When religion gets louder, communal temperatures rise and politics fans the fire. This is precisely what happened in Moradabad's Akbarpur village last week.
A BJP leader gifted a loudspeaker to a temple in Akbarpur. The Jatavs (dalits) installed it despite resistance from the minority community because of Ramzan. The resultant clash followed by a 'ban' on a mahapanchayat convened on the issue left many injured, including the district magistrate who might lose vision in one of his eyes.
Loudspeakers have a way of sparking tension in prickly Uttar Pradesh, especially when festivals of religious communities overlap. This time, the Sawan procession of kanwarias (Shiv bhakts) – they are increasingly using DJs at temples – has coincided with the Muslim's month of fasting before Id-ul-Fitr.
Mukut Bihari Verma, the BJP legislator from Kaiserganj in Bahraich blamed the state authorities for being biased in granting permission to install loudspeakers. "They should have a uniform policy for both the communities," he said.
Vijay Arora, president of Prayag Vyapar Mandal, said allowing the use of high-decibel loudspeakers was an invitation to trouble. He cited a case in 2010 when a loudspeaker 'contest' led to a communal clash killing one person.
Clashes broke out in January 2013 after Muslims protested the use of loudspeakers in Ghammaur area of Sultanpur. This was preceded by a brawl in Asmauli area of Sambhal when Hindus opposed the assembly of Muslims for prayers at an individual's house where an audio system was installed.
According to the police, a group invariably uses loudspeakers to assert itself and irritate the other. Many such incidents go unreported, they said.
"I do not know who started this culture of installing loudspeakers in mosques. We hear deafening announcements from mosques before we wake up even during Ramzan," retired colonel MJ Shamsi, associated with Nadwa Islamic seminary, had told HT.
A critic of loudspeaker usage, Shamsi said mosque loudspeakers should be used just for azaan (call for prayers). "Using them for other activities may disturb others and spoil the essence of prayers," he said.
Devya Giri, the first lady mahant of Mankameswhar temple in Lucknow, said there should be fixed timing for playing loudspeakers in religious institutions. "Under no circumstances should loudspeakers be used after 10 pm. All temples and mosques must respect public sentiments," she said.
Related Supreme Court orders
In July 2005, the Supreme Court said that no one shall use loudspeaker, percussion or wind instruments or use any sound amplifier at night (between 10 pm and 6 am) except in public emergencies. It added that loudspeakers and amplifiers and other gadgets producing offending noise should be seized if detected as violating the law.
Former chief justice of India RC Lahoti and Justice Ashok Bhan observed that the law-enforcing agencies should ensure that sound levels conform to the codes of the Bureau of Indian Standards.
Noise Pollution (Regulation and Control) Rules, 2000
This was enacted to curb noise pollution. It says that a loudspeaker or public address system shall not be used except after obtaining written permission from the authority and the same shall not be used between 10pm and 6 am.