Earlier this week, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray had issued a statement urging Hindu supporters to play the Hanuman Chalisa outside mosques where loudspeakers play the Azan. This led to Maharashtra Police deploying security personnel near mosques across the state, to maintain law and order. Aside from a few skirmishes between party members and the police, the situation was reported to be largely peaceful.
Thackeray’s statement on Tuesday, reiterated the ultimatum he gave on Sunday, to remove loudspeakers from mosques across the state, by May 3. He had warned that failure to do so would result in retaliation from his party members. “I appeal to all Hindus that tomorrow, the 4th of May, if you hear the loudspeakers blaring with azan; in those very places, play the Hanuman Chalisa on the loudspeakers! That’s when they will realise the hindrance of these loudspeakers,” read the statement.
Additionally, Thackeray referred to the Supreme Court’s judgement, adding that loudspeakers used in the name of religion disturb the sick, elderly, children, and students, among others. According to the SC order, loudspeakers cannot be used between 10 pm and 6 am. He also claimed that loudspeakers are “unauthorised”, adding, “In fact, many of the masjids too are unauthorised… And if permissions are being granted (by the government), then Hindu temples also need to be given permissions to play the loudspeakers.”
Thackeray asserted that this issue is not a religious one but a social one. He warned, “If steps are taken to turn this social issue into a religious one, then we too can give a befitting reply.” The MNS chief also called to address these issues according to the law. “The unauthorised masjids, loudspeakers and the prayers being held on the middle of the roads, need to be addressed duly by law,” he said on Tuesday.
Reiterating his assertions during a press conference, on Wednesday, Thackeray further stated that their protests of playing the Hanuman Chalisa on loudspeakers outside mosques is “not a one day protest”, but will continue till loudspeakers keep playing the Azan in mosques. Noting that the morning Azan was not played in at least 90-92 percent of the mosques, he thanked the respective Maulvis for understanding the issue. Meanwhile, Thackeray condemned the detainment of MNS workers “who are following the law and the supreme court”. He questioned what action the state government would take against the 135 mosques out of 1,140 mosques in Mumbai that played the 5 am Azan.
On Wednesday, Maharashtra’s revenue minister and Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat, in response to these statements, said, “For some people, it is not loudspeakers but politics over it is important. The government is not on the back-foot. We are capable of dealing with those who want to disturb social harmony.” He added that the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government works to maintain law and order.
Amid the claims and statements by Raj Thackeray, the state government and the police have been proactively taking preventive measures by cancelling leaves for police personnel and deploying more than 30,000 home guards across the state. According to a statement by the Maharashtra Police, “Permission for use of loudspeakers given to approximately 1,500 mosques and 1,300 temples in (the) State (excluding Mumbai). Preventative action taken against more than 2,300 people. Notice under section 149 CrPC given to around 7000 persons on 3rd-4th May.”
Additionally, 150 members of the MNS were arrested in Maharashtra’s Nashik, for sparking “communal tension”, said BG Shekhar Patil, IGP, Nashik. He assured, “Police have been deployed in all sensitive spots to ensure law and order situation.” In Mumbai, the Mira Bhayandar Vasai Virar Commissionerate received over 200 applications seeking permission to use loudspeakers, saying that this is the “first time” that religious bodies have approached them in this context. “We have granted permission to 55 mosques, 79 madrasas and nine temples till 3 pm on Wednesday,” said the MBVV police.
Eight offences have been registered and 56 people have been arrested in the last 24 hours, for creating law and order issues. As per officials, approximately 250 MNS workers across the state have been detained, some outside Raj Thackeray’s residence in Mumbai, and eight in Pune.
On May 1, while addressing a rally in Aurangabad, the MNS chief made statements about the removal of loudspeakers in mosques, giving them a deadline of May 3. Based on these statements, on Tuesday, the Aurangabad Police reportedly registered a case against Thackeray, for allegedly delivering a provocative speech under three sections of the Indian Penal Code that pertain to provocation with the intent to cause riot and abetment of offence.