Tuesday, November 25, 2008

40 Hajj aspirants’ dream grounded

As last flight to Jeddah takes off today
NASEER A GANAI
Srinagar, Nov 25: Abdul Gani Sofi was anxiously waiting outside court room for the decision on Tuesday. The government has denied travel documents for Hajj pilgrimage to him and 39 other Kashmiris. They had filed a suit in court, terming government restriction as infringement of religious rights.

Their lawyer Mian Abdul Qayoom pleaded their case Tuesday in the court that reserved the judgment. As Qayoom came out of the room they rushed to him to know the verdict.
The last flight to Jeddah would take off Wednesday and with this their dream of Hajj may not materialize this time.
Mian Abdul Qayoom terms the charges against them as “fabricated and baseless.” He said the State has no right to deny the permission to person to form his religious obligation. “The Government move is interference in the religion and against the Article 25 of the constitution,” he said.
He said performing Hajj was fundamental right and it couldn’t be taken away. “There is difference between acquiring the passport and Hajj pilgrimage pass and the passport Act doesn’t apply on the pilgrims,” he said.
In the Court he argued on the same lines. “Today is the last day and tomorrow is the last flight and the Court should direct the State government to allow the intending pilgrims to perform their religious right,” he pleaded. The Court however reserved the judgment.
For the past thirty days, Sofi has been making rounds of the court. A resident of Sepdan Budgam he had dreamt all his life to perform Hajj once in his life time.
“The government has shattered my and my wife’s dream,” he says.
This year when the state Hajj Committee invited application for Hajj 2008, Sofi was prompt to apply. “I retired in 2006 as supervisor from the Jammu Kashmir Industries. But I was planning for Hajj for years together,” he said.

Subsequently, he applied form for himself and his wife with the State Hajj Committee and after the draw of lots they were selected. He deposited the money with the State Hajj Committee, attended vaccination programs and elaborately chose the luggage.
But things were not so smooth. A month ago he was informed by the State Hajj Committee that “he has got an adverse police report” and would not be allowed to perform the Hajj unless cleared by the CID.
The phone call was like a death bell for the family. “I wept many a time on that day. I was not summing up courage to convey this news to my wife,” he said.
One of allegations against Sofi in the “adverse report” is that he has been retired prematurely from the service “on charges of having anti-national links.” But he retired in 2006 from Jammu Kashmir Industries after completing his service.
Bilal Ahmad Mir was consoling Sofi. So were other persons. The common tragedy has bound these aspiring pilgrims together. Bilal Ahmad Mir, 37, was going with his mother to Hajj. “I was arrested and I was released. Does that mean with the arrest I have lost my right to live and perform Hajj as well,” the young man argues. He has visited the Court even on the day when there was curfew. “Every day I tell my mother tomorrow something would happen. Today I have nothing to say,” he said.
Hamidullah Yatoo, an aged man who retired as Assistant Stock Officer from Animal Husbandry was informing his family on phone about today’s happening. “I had received everything even the flight number. I was scheduled to leave for Jeddah on November 4. But then I was informed I had adverse report,” he said. The allegations against Yatoo are that he is from Jamaat-e-Islami and has been booked under PSA. But he says he has been never detained by the police, and the police had told the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate Kulgam that he had no active links with Jamaat.
“Before death I wanted to perform Hajj. But I think I won’t be allowed,” he said and wept. He was repeatedly pulling his long beard. His worry was how to convey his wife that tomorrow is the last flight and they have bleak chances.
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