New Delhi: Minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Tuesday said that the government had decided that Muslims from India will not travel to Saudi Arabia for Haj 2020 after the kingdom conveyed that pilgrims should not be sent this year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have decided that Haj pilgrims from India will not be sent to Saudi Arabia for Haj 2020. Application money of more than 2.3 lakh pilgrims will be returned without cancellation deductions through direct transfer,” Naqvi said.
The decision was taken after Saudi Arabia’s Haj and Umrah minister Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten telephoned last night and suggested not to send pilgrims from India for Haj this year, Naqvi told reporters.
Saudi Arabia said on Monday that this year’s Hajj will not be cancelled, but that due to the coronavirus only “very limited number” of people will be allowed to perform the major Muslim pilgrimage.
Also read: Will Religion Deliver Us From or Doom Us to the Pandemic?
The kingdom said that only people of various nationalities already residing in the country would be allowed to perform the Hajj. “This decision was taken to ensure haj is performed in a safe manner from a public health perspective,” a Saudi government statement said.
The government did not specify how many people would be permitted to take part.
The annual pilgrimage, which is set to begin this year at the end of July, traditionally draws around 2 million Muslims from around the world for five intense days of worship and rituals in Mecca.
Saudi Arabia has never cancelled the Hajj in the nearly 90 years since the nation’s establishment.
It halted the minor umrah pilgrimage, which can be performed year-round, in February, as the coronavirus began spreading across the region.
(With inputs from PTI)