Majid Kapra

Waqf Board seals 6 shops at Budshah Chowk, unseals after receiving part payment

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Srinagar: Chairperson of Jammu & Kashmir Waqf Board, Dr Darakhshan Andrabi today received the cheques from the shopkeepers whose shops were sealed by Waqf Board yesterday evening.

A statement issued by the Waqf Board said that Andrabi along with Waqf officers yesterday late evening sealed seven shops in Auqaf Market Lal Chowk when despite many notices and warnings the shopkeepers failed to deposit their outstanding rent amount.

It is pertinent to mention that the whole Market remained closed and protested against the Waqf decision. But Dr Andrabi rubbished their claims through media that even after the rent hike, the properties at Lal Chowk are rented out at a very marginal rate as compared to the rates in the business hub of Srinagar, the statement said.

It further said that she reiterated her stand that if the allottees don’t deposit the outstanding rent, shops will remain sealed.

Later in the evening, representatives of Auqaf Market called on Dr Andrabi at her office and asked her to accept the part payment today only and agreed to clear all remaining pending rent dues within a month. Dr Andrabi after agreeing to the traders submission, late evening today visited the market and received the cheques from the shopkeepers and unsealed the shops, the statement added.

Earlier, the Jammu and Kashmir Waqf Board has sealed six shops at Budshah Chowk here, saying that the lease deeds of these shops had expired some 11 months ago, and that an amount of Rs 9,50,000 was also outstanding on account of monthly rentals.

Dr Daraksha Andrabi, chairperson of J&K Waqf Board, asked the defaulting tenants to vacate shops without any delay if they could not pay the monthly rentals to the board in time.

The closure of shops at one of the busiest marketplaces of Srinagar was met with protests from the shopkeepers, who termed the move as ‘uncalled for’.

The six shops, according to their ‘owners’, were sealed during the preceding night without serving them any notice. They said the move comes at a time when the matter is pending disposal before the court of law.

“We denounce the Waqf Board’s action as ‘unjustified’ because we have been paying the rent to the Waqf Board well in time and have also paid off all outstanding dues. How could they seal our shops during the middle of the night?” the aggrieved shopkeepers asked.

The shopkeepers urged the Lieutenant Governor, Manoj Sinha to take note of what they termed “sheer hooliganism” by the Waqf Board and impress upon its head to de-seal their shops at the earliest.

“We are asked to pay 10 times higher than what Waqf receives from us on a monthly basis. How could an ordinary businessman afford such a huge amount, given that a shopkeeper who was paying Rs 2400 per month has to pay Rs 24,000 per month—a sum that is 10 times more than the existing rent,” they added.

Calling the shopkeepers, whose shops were sealed at Budshah Chowk as “defaulters and illegal occupants”, Waqf chairperson said the property belongs to the Waqf Board which reserves all proprietary rights to remove anyone disobeying rules.

“This property belongs to the Waqf Board and we reserve all rights to remove those disobeying our rules. Those paying Rs 700 previously as monthly rent have to pay Rs 7000 and those paying Rs 800 have to pay an increased rent of Rs 8000 per month,” Dr Andrabi said.

She said the tenants whose shops were sealed had no lease or rent deeds as the same had expired 11 months ago, with an outstanding balance of Rs 9,50,000.

“If we let everyone off the hook, I think the Waqf Board will disintegrate on its own within the next five years and if this happens, the future generations will not forgive me. Let the shopkeepers handover keys to the board and vacate shops if they cannot pay the increased monthly rent,” she added.

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