The news of the Haj stampede on Thursday left many families in Chandigarh, whose relatives had gone for pilgrimage, panic-stricken. Information on their loved ones’ whereabouts was hard to come by as there were no helplines setup for families to call and calls to the pilgrims often went without answer or did not connect. It was only later in the evening that the families got to know that all pilgrims from Punjab were fine and have flocked to Mina continuing with their Haj.
Farzana Alam MLA from Malerkotla and chairman of Punjab Haj committee told The Indian Express that she spoke to the pilgrim’s liaison officer Mohammad Izrar at about 9pm and he informed that all pilgrims from Punjab were safe. She said that she will continue getting updates from him.
Around 292 pilgrims had left for the pilgrimage to the holy city from Punjab.
At least 53 residents from Chandigarh and its periphery areas have joined the Haj pilgrimage this year and their return flight is scheduled for the first week of October. Imam of the Jama Masjid, Sector 20 said, “We are also trying to reach the pilgrims by dialing every number we have of them. No causality has been confirmed yet. We will have special prayers after the Isha namaaz (Night prayer) for all the pilgrims who have lost their lives and for the ones who are safe.”
“The news of another tragic incident during Haj came as a mini heart attack. It’s another three to four days before my husband to return. Our two children have been waiting for their father eagerly but such incidents are not letting me get up from the Janamaaz (Prayer mat). After news of the stampede, I have called my husband thrice to know if he is safe and he has been assuring me that he will return safe and sound,” said a resident of Sector 31 who wished not to be named.
Mohammed Zahid, resident of Sector 26 whose parents have gone for Haj said, “The moment news channels started flashing about the death of 150 people at Mount Arafat, I called my father to confirm if they are fine. Fortunately, both were not there when the incident happened. The first crane crash incident at the Grand Mosque was tragic enough and had left us panic-stricken but this stampede is more tragic. We are helpless here, we can only pray.”
Meanwhile, the Jammu & Kashmir Haj Executive Officer of State Hajj Commitee Fayaz Ahmad Lone, who is in Saudi Arabia told The Indian Express over the phone, “The Saudi government is yet to share any details with the Indian officials here. As of now, we don’t have any information if there is any Indian among those who were killed or injured. We are keeping a track of it and as soon we would get any information, we will share it with you.”
In Mumbai, Zaheer Hussain Deputy Chief Executive Officer Hajj told The Indian Express, “The area where the incident happened is now under the control of Saudi authorities. They are carrying the dead bodies to the mortuary and after completing all the formalities, photo identity of the deceased will be displayed. Once the list would come out we can tell if there is anyone from India. We are in constant touch with our officials there in Saudi Arabia.”
With inputs from Raakhi Jagga in Ludhiana