Indian pilgrims will not travel for Hajj this year: Naqvi

The government has decided that Muslims from India will not travel to Saudi Arabia for Hajj 2020 after the kingdom conveyed that pilgrims should not be sent this year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said on Tuesday.

The decision was taken after Saudi Arabia’s Hajj and Umrah Minister Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten telephoned last night and suggested not to send pilgrims from India for Hajj this year, he told reporters.

Saudi Arabia on Monday said it has barred international visitors from making the Islamic pilgrimage, in a bid to control the coronavirus pandemic.

Naqvi said 2,13,000 applications had been received for Hajj 2020 and the process to refund the full amount of money deposited by the applicants without any deduction has been started immediately.

The money will be refunded through online Direct Benefit Transfer mode into bank accounts of applicants, the Minority Affairs Minister said, adding this will be the first time since Independence that pilgrims from India will not be going for Hajj due to the unprecedented situation posed by the pandemic.

More than 2,300 women had applied to perform Hajj without mehram (male companion) this year and now they will be allowed to go for Hajj in 2021 on the basis of their application this year. Besides them, more women, who apply to go for Hajj without mehram next year, will also be facilitated, he said.

A total of 3,040 women have performed Hajj after the Narendra Modi government ensured that Muslim women can perform Hajj without mehram in 2018, Naqvi said, adding that a total of 2 lakh Indian Muslims had performed Hajj in 2019, about 50 per cent of them being women.

In a statement, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said that due to coronavirus pandemic and the risks of it spreading in crowded spaces and large gatherings, it has been decided that Hajj for this year will be held whereby a “very limited number” of pilgrims from various nationalities who already reside in Saudi Arabia, would be able to perform it.

“This decision is taken to ensure Hajj is performed in a safe manner from a public health perspective while observing all preventative measures and the necessary social distancing protocols,” the statement said.

Naqvi said honouring the decision of the Saudi government because of serious challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and keeping in mind the health and well-being of the people, it was decided that Muslims from India will not go to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj this year.

The entire world is facing challenges from the coronavirus pandemic and Saudi Arabia has also been affected by it, he noted.

Hajj 2020 is proposed in the period between late July and early August The Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam which every Muslim is required to complete at least once in their lifetime if they are healthy enough and have the means to do so.