Faced with lacklustre response, MNS shifts focus to signature campaign against loudspeakers atop mosques
The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government’s crackdown on the MNS workers as well as heavy police bandobast blunted the right-wing party’s aggression
Mumbai: As the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) campaign against loudspeakers used by mosques failed to evoke much response on Wednesday, especially with regards to broadcasting Hanuman Chalisa outside the mosques, the party has now shifted its focus to signature campaigns and complaining to the police helpline 100 against the loudspeakers.
The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government’s crackdown on the MNS workers as well as heavy police bandobast, especially outside mosques, to prevent any untoward incident blunted the right-wing party’s aggression. In addition, the police department also convinced a majority of mosques not to broadcast Azaan on the loudspeakers or do so within the permissible decibel limit.
Many mosques in Malegaon removed their loudspeakers, while those in Bhiwandi toned down their volumes. “We want to respect the Supreme Court’s order,” said the cleric of a mosque which removed the loudspeakers. Many mosques also decided to skip broadcasting the early morning Azaan since it violates the SC guidelines which bar the use of loudspeakers between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am.
MNS leader Nitin Sardesai said that the campaign against loudspeakers continues. “It is now the citizens who have now taken the initiative of signature campaigns. People troubled by loudspeakers have called up the police. What alternative do the people have now?” questioned Sardesai.
Some of the MNS leaders have started online signature campaigns but physical campaigns are still to take place. “The police department is still after us and is raiding our houses. We cannot start it now,” said an MNS leader from South Mumbai.
The MNS cut a sorry figure as its general secretary Sandeep Deshpande was seen running away from the police in his car injuring a female police personnel Rohini Mali in the incident. The police has booked Deshpande under various sections, including assault to deter a public servant from discharge of duty.
They are also on the lookout for Deshpande and his colleague Santosh Dhuri. “We have erred on this front and lost the sympathy of the police by this incident,” said a leader, requesting anonymity.
Raj Thackeray tried to ease things by saying that he wishes to meet Mali.
Thackeray in his three rallies -- held at Shivaji Park, Thane and Aurangabad -- aggressively opposed the loudspeakers atop the mosques. He also threatened to broadcast the Hanuman Chalisa at twice the volume outside mosques.
However, the campaign began going downhill on Tuesday after the Aurangabad police filed a First Information Report (FIR) against Raj Thackeray for provocative speech. Additionally, thousands of MNS activists were served notices, while many others were externed outside the city limits.
Following the developments, Raj on Tuesday night expanded the scope of his campaign by asking citizens to adopt a three-fold campaign against these loudspeakers.
“Hanuman Chalisa should be broadcasted opposite mosques. All local associations and individual citizens need to undertake a signature campaign against these loudspeakers. Citizens should also dial number 100 (police helpline) as soon as the loudspeaker is heard and complain to the police department about the inconvenience caused to them,” Raj posted on his social media account.
Political analyst Hemant Desai dubbed the move as mellowing down of the MNS. “The MNS is facing the heat of the state government. The government has conveyed to the MNS that it means business and will not tolerate any breakdown of the law and order,” said Desai.
This can be demonstrated from the fact that Raj on Wednesday tried to put a brave face claiming said it was not a one-day agitation and people should ensure it reaches a logical conclusion.
After a series of defeats in successive elections, Raj Thackeray in January 2020 reinvented his party by shifting towards Hindutva. He unveiled a new saffron flag with a rajmudra (seal) of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, with the party’s name below it. Last year, during Dussehra, the MNS had put up ‘Proud to be Hindu’ banners in many places across the city