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Bhopal: “Jab jab azan bajege, hum loudspeaker se zyada tez music bajayenge. Is video ko viral kariye, ye message pure Hindustan me jana chahiye (Whenever the azan will play, we will play music louder on the loudspeaker. Make this video viral, this message should go across India),” an agitated young man standing with a group outside Routi mosque can be heard saying in a 30-second viral video shot in Madhya Pradesh’s Ratlam district on January 31.
जब से UP चुनाव की घोषणा हुई हैं, मध्य प्रदेश के दर्जनों जिलों जैसे खण्डवा, इंदौर, उज्जैन में “अज़ान” के खिलाफ़ मुहीम छेड़ कर दी गई हैं। रैलीयां निकाल कर भड़काऊ नारे लगाए जा रहे हैं।
बावजूद इसके, रैली की परमिशन मिल रही है
— काश/if Kakvi (@KashifKakvi) February 4, 2022
The man in the video can be seen pointing at a building which had been recently fitted with a loudspeaker to counter the azan, right opposite the Raoti mosque. In the now-viral video, the agitated youth yelled that their memorandum to the police regarding azan had gone unheard, forcing them to install loudspeakers in front of the mosque to disrupt it.
The video went viral two days after members of Hindu Jagran Manch (HJM), affiliated to the RSS, submitted a memorandum at Raoti police station of Ratlam district on January 29 seeking a ban on azan with loudspeakers.
The video went viral overnight. The following day, Ratlam police rushed to the village and urged Muslims to lower the volume of the loudspeaker installed atop the mosque. At the same time, the police removed the loudspeaker put up by local youths on the building opposite the mosque.
“We spoke to the villagers and urged both communities to maintain peace. Since the matter was resolved peacefully, no action has been taken against the youth who had made the controversial video,” Ram Singh, town inspector of Raoti police station, told The Wire.
Roati is not the only police station where memorandums were submitted demanding the removal of loudspeakers from mosques. Between January 29, 2022 and February 2, 2022, the Hindu Jagran Manch submitted the same two-page memorandum across all 310 police stations of the 15 districts of Madhya Pradesh’s Malwa region, Aashish Basu, Malwa Prant Pramukh of the HJM, told The Wire.
Azan is the Islamic call to prayer recited by a muezzin at prescribed times of the day. In India, azan is recited from the mosque five times a day.
Several incidents were recorded across the Malwa region in which a group of over 50 men affiliated with the HJM, along with locals, handed over memorandums at various police stations of Ratlam, Khandwa, Barwani, Dhar and Ujjain urging the police to ban loudspeakers at mosques. Before handing over the memos, the HJM men read out the entire two-page memo in front of police and workers as well.
Speaking to The Wire, Aditya Pratap Singh, superintendent of police, Dhar district, where memorandums were given in all police stations, said, “It came to my knowledge that memos were given at various police stations and since it’s a controversial issue, we are looking into the legal aspects of it.”
In the two-page memorandum, HJM claimed azan played five times a day with loudspeakers without any permission. But to hold religious programmes or install pandals during festivals, Hindus need to take permission from various offices.
Referring to Saudi Arabia’s June 1, 2021 decision to restrict the volume of mosque loudspeakers after complaints about excessive noise, the memorandum reads, “When an Islamic country like Saudi Arabia can ban the use of loudspeakers, why can’t this happen in India? It should be stopped with immediate effect.”
Apart from the HJM, on January 16, a group of advocates from Indore handed over a memo at various police stations of the city including Juni police station to remove loudspeakers from mosques as it’s creating a “nuisance”.
On January 24, members of right-wing groups handed over a similar memorandum at Indore’s Raoji Bazar police station, claiming that they are having problem with the azan and if it did not stop, Hindus will not only play loud music during azan but also “harass Muslims of this locality”.
इंदौर के राउजी बाजार थाने पर अज़ान को लेकर हिंदूवादी संघठन ने थाना प्रभारी को अज़ान के खिलाफ़ ज्ञापन देते हुवे खुली धमकी दी गई कि अगर अज़ान बंद नहीं हुआ तो हम सभी हिन्दू लोग उन्हें सभी तरह से परेशान करेंगे।
पुलिस को धमकी राज्य में Law & Order की कहानी बयां कर रहा है। pic.twitter.com/nKz4QTn4tb
— काश/if Kakvi (@KashifKakvi) February 4, 2022
As seen in a video of the event, a member of a right-wing group can be heard saying to the town inspector of Raoji Bazar police station, “Ye ek shuruaat hai, ye ek rastriya mudda banne ja raha ha. Isko gambhirta se lijye (This is the start, this will become a national issue. Take this seriously).”
When asked about the Indore Raoji Bazar police station incident, Aashish Basu of the HJM said, “The memo was given by the members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, not by HJM.”
Rajesh Tiwari, leader of the VHP and Bajrang Dal for Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, however, denied running any such campaign against azan. When asked about the Indore’s Raoji incident, where VHP and Bajrang Dal men can be seen handing over memos in the video, he said, “I haven’t seen the video. Hence, I can’t comment on it.”
Basu, however, did reveal that what triggered him to launch a campaign against azan when elections in five states are underway. “It [the order] came from top officials after reports that Muslims of Turk Bagri village of Dhar district complained to police about the loud music playing during a religious programme and police threatened the organisers,” Basu said.
Contradicting Basu’s claim that HJM’s campaign against azan is not linked to the ongoing elections, Indore shahar Qazi Ishrat Ali said, “The campaign against azan has been launched to keep the communal flame alive ahead of assembly elections in five states and upcoming panchayat polls in Madhya Pradesh.”
He further said, “Azan is just an announcement from a mosque to remind people about namaz and it concludes in less than 2-3 minutes. Besides, Article 25 of the Indian Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to practice and propagate the religion of their choice.”
Madhya Pradesh has a less than 7% Muslim population, according to the 2011 Census. Over 80% of the Muslim population lives in the Malwa Nimar region of the state.