New Delhi, Nov 22: In less than a week after procedure for Haj 2018 started, 88 women have applied to go on the pilgrimage without a "mehram" or male guardian, Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said on Tuesday.
As per the new Haj policy, women above 45 years of age can go on the pilgrimage without a male guardian in a group of four.
The application process for the Haj 2018 started on November 15.
"So far, 22 groups of women have applied for the Haj under the 'non-mehram' category. Of these a maximum of 18 groups are from Kerala, two from Uttar Pradesh and one each from Assam and West Bengal," the minister said.
"This is just the beginning. We hope many more groups of women will apply as the applications will be open till December 7," Naqvi said.
"Special arrangements will be made for the safety and security of the women going on Haj without a mehram. We will also take special care for their accommodation," he added.
Women in several Muslim countries are allowed to perform Haj without a mehram, but India had put restrictions on it as the majority of Muslims in India belong to the 'Hanafi school of jurisprudence' that does not allow women to travel alone.
The new Haj policy has removed that restriction on women.
"There is no compulsion for women to travel without a mehram. But if one's ‘maslak' (sect) allows it, that woman can now travel to Saudi Arabia to perfrom Haj. We have removed the restriction," Naqvi explained.
The new Haj policy retains the quota for applicants above 70 years of age, but has done away with preference for the fourth-time applicants.
The names of the persons going for Haj are decided through a lucky draw as the number of applications are many times more than the country's quota of 1.7 lakh pilgrims.
Naqvi said that his ministry was in talks with the Saudi Arabia authorities to get India's quota further increased, as also to resume the pilgrimage by ship.
He said that the Haj subsidy will be gradually ended.