NEW DELHI: Indian muslims have welcomed the decision to lift Haj subsidy,however expressed apprehensions that the government is politicizing the decision.
“BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government has ended appeasement and vote bank politics, which have been going on for the last several years,” said Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. “Our policy is empowerment without appeasement and development with dignity for all sections of the society.”
Muslim bodies across the country welcomed the decision and called it “the fulfillment of the long-standing demand.”
“The government is telling half-truth.Haj subsidy would have lapsed anyway by 2022, according to a Supreme Court ruling in 2012, but the government is taking a high moral ground, which is in a bad taste,” said Navaid Hamid, president of All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat.
He added,“Haj subsidy has never been beneficial for Muslims; it was meant to save the ailing national carrier Air India”.
He demanded that the Indian government “must allow open bidding for travel to Saudi Arabia for Muslims who want to go there for Haj. Why should 175,000 Muslims every year be condemned to choose only Air India? It’s an undeclared tax on the Muslim community.”
Anwar Sadat an academic at the Indian Society of International Law,said: “The political cost of the Haj subsidy was really huge.The BJP and the Hindu right-wing parties always exploited it to serve their majoritarian political agenda.”
Although many state governments (both BJP and non-BJP ruled states) give subsidies to Hindu pilgrims too. Last year, Yogi Adityanath, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state, announced a reward of 100,000 rupees ($1,600) for Hindu pilgrims who wanted to go to Kailash Mansarovar, a popular Hindu pilgrimage site on the Tibetan plateau.
“If it is appeasement to subsidize pilgrims to Makkah. Is it empowerment to subsidize pilgrims to Mansarovar, Ayodhya, and other such places considered holy to Hindus?” asked Brinda Karat, a senior leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI-M.
Karat wrote in an article that “the central government has terminated the subsidy for Hajj completely within five years, which is a violation of the Supreme Court directions. Even state governments headed by the BJP-RSS are increasing subsidies for Hindu pilgrims.”
But BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Mittal denies allegations of targeting of Muslims by ending Hajj subsidy.He said: “We followed the Supreme Court’s order and the desire of the Muslim community.” However, he refused to call the money spent on Hindu pilgrims a subsidy, describing it as “expenses for logistics,” and said those who were questioning it were “communalizing the whole atmosphere.”
Aateka Khan, an academic at Delhi University, said: “If you look at the sequence of events from (the abolishment) of triple talaq (instant divorce) onwards, you will see a systematic targeting of the Muslim minority by the Modi government.”
“The PM speaks of tolerance and peaceful existence but he is actually consolidating Hindu votes by targeting Muslims and depicting them in a wrong way,” Khan said.