imams every month," he said, adding that there are nearly one lakh imams and muezzins in West Bengal and all of them should get registered.

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