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Policy of diversity

18 Jan. 2018 11:08 PM IST

When the BJP government announced approval to abolish Haj subsidy, many were ignorant of the fact that the government only followed through what had been demanded by the Central Haj Committee a few months back. The Haj Committee’s stand was that the subsidy did not fulfil the Quran in that Haj subsidy was only meant for those who could not afford the costs involved (istita’ah) and therefore, the subsidy was likened to handout for the community. Further, it was another Muslim judge Justice Aftab Alam who had ordered that Haj subsidy be totally phased out by 2022 and that the subsidy money saved be used for the community’s uplift. Maulana Mahmood A. Madani, a member of the Rajya Sabha and general secretary of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind, declared that the Hajj subsidy is a technical violation of Islamic Sharia, since the Koran declares that Hajj should be performed by Muslims using their own resources. Haj subsidy was introduced during the British rule and later carried on by the successor independent India in 1954. As per the practise, Air India the then national carrier flew Muslim pilgrims to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The fares were subsidised by the government to Air India.It is reported that many Muslims were not very happy about the subsidy part as they believed Air India used to hike up air fares to get a significant slice as subsidy. The general perception was that the scrapping of Haj subsidy was done by the Modi government to placate the demand of Hindutvawadis for whom Islam is considered an alien religion and therefore the government has no business to either sponsor or subsidize. As stated, the abolishment of Haj subsidy was a demand made by the Muslim Haj Committee as well as an order of the Supreme Court issued by a judge belonging to the Muslim community. A point that should be noted is that Haj subsidy had never been an issue among Muslims since only a very small fraction of the community undertake the pilgrimage to Mecca. There is however more than meets the eye with regard to the perception that the government wants to save all that money spent on subsidy for Haj pilgrimage. The unspoken fact is that other religious communities continue to receive grant or subsidies from the states, such as the Sangat Darshan under the erstwhile SAD government in Punjab or Gita Mahotsav from the Haryana BJP government of Manohar Lal Khattar. No questions have been raised about these government funding of religious programmes while the opposite appears true with regard to Haj pilgrimage. The abolishment of the Haj subsidy is a correct and justified move since it is time that the government should keep its hands and money off any religious project or programme. On the other hand, the government of India has been particularly harsh in stopping foreign funds to various Christian voluntary organisations, mostly those involved with education and social works throughout India. The contributions made by various Christian missionaries prior to and post-independent India needs no emphasis. Instead, today Christian organisations and followers face severe persecutions from so-called ‘fringe elements’ who are only implementing the Hindutva ideology of their political masters. Such is the deception that is going around about secularism in all its worth.

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