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Raj Thackeray and the tale of Azaan Loudspeakers

The MNS chief, Raj Thackeray, took Maharashtra by storm with his statements on Azaan Loudspeakers. The leader made it very clear to the Maharashtra government and the crowds of the state that he’d be forced to take unimaginable steps if the government doesn’t stop the use of Loudspeakers in front of Mosques.

Azaan Loudspeakers
Raj Thackeray – MNS Chief

This created quite some buzz among the citizens of Maharashtra state and sent the Muslims down a lane of confused fear. While addressing the Journalists and people who assembled in the MNS Chief Office, Pune, Raj Thackeray urged all the ‘Hindu Patriots’ to stay ready on May 3rd. It is either the removal of Mosque Azaan Loudspeakers or the rage of the Hindu Patriots.

What are Azaan Loudspeakers?

According to Islamic beliefs, ‘Azaan’ means the ‘call to prayer. The mosque is the holy place where the Muslim men gather to offer prayers to ‘Allah’. This happens five times a day, a repeat on every single day of the week, month, and years to come. This practice became a part of every Muslim household from time immemorial.

In ancient times when there were no tools like clocks and stopwatches, a high priest from the mosque would recite the Azaan on the loudspeaker to intimate the Muslim brothers that it is time for prayer. Anyone who is within the vicinity of the mosque would come to do ‘Namaz’ and reminisce the divine aura of ‘Allah’.

The call for prayer is a beautiful recital that awakens the senses of Muslims and prepares them to pray with fresh minds. It became a habit and a tradition that is not easy to forget.

Raj Thackeray’s Ultimatum

Raj Thackeray 'Hanuman Chalisa
Thackeray’s Ultimatum for 3rd May

The MNS Chief gave an ultimatum to the Maharashtra government that if they fail to remove or stop the usage of Azaan Loudspeakers by May 3rd, he’d have the Hindu men play ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ right in front of the mosques. And if required and possible, they would even play it five times a day, louder than how the mosques play ‘Azaan’.

On the occasion of Gudi Padwa or the Maharashtrian New Year, Thackeray said that he was not looking to create communal differences. He emphasized that his statements are only the voice of all those people who get disturbed because of Azaan.

Also Read: Islamophobia in India: The Hostile Treatment Against Muslims

According to the government rules, there should be no use of loudspeakers before 6 AM. However, ‘Azaan’ is allowed. He said this disturbs several people who live in the vicinity.  

“If they don’t remove their loudspeakers, then ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ will play. They will have to hear our holy prayer if possible five times a day” The MNS Leader said to the gathered assembly.

He further said that rules should be the same for everyone in the country. And nothing is above the law and order established. He cited the examples of political rallies and Ganesh, Navratri Utsav.

Thackeray’s Statements

“We need to take permission to use loudspeakers during political rallies. Hindus need to take permission before setting up loudspeakers during Navratri and Ganesh Utsav. Who gave permission to these mosques to use loudspeakers for Azaan?” Raj Thackeray strongly said.

He addressed the journalists and party men, “If these clerks sitting in the mosques feel that their religion is bigger than the country and its rules, then it is not like that at all”

The Following Tension about Azaan Loudspeakers

There were discussions about mosques and the usage of loudspeakers before as well. However, with the involvement of a political leader, the tension heightened by several folds. The police and authorities quickly straightened up to avoid any unwanted disturbances in the state. 

Also Read: Communalism and Economic Marginalisation of Muslims

The Supreme Court of India released orders that ‘all loudspeakers’ have to be initially registered and only the ones with permission should play the sounds. However, Raj Thackeray stressed that many mosques were not following these rules. He urged the government to intervene and establish the same grounds of justice for everyone. He said he was only against the ‘illegal’ usage of loudspeakers. 

The Police’s Preparation

Loudspeaker row
Police outside Raj Thackeray’s residence on 3rd May

The Home Department released a statement that Mumbai police were ready to handle any untoward situation if it were to arise. They identified the sensitive areas and had special forces keeping a close eye on the situation.

The government also registered the call that Raj Thackeray openly made to them. While they did approve the use of loudspeakers in most of the mosques, there were several that didn’t get permission yet.

And these were identified as sensitive areas and the MNS leader was also pointing out these places.

On the day of May 3rd…

Like MNS Chief Raj Thackeray already said, his party members were ready to take the step if anyone were to break the rules. Their keen eye was on every Azaan Loudspeaker in the state. Most of the mosques adhered to the Supreme Courts’ orders and did not play ‘Azaan’ on loudspeakers before 6 AM. However, the clerks recited ‘Azaan’ without the loud noise and the people reached their praying place as usual.

Also Read: Islam in India: Then and Now!

Raj Thackeray urged leaders from across the state to do ‘Maha Arti’ with loudspeakers playing ‘Hanuman Chalisa’. And the tagline is – if the government and mosques do not take the call seriously. MNS Secretary Ajay Shinde along with six others was arrested for performing ‘Maha Arti’ in Khalkar Hanuman Mandir, Pune. Though there was no violence, the Police arrested Shinde and the men as a preventive measure. They said it was to avoid the possible violence after the Aarti.

Several Mosques did not play ‘Azaan’. Raj Thackeray stated that he received support from several parts of the state, including Muslims too. He said it was a social issue and not religious. Loud noises early in the morning are a disturbance to sleep irrespective of religious beliefs.

The Azaan Loudspeakers issue became a tool for certain sections of the crowd to start communal wars. Around 250 MNS party workers were arrested for playing Hanuman Chalisa on loudspeakers. There was no bloodshed and the police were already in-game to prevent any mishaps.

135 Mosques played loudspeakers before 6 AM, against the rules established by the Supreme Court. The Home Department urged that appropriate action must be taken against breaking the rules.