Sareshwala opposes transfer of Indian Haj affairs from MEA to MMA

MAKING A POINT: Zafar Sareshwala, the head of India’s Haj goodwill delegation, addresses a press conference in Jeddah on Thursday. Also seen are Gujarat Haj Committee Chairman Mohammed Ali Qadri, left, Indian Ambassador Ahmad Javed, 2nd left, Consul General Noor Rahman Sheikh, 2nd right, and Deputy Consul General and Haj Consul Mohammed Shahid Alam, right. (AN photo)
Updated 16 September 2016

Sareshwala opposes transfer of Indian Haj affairs from MEA to MMA

JEDDAH: The leader of India’s Haj goodwill delegation is strongly opposed to his government’s decision to transfer the management of Haj affairs from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to the Ministry of Minority Affairs (MMA).

Responding to a question from Arab News at a press conference in Jeddah on Thursday, Zafar Sareshwala said: “Haj affairs should remain with the Ministry of External Affairs. The ministry has competent diplomats and capable officers, plus it has the benefit of institutional wisdom acquired over many decades of successfully managing Indian Haj affairs.”

Sareshwala said he did not see any reason for the decision. “Initially, even I was of the view that since Haj was primarily a minority affair, it should come under the Ministry of Minority Affairs. On hindsight and after having seen with my own eyes the excellent management of the annual pilgrimage by the Ministry of External Affairs, I feel the (transfer) decision is not wise. It ought to remain the way it is now.”

The decision to transfer Haj affairs was taken by the previous Manmohan Singh government. The present Narendra Modi-led government went along with the decision and effected the change earlier this year. Haj 2017 will therefore be managed by the Ministry of Minority Affairs.

In response to a question from a member of Parliament in April this year, Minister of State for External Affairs Gen. V.K. Singh said: “It has been decided to transfer the work related to management of the Haj pilgrimage, including administration of the Haj Committee Act (1959) and rules made thereunder, from the Ministry of External Affairs to the Ministry of Minority Affairs.”

Najma Heptulla, who was until recently the minister of minority affairs in the Modi government, confirmed in February this year that Haj would be transferred to the Ministry of Minority Affairs. “I have received a communication in this regard,” she said.

“Haj is being transferred to us but not because of mismanagement,” she said. “The prime minister has transferred it to us perhaps from the administrative point of view since Haj deals with a minority community.”

Heptulla was replaced recently by Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi as the minority affairs minister. A longtime member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Naqvi is widely distrusted by the Muslim community in India.

The opposition to the move by Sareshwala, who is said to enjoy good rapport with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is considered significant.

“I will submit a report to the honorable prime minister on all the good work that I have seen here and I will recommend that Haj not be transferred to the Ministry of Minority Affairs,” he said. “This is my view. Ultimately, of course, it is up to the government to decide.”

Sareshwala said he was never in favor of a ministry “that was created out of the blue by the previous government to accommodate out-of-work politicians and throw a few crumbs to them.”

The issue is set to become a talking point in India with the emergence of details about exactly what the transfer entails. At the moment, the community seems to be confused and divided.

King Salman receives Saudi Grand Mufti, princes, and military leaders

Updated 21 August 2018

King Salman receives Saudi Grand Mufti, princes, and military leaders

  • King Salman extends Eid Al-Adha greetings to Saudi citizens, pilgrims and senior officials
  • King Salman arrived in Mina on Monday to supervise services being provided to pilgrims

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman on Tuesday said it was an honor to serve fellow Muslims undertaking this year’s Hajj pilgrimage.
The King made the comments as he and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received the Kingdom’s princes, Grand Mufti, scholars, sheikhs, ministers, and military leaders participating in Hajj at the Royal Court in Mina Palace.
King Salman arrived in Mina, in the holy city of Makkah, on Monday, to supervise services being provided to almost 2.4 million pilgrims.
He greeted his visitors and all the Saudi citizens, as well as the pilgrims, on Eid Al-Adha.
“Dear brothers, Allah has honored our blessed country with the duty of serving pilgrims and providing them with the necessities to ensure they perform their rites safely and smoothly.
“Great lengths to serve them and ensure their comfort continues to be a source of pride for our country, since it was founded by the late King Abdul Aziz, and we will continue to perform this duty with the help and support of Allah.”
The King added: “My brothers and sons in the military, the pilgrims who have come to perform Hajj and Umrah, and the whole world, are seeing and experiencing your efforts in serving pilgrims, which is your duty and honor.
“These great sacrifices made by the Kingdom’s military sectors to defend the country and to protect its sanctities and capabilities are our pride.
“On this blessed day, we remember our martyrs and heroes, who sacrificed their lives for their religion and their country, and we ask Allah to bestow his mercy upon them and grant the wounded a fast recovery.
“We ask Allah to keep our country safe and secure, and to help us serve our religion and country.”
The gathering included senior guests from GCC countries and officials form the Saudi scouts officials who have come extend their greetings to the King on Eid Al-Adha,
Gen. Saeed bin Abdullah Al-Qahtani, Assistant Minister of Interior for Operations Affairs and General Supervisor of Public Security, congratulated King Salman, the commander-in-chief of all the armed forces, on Eid Al-Adha on behalf of those who had provided security services during Hajj.
“The Hajj security forces have begun carrying out their tasks, which are focused on maintaining the security and safety of pilgrims, enabling them to perform the Hajj rituals, and providing them with the humanitarian assistance they need,” he said.
Earlier, King Salman said that serving Hajj pilgrims was: “The greatest honor that God has honored our country.”
“I call upon him to complement the pilgrims and to perpetuate good and peace for our nation and the rest of the country,” the Kingdom’s ruler posted in Arabic on his Twitter account.
Government data show that 2.371 million pilgrims are participating in this year’s Hajj, with 1.758 million of them coming from abroad.