By Abdul Bari Masoud:
New Delhi: Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Tuesday claimed that India’s Haj quota “increased for the consecutive” second year because of the “growing popularity” of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and for “the first time” after the Independence, a record number of 1 lakh 75 thousand will go for Haj 2018. However, contradicting the Minister’s claim, a former Central Haj Committee chairman underlined the fact that the Saudi Arabia government has only “restored the old quota of all countries” including India.
Naqvi, who returned from Saudi Arabia after signing the new Haj agreement with the Saudi Haj and Auqaf Affairs Ministry, has tried to give a political spin to the Haj issue by claiming restoration of old Haj quota as “Increased quota”.
Naqvi signed a bilateral annual agreement for Haj 2018 with Saudi Minister for Haj and Umrah Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten in Makkah.
He said that “three years ago, India’s Haj quota was about 1,36,020, which has been increased during the last two years, to a record – 1 lakh 75 thousand ”.
“This has happened because of the growing popularity of the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi and due to India’s cordial and strengthened relations with Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations under the leadership of Shri Modi”, the Minister said. He added that last year also, Saudi Arabia had increased India’s Haj quota by 35,000.
Contradicting the minister’s claim, a former Haj Committee of India chairman said on condition of anonymity that it is unfortunate that “the minister has also not been sparing the religious issue like Haj for his petty politics.”
Last year also, the minister had made such “hyperbole claim” to mislead the people while the reality was that the Saudi Arabia government had restored the Haj quota of all other countries, including that of Pakistan and it had nothing to do the PM Modi’s so-called popularity in the Arab world, he said.
Echoing this, Jeddah-based senior Indian journalist Siraj Wahab also told Muslim Mirror that the Haj quota of all countries across the world had been slashed by 20 percent for the last four years because of the Haram expansion work. When the Makkah Holy Mosque expansion work was completed the respective quota had been restored to what it was four years ago by the Saudi government last year.
The former chairman also pointed out that during first two years of the present government the Haj quota was remained the same which was about 1, 36,020 because of expansion activities in Makkah.
According to a Haj Committee official, this year, Haj Committee of India has received 3. 55 lakh applications for the Haj 2018 while a mere 1300, women applied without male “Mehram” for Haj. Out of this, most of them belong to Kerala as their male relatives work in the Gulf countries. All of these women will be exempted from lottery system and allowed in groups of 4 or more women to proceed to Haj who are above 45 years of age and wish to go for Haj, the minister said.
Like the minister, the PM Modi also tried to take credit for this and projected it as his government’s one more achievement in “empowering Muslim women” after bringing “Triple Talaq bill”. In his monthly radio broadcast “Mann Ki Baat” on December 31, 2017, Modi boasted: “For decades, injustice was being done to Muslim women but there was no discussion on it. Even in many Islamic countries this practice does not exist.”
Taking the umbrage of his statement, the Muslim groups and leaders had slammed the PM saying credit did not go to him. AIMIM chief and MP Asaduddin Owaisi said, “It is the Saudi Haj authorities that have allowed any Muslim women above 45 years from any country without a Mehram to do Haj. It does not behave the PM to take credit for what a foreign govt has done,” Owaisi said.
Wahab also vouched for this. He said the permission for older women to perform Haj by themselves — was nothing new or ground-breaking.
Even the website of the Saudi embassy website clearly states that: in order to apply for a Haj visa, women who are under 45 years of age must travel with a mehram, or a male guardian, and possess papers that provide proof of the relationship. Women who are over 45 years of age may travel without a mehram and with an organised group, provided they possess a no-objection certificate from their male guardian”.
It seems that Muslim women are a convenient pawn in the political machinations of the Modi government.
Saudi Arabia has also given the green signal for India’s decision to revive the option of sending Haj pilgrims through sea route, the minister said. The officials from both the countries will discuss all the necessary formalities and technicalities, but there is no chance that shipping of haj pilgrims will start from this Haj season.