Haj pilgrims block highway in Lucknow over minister’s remarks

November 1st, 2008 - 7:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Lucknow, Nov 1 (IANS) The busy Lucknow-Kanpur highway remained blocked for several hours here Saturday, as hundreds of Haj pilgrims staged a sit-in demonstration to protest certain remarks by Uttar Pradesh minister and state Haj Committee chairman Naseemuddin Siddiqui. The pilgrims, who were camping at the Haj House here awaiting their turn to catch their respective flights for Makkah, were sore over what they termed as “foul language” used by the minister.

Provoked by the minister’s “insolent” remarks, the pilgrims raised slogans not only against Siddiqui but also against Chief Minister Mayawati.

Traffic on the highway remained at a standstill for more than three hours, leading to at least a three-km long queue of vehicles on either side of the Haj House, close to Lucknow airport.

Siddiqui had gone to the Haj House as Mayawati’s emissary to look into the problems faced by the pilgrims, who were already harried on account of delay in the sanction of visas by the Saudi Arabian consulate. The delay had led to the cancellation of the first Haj flight that was scheduled to take off from here Thursday.

“As soon as the minister walked into the Haj House, I went up to him to apprise him of the pathetic conditions in it, but he took offence at my approach, caught hold of my beard and used abusive language. He told me to get lost,” said 40-year-old Anwarul Hasan, who had come from Basti in eastern Uttar Pradesh.

Tanvir Hussain from Lalitpur added: “We have been camping here since Oct 28 and still waiting for our documents. What is worse is that there is no responsible official here to give us a satisfactory explanation of the delay.”

Many pilgrims said Siddiqui and state officials were busy blaming the central government rather than helping them to sort out their problems.

The minister remained inside his office in the Haj House and declined to speak to the media.

District Magistrate Chandra Bhanu who rushed to the scene managed to pacify the agitated pilgrims who eventually ended their demonstration.

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