Laws, land and disempowerment: Large scale encroachment and illegal takeover of Waqf properties in Jammu

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Religious Demographic map of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Sangh and its affiliates have launched a vicious campaign based on falsehoods against Jammu Muslims. This is not happening in isolation, or for the first time, but, it is a culmination of a process of complete disempowerment of Jammu Muslims, their deliberate and criminal sidelining, and a total silence about the genocidal violence they faced right from the day in 1947 when they were massacred across Jammu.

In those few months in fall of 1947, Jammu Muslims were completely uprooted, their homes and lives destroyed, as they were forced to abandon their homes in large numbers.

There are independent historical accounts about how these Muslims were besieged in Jammu city’s Muslim-majority localities of Talab Khatikan and Ustad Mohalla, where they were at the receiving end of intermittent small-arms fire and were even denied water supply and food.

In her book, ‘Indian Summer’ Alex Von Tunzelmann says that by the time the massacre was halted, ‘more or less the entire Muslim population of Jammu, amounting to half a million, was displaced’.

On August 10, 1948, The Times estimated that 2,37,000 Muslims had disappeared from the eastern Jammu province.

It said that they were “systematically exterminated”.

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The scale and intensity of the large scale massacre of Jammu Muslims was evident in the data from the 1961 census – the first in J&K after 1947.

As per the 1941 census, the Muslims accounted for 77.1 per cent of the J&K’s population excluding in areas that came under Pakistan’s control after 1947. Their population had gone down by almost 10 per cent and plummeted to 68.29 per cent in 1961.

The plight of Jammu Muslims, however, didn’t end after the massacre was halted. It continued.

They had faced unimaginable trauma. Scores of their loved ones didn’t even get a proper burial and were dumped in large trenches dug in the darkness of the night to bury the proof of the massacre.

They had witnessed women being raped in front of their own eyes. They had lost everything. Those who were left behind tried to rebuild their lives silently. They didn’t have power or influence to raise their voice and seek justice.

And there was no justice.

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The leadership that took over the reins didn’t care about them. In fact, the entire pro India Kashmiri leadership ignored the Jammu massacre because they didn’t consider those who were massacred and uprooted as their constituency.

Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah who took over as the Prime Minister of J&K had in fact sealed the fate of Jammu Muslims in 1939, when they literally became “unwanted” in the scheme of things that followed. The decisions of 1939 finally paved way for November 1947 massacre and the total disempowerment of the survivors of that massacre afterwards.

Today, as the Sangh and its affiliates are again targeting this disempowered minority in Jammu by falsely claiming that they were benefited through Roshni scheme to get ownership of land in Jammu’s Hindu majority districts, the facts on ground are altogether different.

The beneficiaries of this scheme were primarily the top politicians like Raman Bhalla, Sharma brothers etc and leading Jammu businessmen like Bansi Lal etc.

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As per records, out of a total 44,912 kanals of land that was given to their occupants through Roshni scheme in Jammu district, only 1,180 kanals is vested to Muslims.

This means Muslims formed 2.63 percent beneficiaries of Roshni scheme in Jammu.

To understand how Jammu Muslims were systematically dispossessed of their lands and properties ever since November 1947, it is important to look at how the Waqf properties (places of worship, shrines, graveyards) have been illegally and forcibly encroached upon, apart from the land and property of those Jammu Muslims who were massacred and forced to abandon their home in 1947.

After 1947, the government had set up a Waqf Council to “manage and safeguard” the Waqf properties belonging to Jammu Muslims. It didn’t come under the Waqf Board that looked after the Muslims’ religious places in Kashmir.

One of the reason to keep it separate from the Waqf Board was clearly to avoid any scrutiny of its functioning and misuse and encroachment of the Waqf property in Jammu.

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In 2008, I learnt that there has been widespread encroachment of the Waqf properties in Jammu by both government agencies and private parties and as Jammu Muslims lacked a political voice, this systematic removal of Muslim places of worship, their ancestral graveyards and other Waqf property was happening unhindered.

I started investigating these large scale encroachments of the Waqf properties in Jammu for a story, and found out the details of widespread encroachment, and that the government was not acting against the encroachers despite full knowledge about it.

I also came to know that various government departments were also singularly targeting the Waqf properties in Jammu and clandestinely taking them over.

I also found out that private individuals and businessmen in Jammu were illegally taking over these Waqf properties.

During my research, I was able to access the minutes of a meeting in Revenue and Haj and Auqaf ministry on February, 2, 2006 where the issue of this illegal occupation of Waqf property was discussed. On June 17, 2008, I contacted the then Secretary Masood H Samoon (an IAS officer who is now retired) to seek his comments. He asked me to write an email to him with the details. I wrote a detailed email in which I gave details of the encroachment of Waqf properties in Jammu till 2008. He never responded.

I am reproducing that email because it shows the scale of the encroachment of the Waqf properties belonging to Jammu Muslims.

“…after our phone conversation this afternoon regarding the status of Waqf Council properties that have been encroached upon by government departments, police and private parties in Jammu.

My information is that the government and private parties have illegally occupied 3,144 kanals of Waqf land which includes graveyards.

I have seen the minutes of a meeting called by your predecessor in Revenue and Haj and Auqaf ministry on February, 2, 2006 where the issue of this illegal occupation of Waqf property was discussed. The issue of Jamia Masjid in R S Pora, Ziyarat sharief in Chand Nagar Jammu had been raised – both these religious places have been illegally taken over by encroachers and desecrated.

The details of other encroachments of Waqf Council properties are in detail here.

The Waqf Council owns 46 kanal and nine marla (khasra number 275, 367, 563, 593, 593 min) with a Masjid at Chattha Gujjran, block Marh in Jammu tehsil. The entire property has been illegally occupied by the Education department that has raised a school building in it. The Masjid has been turned into a Gurudwara and local residents have constructed houses and an approach road on one part of the land.

One kanal and 12 marla of compound of Ziyarat Sherief of Peer Baba Subhan Ali Shah in Chand Nagar, Jammu has been “illegally and forcibly occupied”. According to official records, the case for restoration of this Waqf land is pending with the deputy commissioner, Jammu, ever since.

At Thilori Gujjran, Tehsil Samba, the Waqf Council owned 49 kanal and five marla (khasras 200, 201, 206) of graveyard which has been encroached upon. A temple and a government girls school building have come up in the graveyard.

Another 65 kanal and seven marla land (khasras 200, 193, 222, 206, 194, 201) of Waqf Council have been illegally occupied and a police training institute, a playground and a temple have been raised over it.

The 34 kanal and 10 marla (Khasra 39) Rehari graveyard and Waqf property has been encroached upon by the army.

Though the commission constituted by the government has twice reported in favour of the Waqf, the army does not vacate the occupied graveyard.

Meanwhile, the provincial rehabilitation officer (custodian) has allotted 1785 sq ft (khasra 39) from this graveyard to Ayoudhya Kumari, widow of Bal Krishan Anand.

More than 60 kanals of this graveyard land have been allotted to the District Police without any permission from the Waqf Council.

Another 15 marlas of the graveyard have been occupied by the Jammu Municipal Corporation which forcibly constructed a bathroom on one edge of the graveyard while a local resident constructed a cowshed with the cow dung drainage going straight into the graveyard.

The Waqf owns 98 kanal and 10 marla (Khasra 295) land at Keli Mandi in tehsil Samba. The Zila Sainik Board, Samba, has grabbed 16 kanal area of it, the education department has occupied seven marlas to construct the zonal education office while another 16 kanals have been encroached upon by villagers.

The 14 kanal (Khasra 18) graveyard at Rehal Domanian, tehsil Bishna, has been grabbed by the education department which has illegally constructed the government middle school building over it.

The Waqf’s 20 kanal and two marla (Khasra 43) land at village Chinor in Jammu tehsil has been encroached upon by the Incharge Police Post.

At Bachyal in block Marh of Jammu tehsil, the Waqf Council’s 39 kanal and 12 marla (Khasra 50, 43 and 42) land has been grabbed by the health department for a public health clinic; by the rural development department for a panchayat garh; while the villagers have also built their houses in it.

In village Mera Jagir, Tehsil Akhnoor, the Waqf’s 65 kanal (Khasra 383) graveyard has been surveyed by public works department for construction of a road while as the locals have started illegal constructions in the graveyard.

At Makhan Pur Gujjran, in R S Pora Tehsil, the Waqf Council owned 132 kanal and seven marla (Khasra 347, 348) graveyard. The police have illegally taken over 37 kanal and 10 marla of it for its Border Police Lines while the local people too have grabbed a part of it. According to recent records, only 10 kanal of this land remain for burial purpose.

In Pata Bohri, Tehsil Jammu, the Waqf owned 13 kanals and 16 marlas (Khasras 696, 918, 1126, 1089, 119). The education department built a school building while locals constructed shops and residential houses on the land.

The 26 kanal and six marla land (khasras 190, 445, 191, 197, 381 and 226) belonging to the Waqf Council at Aqal Pur, block Marh is now under a school building and a public health center. The rest of the land has been encroached upon by villagers.

The Council’s 25 kanal and 13 marla (khasras 387, 388, 389, 390, 391) at Dhatrayal, block Marh has been grabbed by sericulture department, which has turned it into a mulberry nursery.

The education department has grabbed three kanals of Waqf property at Targah in tehsil Akhnoor, 17 marla at Mera Jagir, 39 kanal and three marla at Kangral Sangral (Sohal) tehsil Akhnoor, eight kanal at Pindi Sarochan Kalan and four kanal and 11 marla at Mamka in tehsil R S Pora.

The total encroachment till 2006 is 3,144 kanal in which 663 kanal is in Jammu city, 1,055 kanal in Akhnoor, 1,046 kanal in R S Pora, 30 kanal in Bishna and 350 kanal in Samba.

I would request you to reply to few questions regarding this issue.
1. What is the government doing to resolve this issue of encroachments?
2. Did the Revenue/Haj and Auqaf department do any further review after the Feberuary, 2, 2006 meeting?
3. What are the measures that the Revenue/ Haj and Auqaf department has taken to vacate the encroachment of shrines, mosques and graveyards and thus restore their sanctity?


There was no reply from the government.

There was also no move to remove these encroachments. Instead the encroachment and illegal take over of Waqf properties continued.

The reason why I put these details in public domain is to explain the real reason behind the communal and bigoted targeting of Jammu Muslims that is going on currently.

After decades of systematic disempowering of Jammu Muslims politically, socially and administratively, this false, concocted and derogatory narrative of so called “Land Jihad” is only aimed to create an atmosphere for a repeat of November 1947.

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There is an immediate need to highlight the illegal takeover and encroachment of Waqf properties belonging to Jammu Muslims.

This current vicious targeting of Jammu Muslims is a part of the same campaign that prevented the implementation of Rehabilitation Act, passed as a law in 1982 by J&K Legislature, disallowed to be implemented for 37 years and finally repealed in 2019.

Thus apart from the illegal takeover of Waqf properties belonging to Jammu Muslims, there is also a need to look at who has taken over the properties and lands of those Jammu Muslims who were massacred and forced to leave their homes in November 1947.

The list of current occupiers/owners of these lands and properties that are called Evacuee Properties itself explains the tragic story of Jammu Muslims.


The story first appeared as a social media post on Muzamil Jaleel’s wall. 

Muzamil Jaleel is the Deputy Editor at the Indian Express and is based in New Delhi.  


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