Centre lifts Haj ban for differently-abled Muslims

Centre lifts Haj ban for differently-abled Muslims

The Centre has lifted the age-old restriction on  differently-abled Muslims from embarking on the annual pilgrimage to Makkah and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

The Union Minority Affairs Ministry has ordered the Haj Committee of India to align its 2018-2022 guidelines with the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 to also consider the applications of people with disabilities for Haj.

This comes after a delegation from the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) met the minister of minority affairs, seeking change in Haj rules for the differently-abled Muslims.

"We have lifted the restriction," Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told DH when contacted.

The Haj Committee's guidelines stipulate that any Indian citizen who is a Muslim can apply for the annual pilgrimage, "except for those who do not have the mental or physical health to perform the pilgrimage, persons whose legs are amputated, who are crippled, handicapped, lunatic, or otherwise physically or mentally incapacitated."

The NPRD in its request to the ministry for amending the rules noted that the Haj guidelines barring a Muslim from undertaking the annual pilgrimage in case of the one suffering from some mental or physical health problem can be "arbitrarily used to stop anybody" from going for Haj.

It also took exception to the use of words for the differently-abled persons in the Haj guidelines like amputated, crippled, handicapped, lunatic, describing them abusive and derogatory."

"All these provisions are in violation of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 which has equality and non-discrimination as its guiding principle," the NPRD said, citing other stipulations made in the Haj guidelines.

The ministry recently lifted a ban on Muslim women going for Haj without "Mahram (a male companion)" following an instruction from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

After receiving hundreds of applications from the Muslim women willing to undertake Haj without a "Mahram," the ministry later extended the last date for submission of the online applications twice and fixed January 20 as the deadline for it earlier this week.

Tour operators can submit printed copies of the online applications to the Haj committee till January 24, according to a government notification issued on January 4.

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