Not many people in the old city of Hyderabad were surprised when Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) legislator Akbaruddin Owaisi was attacked on April 30, leaving him to battle for his life in hospital. He is, according to doctors, now out of danger and taken off ventilator.
The MIM has seven MLAs in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly. Since May 2009, after all of them were re-elected, the police started receiving complaints from people alleging coercion, intimidation and threats from aides or goons of MIM MLAs, including Akbaruddin Owaisi (Chandrayangutta), Mohammed Bhalala (Malakpet), Mohammed Muqtada Khan (Karwan),Mumtaz Ahmed Khan (Yakutpura) and Mohammed Moazam Khan (Bahdurpura) regarding land and property issues.
The police say the MLAs are involved in every major land deal, settling property disputes and land-grabbing in the seven Assembly constituencies controlled by MIM. This has created sharp divisions within the MIM and leaders like Akbaruddin Owaisi have made a number of enemies.
“In old city of Hyderabad, you cannot sell or buy even 100 sq yards of land without the MIM’s intervention. If anyone tries to do it on his own, he would be threatened and intimidated into giving MIM its share,” says Municipal Councillor Amjed Ullah Khan, Azampura Division.
The police have received at least 57 complaints of intimidation and threats against MIM MLAs or their supporters.
According to an official, MIM MLAs are into land deals and settlement of property disputes but there is also an element of coercion — forcing people to sell their land or property.
“The most commonly used modus operandi is to identify the property and request the owner to sell it to them at the rates they decide. If the owner refuses, they try to coerce and if that does not work, they threaten him that they will get the property declared as Wakf Board property which he encroached. Nine out of 10 times, the owners are forced to agree,” the official said.
“In fact, Akbaruddin recently started naming several properties in his Assembly constituency area as Waqf Board properties which he alleges have been encroached. Many of the properties Akbaruddin identified belong to Mohammed Pehelwan, who is alleged to be behind the attack,” an official said.
The MIM has 36 municipal councillors in the 100-seat Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad and most of them are protégés of the Owaisis.
“Incidents of land-grabbing, property deals, threats and intimidation is bringing a bad name to MIM. The poor and lower middle-class Muslim community is entirely in the grip of MIM and the people who are affected cannot openly confront the leaders and their supporters,” another official said.
Officials estimate that each MIM MLA has amassed assets worth nearly Rs 100 crore. Akbaruddin Owaisi’s assets are estimated to be much more.
“MIM leaders took over land and property and constructed huge commercial complexes in partnership with builders. A majority of the new hotels, shopping complexes and buildings are owned by them in partnership with land and real estate developers,” says Yusuf Khan, a real estate developer.
The rampant misuse of power by MIM MLAs has also caused friction within the Owaisi family. Akbaruddin’s elder brother Asaduddin Owaisi, MP, is reported to be quite unhappy with his younger brother.
“Asad has been asking Akbar to restrain himself and MIM MLAs who listen to him more than Asad. Now, the MIM itself is divided into two factions — Asad faction and Akbar faction,” a senior functionary of MIM said.
Sources in MIM say that a week before the attack on Akbaruddin, Asaduddin tried to work out a compromise with Mohammed bin Omar Yafai, also known as Mohammed Pehelwan, who himself is very close to the former.
Even the local Urdu press has started going against MIM. Zahid Ali Khan, editor of the popular Siasat Daily contested the Hyderbad Lok Sabha seat against MIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi. The newspaper regularly reports the ‘wrongdoings’ of the Owaisis and MIM MLAs.
The other local Urdu daily Munsif has also taken an anti-MIM stand of late.