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In Tamil Nadu’s Thiruchendurai, Locals in Uneasy Wait over Land Ownership after Waqf Board’s Stunning Claim

Sixty-year-old Rajagopal received the shock of his life when he walked into the sub-registrar’s office that morning. It was just around 10 am and the atmosphere at the gloomy government department’s office in Tamil Nadu’s Thiruchendurai village in Trichy district gave no indication that it was the setting that would upend Rajagopal’s best-laid plans for his future.

He wanted to sell a parcel of land to repay a loan that he took from his neighbour for his daughter’s wedding.

The officer at the sub-registrar’s office told him a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Waqf Board is necessary.

“The registrar’s office told me that if I want to sell my land, I have to get an NOC from the board. I almost fainted after hearing this. This is a piece of land I bought in 1996. I told the registrar that I have all the documents to prove that this is my land but they showed me some documents claiming that the entire village now belongs to Waqf Board,” Rajagopal said.

Over the last two months, his neighbour has been asking him to repay the loan. Unable to bear the stress, he decided to sell the land to give back the money. In 1996, he bought it for Rs 3 lakh and its market value hovers around Rs 12 lakh now. “I thought I’ll sell the land and repay the money to my neighbour and use the remaining money for personal use,” Rajagopal said.

The Thiruchendurai village houses 7,000 families and the residents are a fretful lot after Rajagopal’s experience had a chilling effect on property owners in the locality.

Owners worry that they would find it difficult to alienate their lands if an immediate need arises to liquidate their properties. Rajagopal is just one of the many people impacted because of the latest announcement by the registrar. Landowners in six villages in Tamil Nadu’s Trichy district stare at a similar predicament as these come under the Waqf Board, say locals.

The landowners in Thiruchendurai who’ve been affected by the Waqf Board’s claim belong to several communities. Pic/News18

55-year-old N Syed Zakir who resides at Natharsha Pallivasal Street in the main city has been running from pillar to post for the past week to fight his case. His entire community has been occupying over 17 acres of properties that have now become encumbered, with the claim that they belong to the board.

“We have been residing for more than six generations. Now our homes, the dargah, the shops…everything in our locality belongs to the Waqf Board. This is unfair. Don’t we have the right to our own land and properties?” Zakir said.

Thiruchendurai village in Tamil Nadu's Trichy district where Waqf Board claims village
Top officials from the district administration told News18 that they are checking all the properties listed by the Waqf Board. Pic/News18

The issue over titles flared up after the board wrote to twelve sub-registrars across Tamil Nadu in a letter dated August 11 underscoring a government order that mandated a no-objection certificate under a sealed cover in respect of registering Waqf properties. The letter also referenced a government demi official (DO) letter addressed to the inspector general of registration-Chennai that said Waqf properties should not be alienated with an NoC from the CEO of the Tamil Nadu Waqf Board.

The letter also annexed details of Waqf properties in Trichy.

Tamil Nadu Waqf Board chief Rabiyullah told News18 that the board has little to decide now as the lands were allotted to it after an enumeration in 1954. He said those with grievances can always move the court to get relief.

Impacted landowners say their stressed economic conditions do not allow a trip to Chennai and the gruelling effort to receive an NOC from the CEO of the Waqf Board.

The villagers decided to take to the streets. The anger was directed at the district administration, which, unfortunately, was the deliverer of the message asking them to travel to Chennai to obtain the NOC from the board.

Meanwhile, the state administration has been trying a two-pronged approach to the problem: appeasing the irate residents on one side and holding talks with the Waqf Board to see if they would meet the villagers halfway on the problem. The revenue district officer (RDO) of Srirangam, Vaidyanathan, spoke to Waqf Board members and villagers of Thiruchendurai on Tuesday.

Speaking to News18, Vaidyanathan said the sub-registrar who delivered the message to the villagers conflated the problem. “It is the fault of the sub-registrar. He should have checked with his higher officials before taking the decision to put out a notice saying the entire village now belongs to the Waqf Board. The Waqf Board should have also followed the due procedure, instead of sending a letter to the registration office directly.”

The RDO went on to say that the Waqf Board, too, needed to provide more documentation to prove their titles. “When I asked them if they had the evidence of all the properties listed by the team, they did not give a clear answer. I have asked the registrar to remove the notice saying villagers can’t sell or buy land. The collector will make a decision for the overall district very soon,” he said.

Other top officials from the district administration told News18 that they are checking all the properties listed by the Waqf Board.

The land owners in Thiruchendurai who’ve been affected by the Waqf Board’s claim belong to several communities, including Muslims. After the reassurance given by the district revenue officials, they wait in hope that they would soon hear the message that their land ownership remains intact.

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