After Haj tragedy, grief and anxiety haunt families back home
Every time the phone rings, Sajjana’s heartbeat shoots up as she awaits word on her missing brother and his family who were near Mecca where hundreds of Haj pilgrims died in the stampede.india Updated: Sep 25, 2015 21:39 IST
Every time the phone rings, Sajjana’s heartbeat shoots up as she awaits word on her missing brother and his family who were near Mecca where hundreds of Haj pilgrims died in a stampede on Thursday.
The family of three from Kozhikode in north Kerala was among the estimated two million faithful who had congregated in Saudi Arabia for Islam’s holiest annual pilgrimage.
“My brother Muneer called me two hours before the tragedy, saying all three (his wife and daughter) were proceeding to conduct one of the last rites of the pilgrimage in Minar. Almost 24 hours passed since then, we haven’t got any information on them. We are really worried,” Sajjana said on Friday.
The Kerala government has so far confirmed the death of two — K Abdul Rehman, a 51-year-old resident of Malappuram, and 61-year-old KV Muhammed. But at least 10 others are still missing and their relatives back home are frantically trying to locate them.
“We are literally groping in the dark. We are tired of calling the Indian authorities and others in Saudi Arabia,” said an anxious relative in Malappuram. His aged mother is among the missing.
Anxiety has given way to grief at the home of Remi Jaan in Anna Nagar, Tiruchirapalli, about 300km south of Chennai in Tamil Nadu. She had gone on the pilgrimage along with her husband, daughter and son-in-law, but perished under a mass of bodies in the stampede.
Jaan had planned to return home on October 12. But now her family is planning to bury her in Saudi Arabia. “Since she died during the Haj, she will be buried there,” said Abu Tahir, her other son-in-law.
Two more pilgrims from Hyderabad — Shaik Bibi Jaan and Sabath Tasleem — also reportedly died in the stampede, though their names do not still figure on the official list of Indians who lost their lives.
“These are the only two names from Hyderabad that came to our notice and that too from the relatives. We are in touch with the Haj officials in Jeddah to know the whereabouts of other pilgrims from the two Telugu states,” professor SA Shukoor, the special officer of Telangana State Haj Committee, said.
Many Indian Muslims are known to undertake the pilgrimage on their own, without being part of the team of pilgrims subsidised by the government.
(With inputs from HTC Hyderabad and Chennai)