Mina Stampede: No Official Word about Kashmiri Pilgrims, Yet



Photos courtesy: Saudi Gazette
Photos courtesy: Saudi Gazette

Four hours after the Chief Minister Mufti M Sayeed asked officials to keep the families informed about the welfare of Hajj pilgrims from the state, there is no word in the public domain so far. More than 717 pilgrims are reported dead in a stampede in Mina where pilgrims are ordained to go for symbolic stoning of devil.

A total of 6366 Kashmiri pilgrims are performing Hajj this under Hajj Committee of India quote while 400 pilgrims have flied with private operators.

“Both my parents are on Hajj. I waited for a public announcement from Radio when it did not come, I went to a nearby village and talked from a friend’s mobile who has ISDN facility in his phone,” a resident from Shopian said. “My parents are safe. They plan Tawaaf this evening.”

More than 717 pilgrims were killed in a stampede on Street 204 in Mina when pilgrims were returning after throwing symbolic pebbles at three stone-walls. On the spot were seen crushed water bottles, bodies and wheelchairs, international media reported. It said the Saudi officials have blamed pilgrims from African nations for the stampede.Mina 1

The day of Hajj is considered to be most serious act of the entire pilgrimage. It falls on the day of Eid, the second most important festival in the Muslim world. It is on this day that all the pilgrims – more than three million this year, converge steadily in Mina and go for Ramy, the symbolic throwing of seven pebbles at Jamarat, the three concrete columns representing the devil. It is this bridge from which the pebbles are thrown, which has a chronic history of stampedes.

But Al-Jazeera reports covering the Hajj say the incident took place somewhere in the rear of the bridge on a street where pilgrims are housed in tents for their transit.

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India’s mission in the Kingdom says they are monitoring the situation and trying to identify if any of the slain is from India. A Kerala minister has confirmed one death from his state. There are more than 700 pilgrims injured and have been admitted to various hospitals. Reports suggest there are 19 Indians among the injured and are admitted to various hospitals.

There is, however, no detail available about the welfare of the pilgrims from J&K. This is despite the fact that India’s official Hajj delegation is led by Mehbooba Mufti, PDP president. In absence of any formal detail from the officials, the market is rife with rumours.

However, one private tour operator who leads Labaika Group posted on Facebook that his entire group is “all right”. Local office of Al Khuddam Tour Operator said that all their “Hajjis are safe”.

“I am all right and we have had a night stay at Muzdalifa,” Dr Mehmood Ahmad said. “We are on way for the Tawaaf now.”

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A photo-journalist, Waseem Andrabi, who is also on Hajj said he saw almost 1000 ambulances running but could not get details. He said he has no idea about any Kashmiri involved in the tragedy. “But Kashmiris were around,” he added.

But the Mina tragedy is not the first. In fact this year started with a crane crash in which 107 pilgrims were killed in the grand mosque. One Kashmiri pilgrim from Khanyar was among the victims of this tragedy.

In fact in 1990 more than 1400 pilgrims died while passing through a tunnel towards Mina. There were deaths in 1994 and 1998 as well. More recently there were deaths during Ramy in 2001, 2004 and 2006 in which 35, 251 and 346 pilgrims were killed, mostly in the stampedes. This is despite the fact that Saudi government has invested massively in creating the structures that pilgrims use for the ritual stoning on Satan.

Meanwhile nearly four hours after the direction from Chief Minister, another senior minister Abdul Rehman Veeri repeated the same direction. But there is no word coming from any side. Efforts to get even the phone number of head of India’s delegation failed.

The official helpline numbers established are: 0096612545800, 00966125496000.


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