Karnataka CM Bommai cites high court order amid row over azaan
Bommai said that respective district administrations were holding meetings to implement the high court order
A day after right-wing groups demanded restrictions on loudspeakers in mosques in Karnataka, chief minister Basavaraj Bommai on Tuesday cited a high court order that called for a crackdown on illegal loudspeakers at all religious places in the state, and said all parties will be taken into confidence before implementing the decision.
Hindu groups in the state have demanded restrictions on the use of loudspeakers in mosques in the city, failing which, they would use them in temples. The holy month of Ramzan, which culminates in Eid, began earlier this week.
On Tuesday, Hassan district Hindutva organisations appealed to managements of Hindu temples in the district to chant on loudspeakers every morning. The priest of Kalikamba temple in Arsikere, Rishi Kumar Swami, chanted prayers on the loudspeaker at 5.30 am. “If the loudspeakers installed in mosques and madrasas have to be stopped, then at the same time you should also chant Ram and chant on the loudspeakers,” said the priest.
In Bengaluru, Bajrang Dal member Bharath Shetty said the campaign against loudspeakers in mosques will start in the Anjaneya temple in Yelahanka.
In Chikkamagaluru, Kali Mutt pontiff Yogeshwar Rishi Kumar Swami, who was recently arrested for giving a call to demolish a mosque in Srirangapatna town, said he will launch a campaign to popularise the chanting of shlokas in the wee hours in all temples of the state. “We started the prayer in the morning last month at our mutt located in Devanur. I will participate in the prayer around 5 am,’’ he said.
“On azaan, there’s a high court order. And, there’s another order asking why there’s no implementation,” Bommai told reporters on Tuesday morning.
“There are decibel levels fixed. And decibel metres are supposed to be purchased at the district level. There are orders being implemented in a phased manner. There’s no force. It’s something that needs to be done by taking people into confidence,” he said.
Bommai was referring to a January 11, 2021 Karnataka high court order which directed the state government to act against illegal loudspeakers at religious places in the state. It directed the state government to immediately issue directions to the police and the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) to initiate action on the use of amplifiers and loudspeakers in religious places violating laws on noise pollution and directions issued by the Supreme Court.
In November 2021, the high court asked the state government to explain the provisions of the law under which loudspeakers and public address systems were allowed in mosques, and what action is being taken to restrict their use.
Bommai said that respective district administrations were holding meetings to implement the high court order. “… the issues that have come up aren’t new. Some are based on orders that were issued in 2001 or 2002, and there are some court orders. We haven’t issued any new order,” Bommai said.
In another statement on Tuesday afternoon, Bommai said, “This is a high court order. It’s not forced. Everything has to be done by talking and explaining to people… it is not only for azaan, but it is also for all loudspeakers. So, we will take a call,” he added.
Karnataka has been roiled by communal tensions over the past few months, first over the hijab in classrooms, then the presence of Muslim shopkeepers in temple festivals and then the use of halal meat. In each case, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has cited court orders to justify its stance.
The debate over the azaan started in neighbouring Maharashtra last week. Speaking at a rally in Mumbai, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray said he is not against any religion but his party workers will play Hanuman Chalisa in front of mosques if the state government does not remove loudspeakers outside mosques.
On Monday, Karnataka minister KS Eshwarappa said a solution should be found to address “the concerns over the use of loudspeakers in mosques”.
“The attempts by Raj Thackeray or Sri Rama Sene against the use of loudspeakers at mosques have to be naturally done by taking the Muslim community into confidence. There have been complaints for a long time that it disturbs students and patients...” Eshwarappa had said.
BJP national chief secretary C T Ravi said in New Delhi on Tuesday. “Azaan is a call for Muslims to come for prayer... Let them set an alarm, get up and go to the mosque.”
“BJP is working towards consolidation of majority votes under the Hindutva umbrella. Until now, they would transfer blame to subaltern groups and claim it was some other elements and defend the Bajrang Dal and other right-wing organisations associated with the Sangh. But they now want to legitimise and claim it as their own,” Phani Rajanna, a Udupi-based political analyst and commentator on communal politics, said.
Senior Congress leader Siddaramaiah said the BJP was using polarisation for political gains in the assembly elections due in 2023. “In temples, churches and mosques loudspeakers are used. Who has been troubled by this? They are raising these issues intentionally... These are attempts to spoil the peace,” he said on Tuesday.