Mumbai: Tearing into Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi's logic behind ending the Haj travel subsidy, senior CPI (M) leader Brinda Karat asked the Modi government to end all subsidies and bring to Hindus dignity like Muslims.
“If the end of government subsidies for individual pilgrims traveling to Makkah brings back dignity to Muslims, why not bring back dignity to Hindus? Why give subsidies to Hindu pilgrims?” Karat wrote in an article published by NDTV.
“If it is appeasement to subsidize pilgrims to Makkah, is it empowerment to subsidize pilgrims to Mansarovar, Ayodhya and other such places considered holy by Hindus?” she added.
In her article, Karat also said that the Modi government's decision to abolish the Haj subsidy is a violation of Supreme Court order which had asked the government to do so in a phased manner by 2022.
"The Supreme Court order gave a ten-year period to the government to phase out the subsidies to Haj pilgrims. It stated "(we) direct Central Government, progressively reduce amount of subsidy so as to completely eliminate it within a period of ten years from today..." which would be May 2022.
"But the central government has terminated the subsidy for Haj completely within five years, which is a violation of the Supreme Court directions, even as state governments headed by the BJP-RSS are increasing subsidies for Hindu pilgrims", she said.
"This is the second such example within a month when the government has misread and misused a Supreme Court judgment to further a narrow agenda of targeting the minority community", Karat said , citing law criminalizing triple or instant talaq as one.
"In no case should the government discriminate among pilgrims of different communities in its approach. But in selectively abolishing the Haj subsidy while increasing and promoting other such subsidies, this is precisely what the Modi Government is doing", Karat said.
Karat's article was in response to the Modi government's sudden decision to abolish Haj subsidy from 2018.
While making public the Modi government’s decision to end the Haj subsidy, Naqvi admitted that it never benefited the Haj pilgrims.
“Muslims didn't benefit from it (Haj subsidy)”, Naqvi said.
However despite the popular belief that the Haj subsidy amount was actually paid to India’s national carrier Air India on which it survived for years, Naqvi made a bizarre claim that the amount saved by ending the subsidy will be used for education of girls.
“Development with dignity is what we believe in. The subsidy will be used for educating girls," Naqvi said.
Naqvi also said that the Modi government believes "in empowerment without appeasement”, but did not elaborate what he meant by “appeasement” as for decades, Haj subsidy remained a whip in the hands of right-wing parties to attack political rivals.
The dole – nothing more than a sleight of hand by the government – was used by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other Hindutva outfits to target opposition by accusing them of “appeasing” Muslims by subsiding expenses involved in the Haj pilgrimage. Angered by these attacks, several Muslims have been demanding an end to the subsidy.
Instead of providing subsidies, the Haj committee, an autonomous body under the Indian government responsible for making arrangement for Haj pilgrimage, should be revamped, the community leader have always demanded.
The Muslims have also been slamming the Haj subsidy, accusing Air India of overcharging.
"Just because they have a monopoly, a Delhi to Jeddah ticket costs us Rs.45,000 whereas Saudi Arabian airlines' ticket costs only Rs.22,000. Where is the money going? ... in the pockets of Air India," they said.
Also, contrary to the general perception that the Indian government spends huge amounts for the Haj pilgrims every year, the Haj Committee of India said it managed the expenses of its central office and State/UT Haj Committees using the money collected from pilgrims and Haj aspirants.
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