MUMBAI: Maintaining his defiant stand, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray on Wednesday said his party workers will continue to play the Hanuman Chalisa at higher volumes as long as loudspeakers at mosques are not “silenced”, while the ruling Shiv Sena asserted no guidelines related to use of the device have been violated in the state.
The Shiv Sena, which heads the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, said all mosques in the state have taken permission for use of loudspeakers.
Responding to a call given by Raj Thackeray on Tuesday, MNS workers played the Hanuman Chalisa on a loudspeaker near a mosque in Charkop in Mumbai in the morning, while authorities filed multiple FIRs in Nashik and Panvel against party workers for playing the religious hymns during ‘ azaan (Muslim call to prayer)’, and made arrests.
Apprehending an adverse fallout of the MNS president’s call to people to play the religious hymns on loudspeakers wherever they hear loudspeakers “blaring azaan” on Wednesday, police personnel were deployed in large numbers in Mumbai and adjoining cities to maintain law and order.
Unfazed by registration of an FIR against him in Aurangabad on Tuesday over a rally in the central Maharashtra city on Sunday and issuance of a notice by the Mumbai police, Raj Thackeray held a press conference in the metropolis, where he stayed firm on his “remove loudspeakers from mosques” demand and hit out at the Maharashtra Police for detaining his party workers and `letting off’ those who do not follow law.
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After he gave a call to play the Hanuman Chalisa outside mosques, 90-92 per cent of these places of worship did not use loudspeakers for their morning ‘azaan’ (Muslim call to prayer), Raj Thackeray claimed at the press meet.
Mumbai has 1,104 mosques of which 135 used loudspeakers during the morning namaz on Wednesday, he claimed, seeking to know what action was being taken against these mosques ‘which violated the law’.
“Why is action taken against our workers while nothing is being done against those breaking laws? This issue is not restricted to the morning azaan alone. If a loudspeaker is being used for namaz four-five times a day, our people will continue to play the Hanuman Chalisa at double the volume. This (protest) is not restricted for a day,” he said.
If mosques have to use loudspeakers, they must stick to the decibel limit prescribed by the Supreme Court, I have added.
The Shiv Sena countered Raj Thackeray and asserted that loudspeaker guidelines have not been violated in Maharashtra and said no one should teach Hindutva to the Uddhav Thackeray-led party.
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Talking to reporters, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, without taking names of the opposition BJP and MNS, said that people do not take cognizance of those who, with the support of “pseudo Hindutvawadis”, conspire against his party.
Speaking separately later, the Rajya Sabha MP, who is also the Shiv Sena’s chief spokesperson, said, “Loudspeakers at Trimbakeshwar (temple in Nashik), Shirdi (Sai Baba temple) and several holy places were switched off due to which devotees could not listen to ‘kakad’ (morning) prayers. Today is a black day for the Hindus,” Raut said.
He alleged this was a conspiracy to create a rift among Hindus.
“This is a conspiracy of the BJP. It has again sacrificed Raj Thackeray,” the Sena leader added.
Raut said, “There is no violation of loudspeakers (guidelines) in Maharashtra. The state is working according to the guidelines on loudspeakers laid down by the Supreme Court. If anyone is violating the law, then the government is capable of (tackling) it.” .”
The SC has allowed use of loudspeakers only during certain hours and has set rules for sound decibel limits.
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“The situation has not reached a level where an agitation (on the loudspeaker issue) is needed in Mumbai or Maharashtra. All mosques have taken permission for the use of loudspeakers,” the Rajya MP said.
His remarks came after the MNS chief tweeted an old video of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, in which the late leader was seen saying the day his party comes to power, “offering namaz on roads will be stopped and loudspeakers from mosques will be removed” .
Asked about the video, Raut said, “We have not stooped that low. We still run on his (Sena founder’s) principles. Balasaheb had taken a stand on loudspeakers and offering of namaz on the road. He stopped it after coming to power. No one should teach Hindutva to the Shiv Sena.”
The Shiv Sena’s chief spokesperson said Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray-led MVA government (which also comprises NCP and Congress) was running as per law and not on anyone’s ultimatum.
Meanwhile, MNS workers played the Hanuman Chalisa on a loudspeaker near a mosque in Charkop in Mumbai on Wednesday morning.
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In a video, an MNS worker, holding the party flag, was seen playing the hymns dedicated to Lord Hanuman on a loudspeaker from a high-rise.
In the background, the ‘azaan’ could be heard from a loudspeaker of a nearby mosque.
At least four offenses were registered against MNS workers in Nashik city for playing or attempting to play the Hanuman Chalisa during azaan, an official said.
Six women who were part of a group of MNS members were arrested in Nashik city, around 200km from Mumbai, they said.
In Navi Mumbai, an FIR was registered against three MNS workers under section 153 of IPC (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot) for “instigating” people to play the hymns dedicated to Lord Hanuman during ‘azaan’ in Panvel city, the official said.
The Mumbai police detained a number of MNS workers gathered outside Raj Thackeray’s residence.
In Pune, eight to nine MNS workers were detained when they came out of a Hanuman temple after performing ‘aarti’, officials said.