Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed told one of India’s leading magazine that he met Saudi deputy Haj minister Hatem Qadi last weekend to resolve the problem for pilgrims without valid passports.Given security concerns, Indian authorities had requested the government of Saudi Arabia to accept digital or machine-readable pilgrim passes as an interim solution. However, pilgrims travelling to Haj in 2010 would need a valid passport, failing which they would not be able to travel.
Earlier, pilgrims were allowed to visit Mecca using passes, but the Saudi government had changed the rules following security concerns about passes being forged and insisted that all pilgrims should hold a passport. Since many Indian pilgrims hailed from rural areas and did not have a passport, the Indian government then sought a year’s time to comply with the new rules. Accordingly, the Saudi government had decided to allow Indian pilgrims to visit the Mecca and perform Haj using digital passes for this year alone.
The Central Haj Committee of India will issue such digital passes with help from the Ministry of External Affairs, Ahamed said. He said India would ensure that all pilgrims going for Haj 2010 had international passports. “We have asked for a one-year waiver because it is practically impossible for those who have applied for Haj this year to get international passports in time.”
Until last year, pilgrims from many countries, were allowed into the kingdom on a passport of limited validity. In India, these passports are known as “pilgrim passes” and are issued without going through the cumbersome and time-consuming bureaucratic process of acquiring an international passport. But Saudi Arabia recently ruled that only those having valid international passports would be allowed into the country for the pilcrimage.
Muslims out of Dravidian shadow
Chennai: The Muslim electorate in the state, accounting for nearly six per cent of the total electorate, has literally come out of the shadow of Dravidian parties. Though the community’s political leadership is divided, the youth including women are clearly in favour of political forces that would deliver something more than empty promises.
Indian Union Muslim League, which had a prominent role to play in Tamil Nadu politics till late ’60s, has literally become subservient to the Dravidian majors and lost the confidence of the Muslim youth. IUML’s offshoots such as INL have also followed the same trodden path and failed.
New-born political parties of Muslims in Tamil Nadu are gaining ground in the community with their liberal, progressive attitude like inclusion of women in public life.
“By the delimitation process, the minorities and the oppressed sections have become a deciding factor in this election. Muslim votes will be the deciding factor in about 10 constituencies in the state where we have about 15-25 percent of community votes,” says Dr M.H. Jawahirullah, president of Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK). Muslim organisations like Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK), the political wing of TMMK and Popular Front of India are trying to revive the political space in the state that was occupied by the IUML till the ‘60s.
MMK has already demanded six seats from its present ally Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). “This time we will not compromise with one or two seats,” says a senior MMK leader.
Central Chennai, Mayiladuthurai, Vellore, Thanjavur and Ramanathapuram are the five constituencies where 25 to 40 per cent of the electorate are Muslims. “Redrawing of constituencies has helped consolidate Muslim votes upto 40 per cent in five constituencies.