Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray on Wednesday said that his party workers will continue to play the Hanuman Chalisa outside mosques till all loudspeakers are removed from there, The Indian Express reported.
Addressing a rally in Aurangabad on May 1, Thackeray had set a deadline for removing the loudspeakers from mosques by Tuesday. He had also warned Muslims that if they do not accept his request, he should not be held responsible for what occurs in Maharashtra after the deadline.
On Tuesday, he was booked for delivering a provocative speech and instigating his supporters. However, he remained defiant and urged Hindus to play the Hanuman Chalisa on loudspeakers near mosques on Wednesday if they continue to give calls for prayers, or azaan, through sound amplifiers.
On Wednesday, members of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena heeded to his call and played the Hindu hymn on a loudspeaker near a mosque in the Charkop area of Mumbai during the early morning prayers, PTI reported.
In a video widely shared on social media on Wednesday, a Maharashtra Navnirman Sena member can be seen waving the party flag and playing the Hanuman Chalisa on a loudspeaker, as the call for prayers from a mosque can be heard in the background.
Over 250 members of the party have been detained across the state for playing the hymn on loudspeakers, ANI reported, citing the Maharashtra Police.
At a press conference, Thackeray claimed 90-92% of mosques did not use loudspeakers for their morning prayers on Wednesday, PTI reported.
“Why is action taken against our workers while nothing is being done against those breaking laws?” he asked. “This issue is not restricted to the morning [the] 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.”
Commenting on applications filed by mosques for permission to use loudspeakers, he claimed that majority of them were illegal.
“But most of the mosques are unauthorised, the loudspeakers are unauthorised and by giving them permission, you are making them authorised,” Thackeray said, according to The Indian Express.
He added: “And that too for 365 days. Why? During our [Hindu] festivals you give us permission for 10 days or three days and they are being given permission for 365 days? They [mosques] should also be given day-wise permissions. And they should follow the Supreme Court guidelines which have set decibel levels of sound.”
The Supreme Court, in July 2005, had ordered that noise levels at public places where loudspeakers were being used could not exceed ten decibels above the ambient noise levels for the area or 75 decibels, whichever is lower. It had also banned loudspeakers from 10 pm to 6 am.
Action against MNS workers
In a separate incident on Wednesday, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena members played the Hanuman Chalisa in the Indira Nagar area of Thane, but no mosque was in the vicinity, PTI reported. The Thane Police have issued notices to 1,400 persons who it suspected were likely to disturb peace in the city, the Hindustan Times reported.
In the anticipation of tensions, the Maharashtra Police have tightened security in various parts of the state where the party is active. Security outside of Raj Thackeray’s house in Mumbai has also been beefed up.
The Mumbai Police also detained Maharashtra Navnirman workers who had gathered outside Thackeray’s home, PTI reported. Party functionaries Sandeep Deshpande and Santosh Dhuri managed to escape in a vehicle when a police team tried to catch them. They had earlier been served notices under the Criminal Procedure Code Section 149 (for preventing cognisable offences).
The Pune Police, however, detained Maharashtra Navnirman Sena General Secretary Ajay Shinde, along with six others, after they performed a “maha aarti” in Khalkar Hanuman Temple, officials told ANI on Wednesday, adding that the leaders had been held as a preventive measure.
A total of 2,500 security personnel were deployed in Pune to maintain law and order in the city, Police Commissioner Pune Amitabh Gupta told ANI.
“[The] situation is under control. Many mosques did not play morning Azaan on the loudspeaker voluntarily, following the Supreme Court guidelines.”
The Maharashtra Home Department on Wednesday recommended action against 135 mosques in Mumbai which used loudspeakers before 6 am on Wednesday, ANI reported.