Saudi government should have learnt lessons from past Haj stampede incidents

By Oken Jeet Sandham

The Haj stampede in Saudi Arabia reminds us of past stampedes that killed hundreds of pilgrims and injuring hundreds. These tragedies have clearly shown that security mechanism to control the massive convergence of pilgrims at Mina from around the world is still not up the mark.

Every year, lakhs of Muslims converge at Mina and Mecca in Saudi Arabia from around the world to perform symbolic stoning of the devil. And such magnitude of pilgrims converging at the city for performing symbolic stoning of the devil, stampede is bound to take place. In the past Haj rituals in Saudi Arabia, stampedes happened during surge of pilgrims jostling to perform the symbolic stoning of devil at Mecca. Muslim pilgrims fling pebbles at three walls (formerly pillars), called jamarāt, in the city of Mina just east of Mecca. It is one of a series of ritual acts that must be performed in the Hajj. It is a symbolic reenactment of Abraham’s hajj, where he stoned three pillars representing the temptation to disobey God and preserve Ishmael.

This year’s incidents during Haj at Mecca are again saddest reminder of such past gory incidents. At least 769 pilgrims including 22 Indians were reported dead and injuring over 900 on Thursday’s stampede. It was said that 1.5 lakh Indians were among over two million pilgrims performing Haj in Mecca this year.

At the most, the scale of stampede casualties could have been avoided if proper security coordination was in place by learning lessons from the past incidents. The Haj at Mecca is annual affairs of the Muslims, and controlling and maintaining such a magnitude of pilgrims from around the world converging at one place is simply mindboggling, and unless a coordinated security apparatus is in place for such massive event, incidents such as Haj stampede tragedy will surely take place. The one lakh Saudi security personnel placed for maintaining security for Haj pilgrims at Mecca this year is too less to control the Haj pilgrims.

The Saudi government should work out a very comprehensive security mechanism specially designed for controlling and organizing Haj rituals, and they should even seek, if need be, helps from other countries to solve such incidents. The pilgrims’ security during Haj rituals at Mecca should be a priority.

I also convey my deepest condolences to the bereaved family members of the Haj pilgrims killed in the Thursday stampedes at Mecca in Saudi Arabia and pray to Almighty Lord to grant strength to their family members at this hour of griefs.

I also pray for speedy recovery of those injured.

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