Two Indian Haj pilgrims were caught begging in Saudi Arabia and the matter was reported to the Indian consul general there as begging is banned in that country. This was the “genesis” of the rules barring disabled people from going on Haj. However, the Haj Committee of India is in the process of revising the provisions to allow them to go for the pilgrimage, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said Thursday.
“Begging is banned in Saudi Arabia. Some years ago we received complaints about Indian pilgrims caught begging there. The matter was reported to the Indian consul general. There were two specific instances. That is the genesis of the rules debarring disabled people from going on Haj. However, those rules are now being changed,” Naqvi told The Indian Express.
“We decided we would convince the Saudi authorities to ensure there is no discrimination. The affidavit in the Delhi High Court was describing the historical background of the ban. It also mentioned the fact that the rules are in the process of being changed.”
Though Naqvi mentioned the government would “convince” Saudi Arabia, the ban on disabled people going for Haj is not of Saudi origin. There are enhanced facilities for disabled people going on Haj.
In an affidavit filed in the Delhi High Court, the Ministry of Minority Affairs has said that the “screening” was advised by the Consulate General of India in Jeddah in 2012 and that differently-abled people have been barred from going for Haj “in view of instances of many such people indulging in begging, which is strictly prohibited in Saudi Arabia”.
The earlier incidents of Indian Haj pilgrims caught begging were “from many years ago”, Naqvi said. “It is not as if it happened in recent times, I think it happened 4-5, may be 7-8 years ago. This has been going on since then. We have decided to change the rules,” he said.
Naqvi added that the government felt the restrictions were not in line with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, that was passed by the NDA government and hence the Haj Committee has been asked to revise the rules.