Malappuram: Fifty-five-year-old Pathutty from Kerala's Malappuram district, along with three other women from her extended family are preparing themselves for their Haj travel this year. Pathutty has never travelled outside Kerala and even within the state, she never travelled by herself. But she is among the 1,300 women from India, who will be traveling for Haj from India, without a mahram (an adult, male relative or husband).
"For the last four years, I have given my name with few other women and mahram...but didn't get. This year, someone told us if you all apply without mahram category, you may get. I am so happy that finally we have made it through to the final list," she said.
While traveling in groups of four was allowed by the Saudi Government for women in 2014, the rule ratified by the Indian government only this year.
"Even if we don't have a mahram, we have each other and we are together, that's the confidence we have. We have been saving for this pilgrimage since we were teenagers," Nafisat T told NDTV.
98% of the 1,300 applicants who are traveling without mahram are from Kerala. Instead of following the usual means of taking lots to choose the beneficiaries, all these applicants were selected this year, to encourage more women. This year, their percentage was just 1.3% of the total applicants selected for Haj from India.
Incidentally, according to Haj committee, only women in groups of four, are allowed to travel without a mahram. If alone, or in groups of two or three women, they still need a mahram, according to the existing rules. But nobody seems to mind this.
"We can't even go out of our house without our husband's permission. Traveling alone is out of question. We also don't have the confidence for it", Fatima M told NDTV.
Many states in India, like Gujarat and Andhra, despite sizeable muslim population, have not received any applications in the category of women without mahrams.
But religious heads hope, the count will increase in the years to come. For now, Kerala leads the way.