1,300 women from India to undertake Haj without ‘Mehram’: Naqvi

Mumbai: Around 1,300 women from India will go on Haj without a “Mehram” and will be exempted from the lottery system this year for the annual pilgrimage, Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi reiterated today.

Till now, women Haj pilgrims were required to be accompanied by their husbands or a “Mehram” during the annual pilgrimage.

“Saudi Arabia has relaxed the norms and allowed a group of at least four women to go on Haj without a male companion,” Naqvi said during an interaction with PTI journalists here.

The term “Mehram” refers to a male, whom a woman cannot marry (i.e. father, brother, son etc.).

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his ‘Mann Ki Baat’ radio programme, had said that the women who have applied to go on Haj without a ‘Mehram’ would be exempted from the lottery system and allowed to go on the annual pilgrimage,” the minority affairs minister said.

The Centre had decided to allow the women pilgrims over the age of 45 years to undertake the pilgrimage in groups of at least four, sans a “Mehram”, he added.

Meanwhile, referring to the impasse in the Rajya Sabha between the ruling party and Opposition, due to which the “triple talaq” bill could not be passed during the just- concluded Winter session of Parliament, Naqvi said it was not a setback for the government.

“We have made the practice of triple talaq illegal and unconstitutional. Hence, there is a provision of imprisonment (for the offenders),” the minister said.

Pointing to the response of the Muslim community to the triple talaq decision, Naqvi said there was “not a single protest”, unlike the protests on the Shah Bano issue during late Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure as prime minister.

“The Congress missed an opportunity to make a statement about our bill in the Lok Sabha. It did not even suggest an amendment. Now, it is stalling the bill in the Rajya Sabha,” he added.

Asked if the Muslims were going away from the BJP, Naqvi said, “For the first time, the BJP got around 17 per cent votes from the Muslim community in Gujarat. We realised this when we analysed the results booth-wise.”

This is the first time the saffron party had received so many votes from the Muslim community, the minister said, adding, “The figure used to be around 8-9 per cent.”

In last month’s Gujarat polls, with 99 MLAs, the BJP secured a simple majority in the 182-member Assembly, 16 less than its 2012 tally of 115.

The opposition Congress, which had won 61 seats in 2012, managed to increase its tally to 77.

With PTI inputs