MNS campaign against loudspeakers at mosques fails to evoke response
Mumbai: Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray’s agitation against loudspeakers atop mosques did not evoke much response on day one even as the police took adequate precautions to prevent any attempts to create communal strife in the state
Mumbai: Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray’s agitation against loudspeakers atop mosques did not evoke much response on day one even as the police took adequate precautions to prevent any attempts to create communal strife in the state.
Raj, who recently adopted hardline Hindutva as his political agenda, had issued an ultimatum to the state government to remove loudspeakers from mosques. He had also threatened to protest outside mosques by playing Hanuman Chalisa on loudspeakers.
Setting May 3 as the deadline for the removal of loudspeakers, Raj had appealed to his followers and citizens to stage protests.
The MVA government, which had earlier said that it would deal with attempts to create communal disturbance sternly, ensured that the agitation fizzled out on day one. Besides issuing prohibitory notices to MNS leaders and prominent workers warning them of action if they resorted to any communal acts, it put some of them under preventive detention and a police force was deployed across the city, especially near mosques.
The police also convinced mosques not to broadcast Azaan on loudspeakers or maintain low decibel volumes. This resulted in 1,005 mosques of the total 1,140 not using loudspeakers for the morning Azaan.
Putting up a brave face, Raj said it was not a one-day agitation and people should ensure it reaches the logical conclusion.
Maharashtra remained majorly peaceful on Wednesday as the MNS workers resorted to symbolic demonstrations by performing Maha-Aarti or chanting Hanuman Chalisa at temples in parts of Mumbai and Maharashtra. Some incidents were reported at Charkop in Mumbai, Nerul in Navi Mumbai and Washim in the Vidarbha region where MNS workers attempted to broadcast Hanuman Chalisa on a loudspeaker near local mosques.
In Charkop, it was done atop a building in the vicinity but did not elicit much response from the locals. The police prevented MNS from broadcasting the Hanuman Chalisa in places like Pune and Solapur opposite the mosques.
The police detained the workers and seized the amplifier and loudspeaker in Solapur. In Thane, police detained MNS workers, who were in possession of a speaker, while in Ambarnath workers were stopped from heading towards a local mosque.
Amravati, which saw communal violence in November 2021, was peaceful. Amid fear that MNS workers could disrupt the afternoon prayers in Amravati, heavy deployment of police personnel was seen at city mosques where people prayed peacefully. Markaz mosque in Solapur city also witnessed heavy police deployment, however, the prayers went off without any untoward incident.
Political analyst Surendra Jondhale said that both chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar jointly punctured the whole campaign. “The government gave a firm message that they will not allow anyone to tinker with the law and order problem. The large scale notices slapped on MNS workers demoralised them,” said Jondhale.
Despite the BJP supporting the agitation, its workers did not join the MNS protest. “Though the BJP endorsed Raj Thackeray’s stance, it did not support this Hanuman Chalisa campaign,” he added.
Satej (Bunty) Patil, minister of state (MoS) for home, said that they had maintained optimum police deployment to ensure law and order were not disrupted in the state. “Maharashtra police have always passed such tests with flying colours… they are also on alert to prevent any untoward incidents in the future,” he said.
Meanwhile, Raj complained that his workers were being harassed by the police. “Those wanting the implementation of Supreme Court guidelines are being penalised while those flouting them are scot-free,” he rued.
“I want to see what action will be taken against these 135 mosques in Mumbai which broadcasted Azaan early morning,” the MNS chief said, adding that “mosques need to take daily permission according to the Supreme Court guidelines for noise reaching 45 to 55 decibels which are at the level of noise made by kitchen mixers”.
He said that the agitation was still on and would continue till it reaches its logical conclusion. “This is not a one day campaign and will continue till it reaches the logical conclusion,” said the MNS chief.
He further claimed that 90-92% of the mosques did not broadcast the morning Azaan but he warned that this not be confined to just morning and wanted it to replicate for Azaan all five times in a day.
The police had issued notices to around 15,000 MNS, BJP and workers of other outfits. Additionally, high drama was witnessed outside ‘Shivtirth’, the residence of Raj Thackeray, as his General Secretary Sandeep Deshpande fled in the vehicle in an attempt to evade police detention.
During the incident, a female police official was injured and subsequently admitted to a hospital. The local police are on the lookout for Deshpande, who later released a video denying any role in the incident.
Raj, on the other hand, expressed his wish to meet the injured cop.
On Wednesday morning, Raj tweeted an old clip of his late uncle and Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray opposing the loudspeakers atop mosques. “The day my Government comes to power, he will not allow Namaz to be performed on the road as religion should not come in the way of the progress of the nation or cause inconvenience to the citizens. If the Hindu religion is causing trouble, then we will fix the issue. The loudspeakers will come down from the mosques,” Bal Thackeray had purportedly said in the video.
The MVA government said that it has taken proper precautions by implementing the law in letter and spirit.
“For him (Raj Thackeray), loudspeakers are not important, politics is. We have taken all steps and hence the whole situation is peaceful,” said state revenue minister and Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat. He noted that the early morning kakad arati at the Sai Baba temple at Shirdi was not aired on a loudspeaker on Wednesday due to these rules.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut dismissed claims that the MNS was successful in its agitation against loudspeakers. “There was no protest so there is no question of being successful. The Supreme Court has given its orders which are being followed in the state,” Raut added.
Maharashtra BJP’s state unit chief Chandrakant Patil backed the objections raised by Raj. “He has been demanding the implementation of the Supreme Court orders. But the way the state government has been treating it is discriminatory and indicative of different yardsticks used by the government for two different religions. The state government should not forget that the Babri agitation could not be crushed even after the thousands of Hindus lost their lives,” Patil said.
Leader of opposition and former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “The state government is duty-bound to implement the SC orders related to the loudspeakers. If the government failed to do so, the political parties will react to the government inaction.”
Raj Thackeray had first announced that MNS workers will play Hanuman Chalisa outside mosques in protest against loudspeaker use on April 2. He gave an ultimatum to the government on April 12 to remove the public address systems from mosques by May 3 to avoid law and order problems. In his Aurangabad rally on May 1, he said that this issue must be decided once and for all. The Aurangabad police later lodged an FIR against Raj for delivering a provocative speech.