Around two weeks before Eid, Maharashtra Director General of Police (DGP) Rajnish Seth instructed all police units on April 19, 2022 to enforce the law and the Supreme Court’s guidelines on the use of loudspeakers. The order comes after Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) Chief Raj Thackeray’s demand for the removal of loudspeakers from mosques by May 3. However, it is noteworthy that mosques have never showcased any resistance to following laws. In fact, almost three quarters of the mosques in the state have already decided to not use loudspeakers for the first Azaan of the day that takes place at 5 A.M, in accordance with the Supreme Court ban on using loudspeakers between 10 P.M and 6 A.M.
According to The Wire, DGP Seth held a video conference with top police officials on Tuesday and discussed Thackeray’s open threat of playing Hanuman Chalisa outside any mosque and using a loudspeaker. District Superintendents of Police, Special Inspector Generals of various ranges and City Commissioners all agreed to allow loudspeakers between 6 AM and 10 PM with prior police permission. Seth further told them to strictly abide by the apex court’s guidelines and the norms laid down by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB).
As per the report, State Home Minister Dilip Walse-Patil said that the police were “fully prepared and are taking steps to prevent untoward incidents”. Earlier, Walse-Patil said that Seth and Mumbai Police Commissioner Sanjay Pandey will prepare comprehensive guidelines on the use of loudspeakers at places of worship.
Pandey has also been repeatedly voicing work in this direction on his social media, adding how the needless threat has added to the work of the police machinery.
Let this hanuman jayanti and the din over loudspeakers get over we will deploy all cops on roads. I was to do this but suddenly was caught in the noise wars!!!
— Sanjay Pandey (@sanjayp_1) April 14, 2022
On the same day as the top-level meeting, Mumbai police officials also held a meeting with prominent religious leaders in the district. At the end of the meeting 72 percent of Mumbai’s mosques agreed to not use loudspeakers for the 5 A.M Azaan, and the rest agreed to ensure keeping the volume to the permitted decibel-level. This decision is in keeping with the Supreme Court order that bans the use of loudspeakers between 10 PM and 6 AM. The penalty for violating this order involves a minimum sentence of five years and a fine of ₹ 5 lakh.
India Today reported that a special squad will likely monitor noise levels, while the police collect information on people charged with inciting communal tensions. Accordingly, hate mongers and social media will be monitored.
Nashik police recognises customary rights
Meanwhile, Nashik Police Commissioner Deepak Pandey banned the playing of Hanuman Chalisa, bhajan or kirtan, 15 minutes before and after Azaan on April 18. Speaking to a news agency, Pandey said that section 40 of the Police Rules, 1951 allows the police to enforce such laws in times of social or religious unrest, keeping in mind legal and customary rights. As such, the police prohibited the playing of similar hymns within 100 meters of a mosque. The move was celebrated as an effective means to curb Hindutva extremism.
Communal politics persists
While state police are working with local leaders to maintain peace, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut has accused the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) of creating a ruckus taking cues from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Wire reported that former Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Pravin Togadia reacted to this claim by pointing out that the BJP did not act against loudspeakers when it was in power. It may be noted that while the police have not banned loudspeakers, they have asked the structures to adhere to the law.
Moreover, despite refuting BJP involvement, Togadia said the BJP should remove loudspeakers from mosques in the states where the party is in power, contradicting his previous statement.