In his long career, Mir Qadar Ali Khan never had to deal with so many queries from people with anxiety writ large on their faces. But, over the past few weeks, Khan, who is the chief Qazi, has been dealing with a flood of applications from people seeking copies of ‘sianama’ (marriage contract form) issued by qazis during the time of marriage.
A majority of the requests from people are for marriage certificates of their parents and forefathers, which were solemnised several decades ago. Some of the applicants also want corrections to be made in the records about their surnames.
“A copy of sianama will have to be submitted at the Telangana State Wakf Board to get the marriage certificate,” said an employee at the office of the Chief Qazi of Qazat Shariat Panah Balda in Hyderabad’s Shah Ali Banda area.
The reason why Shah Ali Banda office, one of the three regional Qazat Shariats in the city, is a beehive of activity is not far to seek. The fear over the National Register of Citizens (NRC) has triggered a mad rush among Muslims to get marriage certificates which serve as a domicile proof.
This is despite the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) coming out strongly against the CAA and NRC and Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao asserting that the NRC exercise would not be allowed in the State.
“There is a sense of anxiety gripping the Muslim community. They have fears and unanswered questions over NRC. Never in the past did they face such a situation,” said Khan, the chief Qazi whose jurisdiction covers large parts of Hyderabad’s Old City.
He and his staff are grappling with a huge rush of applicants flooding the office every day. “The situation is tough. The ghost of NRC is chasing them and they are forced to approach my office,” he says.
On normal days, his office deals with around 100 to 150 people. Now, around 500 to 600 people are approaching them. Many of the applicants want records of marriages that took place 70 or 80 years ago.
“Many of the people approaching us have lost their sianamas and don’t know the exact date and place of their forefather’s marriage, which is making it difficult for us to go through old records and make corrections,” he said.
The Shah Ali Banda Qazat has records that date back to 250 years and include marriages that took place in Hyderabad during the rule of the Nizams of the erstwhile Hyderabad State. However, many of these record books are in a decaying condition.
“This makes our job very difficult. Searching for old certificates and other particulars is not easy. We need to exercise a lot of care in handling some of the records. The burden has greatly increased nowadays,” the Qazi said.
“There is a lot of confusion surrounding NRC. Every day, we are told about new things. The news appearing in the local media is further confusing us. That’s why we feel that records of marriages would be useful and enough proof for us to establish citizenship,” said Nisar Ahmed, standing in the long line at the office.
Ahmed wants some corrections made in the records. Many of the applicants took time off from their scheduled work hours to visit the Qazi’s office. “There is uncertainty among the people over NRC as they are not told clearly as to what CAA is and what NRC is and what they mean for us,” he said.
Another applicant Mushtaq Ahmed says, “A general feeling among the community is that if we keep the documents ready, we will be spared of harassment in future.”
Muslims constitute over 30 per cent of Hyderabad’s 76 lakh population and are largely concentrated in the old city areas.
It is not just the Qazi’s office but the State Waqf Board is also flooded with applications for marriage certificates as fears over the NRC grip the community.
Since Waqf Board is a statutory body formed under the Central Waqf Act of 1954, the marriage certificate issued by the Waqf Board is a valid proof and accepted for the passport in India and visa by all countries. During the NRC exercise in Assam, the marriage certificates from the local Waqf Board were accepted as valid proof.
Over the last one month, the Telangana Waqf Board has been issuing more than 300 certificates per day, which is twice the number of applications that it receives on a normal day.
“The people are applying for certificates of marriages which were solemnised 30-40 years ago. Some are applying for marriage certificates of their parents and grandparents,” an official of the Board said.
On average, around 50,000 Muslim weddings are solemnised every year across Telangana.
While many Muslims below 30 years of age in Telangana have educational and birth certificates to establish a link with their parents, the older generation is finding it difficult to establish their parental link. In such cases, the marriage certificates would be of help. The certificates issued by Waqf Board contain the personal details of the bride and bridegroom and also their parents, including their date of birth, educational qualifications and profession.
“In order to meet the rush of applications, we will, if necessary open special counters to issue marriage certificates,” the Waqf Board chairman Mohammed Saleem said.
Similarly, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) is also flooded with applications seeking birth certificates. Most of them pertain to those born before 1980.
If a name is not found in the health department’s registers, then the applicants will have to file an affidavit in court, publish an advertisement in a newspaper, wait for 15 days for objections, publish a gazette notification and only then apply to the corporation for the certificate.
The entire process costs at least ₹3,000 and takes over a month time.
There is a sense of anxiety among people whose parents had returned to the city after staying in foreign countries for some time, and whose birth certificates were issued by the Indian Embassies in the respective countries.
“They all fear that their names and their children’s names might be deleted from the citizenship register if birth certificates are not produced,” said a GHMC official.