Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) Chief Raj Thackeray spewed venom against madrasas in Mumbai on April 2, 2022 demanding that loudspeakers be taken down by mosques, or they would install larger ones outside to play Hanuman Chalisa.
During a rally at Shivaji Park on Gudi Padwa, the Party Chief lashed out against Muslims, interestingly checking all the boxes with his words to satisfy the criteria of a Bharatiya Janata Party-inspired (BJP) hate speech. On a day that marks the beginning of a new year for the Hindu community, Thackeray demanded that the government take down loudspeakers inside masjids.
“These masjid speakers have to be taken down. The government has to take this decision. Otherwise, there will be speakers erected double-in-height right in front of masjids, blaring Hanuman Chalisa,” he said.
Claiming that he has nothing against faith, the MNS leader still asked that Muslim “not bother us”. He also challenged the use of the electronic inside the religious establishment asking “which dharma demands loudspeaker? Were there loudspeakers before? Follow your faith inside houses. Everyone should keep their faith inside their houses.”
Loudspeakers are used by the community for azaans or “the call to prayer” for other Muslims. Earlier, Allahabad University Vice Chancellor Sangita Srivastava, singer Sonu Nigam and Uttar Pradesh Minister Anand Swaroop Shukla had voiced complaints against the prayers owing to ‘interrupted sleep or yoga’. However, Thackeray’s speech comes days before Ramzan, the Islamic month of fasting, prayer, reflection and community.
Add to that the fact that his speech touched upon Pakistan, loudspeaker, Hindu-unity, Muslim role in increasing slums – common points in BJP and other RSS-affiliated groups’ speeches – raises the question of what happened to the leader who in 2019 was openly vocal against the BJP.
During the Lok Sabha elections, the MNS party joined the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) against the BJP. However, he adopted a pro-Hindutva attitude post-Lok Sabha elections putting up “Proud to be Hindu” posters in Mumbai during Dussehra in 2020. By Saturday, Thackeray had begun singing praises of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s (Ajay Bisht) development-related work. He even asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for help in addressing the developmental issues in Maharashtra.
His 180-degree turn garnered criticisms from Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut and even NCP Chief Sharad Pawar. Both Pednekar and Raut called the move a political stunt to recite a speech created by the nationally ruling regime. According to Times of India, Pawar said that Thackeray “stays underground for three to four months and suddenly surfaces to give a lecture. This is his speciality. I don’t know what he does for months.”
Indeed, the MNS is known to be openly-hostile to the presence of north-Indians in Maharashtra, allegedly driving away non-Maharashtrian hawkers. Yet there is no social harmony drive of note by the MNS that justifies or even balances Thackeray’s vapid speech against masjids and madrasas. Pawar pointed out that the MNS’s lack of engagement with the people is also apparent from the voting percentage.
Regarding madrasas, Thackeray said, “When will we come together as Hindus? Police have sources that say madrasas within slums have a lot in store behind their walls. There are many madrasas where we do not know what happens inside. All these people came with encouragement from Pakistan.”
He blamed Pakistan and Indian Muslims for the growing number of slums in the financial capital, accusing the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) of helping “Pakistanis and Bangladeshis” get Aadhaar cards and ration cards. Inciting communal sentiments, he claimed that people will “regret” not paying attention to the madrasas in India and what they “have in store”.
Some time ago, India Today published a similar story that alleged illegal activity in madrasas. It wasn’t until Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) filed a complaint that it emerged that the reportage had a distinct communal colour and misrepresented facts, as it turned out madrasas were in fact helping during the pandemic by offering refuge to orphaned children. At a time when the Muslim community is slowly leaving behind accusations of “Corona spreaders” it is unfortunate that state-level politicians are trying to divide society communally once again.
Are increasing calls for economic boycott of Muslims a sinister precursor to something worse?
Delhi HC allows re-opening Nizamuddin Markaz for Shab-E-Baraat
CJP moves NBSA against India Today’s communal sting operation on Madrasas
Terrorised by trolls, comedians apologise for hurting religious sentiments
Lockdown or Unlock: Hawkers struggle to remain ‘Atma Nirbhar’