Allahabad University’s vice-chancellor Prof. Sangita Srivastava had had her wish of uninterrupted morning slumber come true, as the mosque committee of Lal Mosque, has now decided to reduce the volume by 50 percent, and also change the direction of the speaker away from her house, reported The Wire. Prof. Sangita Srivastava had written to District Magistrate Bhanu Chandra Goswami complaining that she was forced to wake up too early every day, due to the azaan being recited on a loudspeaker. She urged the DM to take action as her “sleep [gets] so disturbed [that it] does not resume even after trying very hard.”
Her complaint soon went viral and she was quoted as writing that her “disturbed” sleep “also results in a headache throughout the day, causing losses in working hours”. The VC claimed that she is not against any religion, and suggested that the azaan can be recited even without a loudspeaker. However, she also complained about the announcement of sehri, the morning meal consumed by Muslims in the month of Ramzan, stated the news report.
“Your freedom ends where my nose begins,” Srivastava wrote adding, “I am not against any religion, caste or creed, they may perform the Azan without the mike so that others are not disturbed. Even before Eid, they announce Sehri on the mike at 4.00 am. This practice also creates disturbance to other people.” She cited an Allahabad high court judgement from 2020 in her letter that said azaan was an essential part of Islam, but not its recitation through the use of loudspeakers.
According to news reports it was in January 2020, that the Allahabad High Court had ruled that no religion advocates the use of loudspeakers for worship. The petitioner had challenged an administrative order in the Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh where use of loudspeaker for azaan had been banned. The high court had said, “No religion prescribes that prayers are required to be performed through voice amplifiers or by beating of drums If there is such a practice, it should not adversely affect rights of the others, including that of not being disturbed.” The details of the Allahabad HC ruling may be read here. The court was hearing a plea by Ghazipur MP Afzal Ansari Congress Leader Salman Khurshid and senior advocate S Wasim A Qadri. A division bench comprising Justices Shashikant Gupta and Ajit Kumar ruled that azaan may be recited by the muezzin from mosque minarets “by human voice without using any amplifying device and the administration is directed not to cause hindrance… unless such guidelines are being violated.”
The bench had also banned use of amplifying devices from 10 PM to 6 AM. In response to Ansari’s plea, the Uttar Pradesh government had filed a counter affidavit stating that Azaan was a call to congregate for prayer and hence a violation of lockdown protocol.
Now, the VC also sent copies of her complaint to the Allahabad divisional commissioner, the Inspector General of Police and the senior superintendent of police. The Wire report quoted Prayagraj IG of police Kavindra Pratap Singh who said he will be “writing to all SP’s, telling them that without permission there should not be any public address at religious places.” He added that a meeting will also be held to explain this to the “concerned parties” and said the instructions will be communicated to them and “they will be asked to follow them.”
Meanwhile, the news report stated that Kalimurrahman, caretaker at Masjid-e-Noor also known as Lal Masjid, confirmed that they have already reduced the volume of the speaker by 50 percent, and also changed the direction of the speaker facing her house, and tilted it towards the road. He added, “The issue could have been solved amicably even if she had come to us once,” it was reported that the VC’s house is almost 400 metres away from the mosque.
Meanwhile, it is not yet known if the VC is now satisfied with this solution, but it is not the first time Azaan call has been targeted, especially ahead of Ramzan. In April 2020, two Delhi policemen had unilaterally decided to ban azaan drawing flak for targeting the customs of the Muslim community. The Gujarat government too had banned the use of loudspeakers and public gatherings for religious events. While on the surface, the order seems to apply to religious functions of all communities, the timing of it was curious given how it was issued after the various lunar new year celebrations of other communities, but just before Ramzan began.