In an outrageous statement, Muslim clerics body Jamiat Ulama's Secretary, Gulzar Azmi, mocked gender equality saying, "If you want equality, why don't men and women carry pregnancy for 4.5 months each?"
This follows Centre's proposal to allow women over 45 years to go on Haj without husband/male relative.
Calling the move "un-Islamic", Sunni Barelvi clerics said it would force women to go against Sharia.
Bareilly Dargah-e-Ala Hazrat spokesperson Mufti Mohammed Salim Noori's statement
"If women go alone on Haj, they will end up committing a sin, which is the motive of the authorities. Haj is one of the five pillars of Islam; it should be done according to Sharia and women cannot go without mehram (close male relatives)."
Minority Affairs Ministry earlier constituted a committee for reviewing the current Haj policy and suggesting changes for the same for 2018-22.
The Haj Review Committee prepared a set of recommendations for the new Haj Policy's framework. Its report, listing several recommendations, was handed to Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
He announced Haj Committee of India might consider the suggestions, calling them "progressive".
Consider Islamic rules before listening to politicians, says cleric
Criticizing the Centre's decision, Mufti Mohammed Jameel Khan at Darul Ifta of Bareilly's Dargah-e-Ala Hazrat said women must consider Sharia before following the changes being introduced. He added India has a majority of Sunni Muslims, the government should contact Sunni leaders before drafting any policy.
Suggestions of the Haj Review panel for new policy
The key points of the Haj Review Committee's recommendations include allowing women (over 45 years) to go on Haj pilgrimage without mehram (close relatives) in groups of four or more, reducing the number of Haj embarkation points, and dispatching pilgrims to Mecca through ships.
It also suggested the redistribution of Haj seats among the states based on the Muslim populations there.
HCOI and private tour operators
The panel also recommended the pilgrims going on Haj through HCOI (Haj Committee of India) and those going through registered Private Tour Operators (PTOs) should be divided in the ratio of 70:30. It also suggested a "robust" portal should be created for PTOs.
What does the current policy say?
Under the current policy, women aren't allowed to go to Haj without a 'mehram'- a male escort unmarriageable by relation.
A quota (200) is kept for women whose "only mehram" has been chosen for Haj but she couldn't complete formalities on time.
Under the new policy, women have to travel in groups of four or more.