Indian Hajis ‘Missing’

166 ‘Hajis’ go missing in Saudi Arabia

Part Of Begging Racket?

Mateen Hafeez TNN

We have heard of many sports persons, visitors to Europe, UK, Canada or USA ‘disappearing’; only to surface years later with a foreign citizenship.

But we had never heard of beggars being smuggled out of India . Well there is always a first time.

Hope they do not land up in Pakistan or Afgan Taliban training camps.
Mumbai: As many as 166 pilgrims, who went to Saudi Arabia on pretext of Haj, are missing. These 166 are suspected to be Indian beggars who go to the holy city for begging in the guise of Haj pilgrims. Their mastermind, Sharful Haque, a resident of West Bengal, was arrested earlier by the Kolkata police.

        The disappearance was reported to the Central Haj Committee of India when the 166 pilgrims did not report to the airport in Jeddah. “They are suspected to be beggars and part of a huge racket,” said Dr Shakir Husain, chief executive officer of the Central Haj Committee. He added there was no information about the whereabouts of the 166 pilgrims who belonged to Murshidabad in West Bengal.

     “We have written to the head of the West Bengal Haj Committee, asking about the approval of these beggars’ applications. Our office has informed the chief secretary of West Bengal,” added Husain. Sources said the doctors who issued medical certificates to such beggars could be grilled during the police probe. An inquiry has begun in the Haj Committee of India. Husain said these beggars go do not even stay in the quarters allotted to Haj pilgrims in Mecca and Madinah. “It was the duty of the State Haj Committee to identify such people and stop them,” said Husain.

Three months ago, the Haj Committee officials found at least a dozen people who had used different photographs on the passports but their names were the same on the previous passports. Some of them had new passport numbers as well. “When a few beggars were detained in Saudi Arabia, they spilled the beans about the racket and mastermind Haque.

      The Council General passed on this information to the Haj Committee and Haque was arrested in Kolkata while trying to board a flight,” said sources.

      BS Mubarak, Consul Haj in Jeddah, said whoever is identified staying in Saudi Arabia illegally is sent to their respective countries. “We have identified around 30 people who were involved in activities that are not fit for Haj pilgrims and sent them back to India.”