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When religion gets louder, communal temperatures rise. Enter politics and tension erupts.
This is precisely what happened in Moradabad’s Akbarpur village last week when a tussle over the installation of a loudspeaker in a temple and, later, a ban on a mahapanchayat called on the issue left many including the district magistrate injured. The district magistrate may lose vision in one of his eyes.
Incidentally, the loudspeaker was gifted to the temple by a BJP leader and Jatavs (Dalits) installed it despite resistance from the minority community because of Ramzan.
Akbarpur is not an isolated village in the state where communal tension erupts over loudspeakers. There is always one waiting to happen in some part of the state, especially during the months of festivals when loudspeakers from religious places become a bone of contention between the two communities.
The growing practice of kanwarias (Shiv bhakts) using DJs at temples during their Sawan procession is another reason for tension because this is the time when Muslims observe Ramzan.
Mukut Bihari Verma, the BJP MLA from Kaiserganj in Bahraich, accuses the state authorities of bias in granting permission. “While agreeing that use of loudspeakers created tension in the state, one should also note that it was the state’s dual policy for want of votes that mostly caused disturbance. They should have a uniform policy for both the communities,” he said.
Vijay Arora, president of Prayag Vyapar Mandal, wants to know why permission is granted to both the communities during festivals to put up loudspeakers, not one or two but 50 at a time.
He cited the death of a person in communal clashes in 2010 after loudspeakers “competed” with each other.
Scuffles and brawls have been reported from several parts of the state over the years.
In January 2013, loudspeakers caused communal tension in Sultanpur when the minority community protested its use in Ghammaur area.
This came about two months after a brawl in Asmauli area of Sambhal when the majority community protested the assembly of members of a minority community for prayers at someone’s house. This assembly was described as a new tradition by those opposing it.
According to police officials, loudspeakers, used as a method to assert, unnecessarily cause disquiet and many smaller incidents go unreported.
Retired colonel MJ Shamsi, who has been associated with Nadwa Islamic seminary, had told HT sometime back, “I do not know who started this culture of installing loudspeakers in mosques. We hear deafening announcements blaring from mosques before we wake up even during Ramzan.”
A vocal critic of loudspeaker usage, Shamsi said mosque loudspeakers should be used just for azaan (call for prayers). “One does not need to use loudspeakers for other activities. This may end up disturbing others and the essence of prayers is spoiled as such.”
During Ramzan, Shamshi suggested, one mosque should be used in an area for a fixed time for the Sehri (pre-dawn meal) call so that people are not disturbed.
Devya Giri, the first lady mahant of Mankameswhar temple in Lucknow, said there should be fixed timing for playing loudspeakers in religious institutions. In no circumstances should loudspeakers be allowed to play after 10pm. All temples and mosques must respect public sentiment, she said.