Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Tuesday said that Indian pilgrims will not go to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj pilgrimage this year amid risks over the spreading coronavirus. His comment came a day after Saudi Arabia announced that it would only allow people living in the kingdom to take part in the pilgrimage.

The Union minister said that Saudi Arabia’s Hajj and Umrah minister Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten spoke to him over the phone on Monday and suggested that Indian pilgrims should not be sent for the pilgrimage. Naqvi added that the application money of more than 2.3 lakh pilgrims will be returned without cancellation deductions through direct transfer.

“Honouring the decision of the Saudi Arabia Government in view of serious challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and keeping in mind the health and well-being of the people, it has been decided that Muslims from India will not go to Saudi Arabia to perform Haj,” Naqvi tweeted.

In a statement on Monday, Saudi Arabia said that it will organise a muted version of the pilgrimage amid coronavirus fears. “It was decided to hold the pilgrimage this year with very limited numbers, with different nationalities in the kingdom,” the official Saudi Press Agency said, according to Al Jazeera.

Nearly 20 lakh Muslims from around the world take part in the annual pilgrimage, which begins by the end of July in Mecca.

Saudi Arabia has so far reported 1,61,005 coronavirus cases and more than 1,300 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University’s Covid-19 tracker.

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