Rajat Sharma

How can recital of Hanuman Chalisa amount to sedition?

akb fullHigh voltage politics is on in Mumbai over the issue of reciting Hanuman Chalisa, even as Independent MP Navneet Rana and her MLA husband Ravi Rana are presently in jail. On Tuesday, a sessions court in Mumbai adjourned the hearing on their bail plea till April 29, seeking reply from Mumbai Police. On Monday, Bombay High Court dismissed their plea to quash the FIR filed by Mumbai Police.

The High Court said, “Such a declaration that a person would recite some religious verses either in the personal residence of another person or even at a public place is certainly first a breach of personal liberty of another person….Secondly, if a declaration is made that a particular religious verse will be recited on public streets, the state is justified in carrying apprehension that such act would result in disturbance to law and order.”

Mumbai Police has also slapped sedition charge on Rana couple after they declared their intent to recite Hanuman Chalisa outside ‘Matoshri’, the private residence of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. The state BJP leadership stands solid behind the legislator couple, both of whom are independents, while the Shiv Sena has put its entire cadre to oppose the couple.

On Monday, former CM and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis questioned whether jailing a legislator couple only for announcing their intent to recite Hanuman Chalisa outside the CM’s house amounts to sedition. In reply, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said, he would not allow to do ‘dadagiri’(hooliganism) in the name of Hanuman Chalisa. He said, the founder of Shiv Sena Balasaheb Thackeray had taught us how to break ‘dadagiri’.

The chief minister said, “if anybody wants to recite Hanuman Chalisa, he was welcome, but why are they insisting that they will recite Hanuman Chalisa on our home at Matoshree?” Uddhav Thackeray then made several jibes at BJP on the issue of Hindutva, saying that “we don’t need to learn Hindutva from such people. Our Hindutva is ‘gada-dhari’ (holding the mace) Hindutva, but if you want to provoke us by reciting Hanuman Chalisa in our home, then we will not tolerate such ‘dadaigiri’.”

The chief minister said, Navneet Rana was trying to come to our house as an uninvited guest, by doing ‘dadaigir’, that is why we taught the couple a lesson. Navneet Rana is presently in Byculla women’s jail, and her husband has been lodged in Taloja jail. Navneet Rana has also alleged in a complaint that the jail officials disallowed her from using a toilet saying she belonged to a lower caste. For the time being, the couple may have to spend time in jail. They have two kids, a ten-year-old daughter and six-year-old son, and they are being looked after by their grandparents. The kids are not being allowed to watch news channels. They have been told that their parents have gone to Delhi for some work.

The state BJP leadership is fully with the Rana couple. Former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis questioned whether filing of sedition charge against the couple was justified. Fadnavis said that an “arrogant” government is now ruling Maharashtra, and BJP will continue to fight such a rule.

The Shiv Sena government is trying its best to ensure that the Rana couple does not get bail, and continue to remain in jail. A fresh case has been lodged against Navneet Rana, so that if she gets bail in one case, she can be held in custody for another case. But one must not forget that it was MNS chief Raj Thackeray who had started reciting of Hanuman Chalisa on loudspeakers to counter reciting of ‘Azaan’ from mosques.

Raj Thackeray had even given a deadline for taking down loudspeakers from all mosques, and had also sought permission to recite Hanuman Chalisa outside the CM’s residence ‘Matoshree’. The Shiv Sena government did not file a single case against Raj Thackeray. NCP leader Fahmida Hasan threatened to recite Hanuman Chalisa, Holy Quran and Bible outside the Prime Minister’s residence in Delhi. No case was registered against Fahmida Hasan. But Uddhav Thackeray made it a prestige issue in the case of Rana couple, sent his party workers to stage protest outside their residence, got FIRs filed and and sent them to jail.

I feel Uddhav Thackeray should not have made this a big issue. To arrest Navneet Rana and her husband, put them in police lockup for the night, refusing to provide them washroom facility, deny them facility to change clothes, cannot be considered as good politics. I remember what Balasaheb Thackeray used to say in such matters.

Nearly 28 years ago, Balasaheb Thackeray had come to my show ‘Aap Ki Adalat’ and in reply to one of my questions, said, “if Muslims offer namaaz prayers on the road, then we Hindus will also perform Maha Aarti on the road.” He had then said, we did this deliberately, because namaaz was being offered inside the Chief Minister’s bungalow. In my show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Monday night, we showed that portion from ‘Aap Ki Adalat’ where Balasaheb Thackeray made this remark.

Balasaheb Thckeray was a true exponent of Hindutva, anti-Congress and his politics and strategy used to be clear. He used to speak out frankly. But his son, Uddhav Thackeray, is facing political compulsions nowadays. That is why, he is saying that it was his father Balasaheb who taught him how to deal with such ‘dadagiri’. On Monday, Devendra Fadnavis replied to this. He said, if reciting Hanuman Chalisa is sedition, then BJP leaders will do this thousands of times. “Let the government file FIRs against us”, he challenged.

Shiv Sena leaders know this clearly that the Hanuman Chalisa recital issue could backfire on the party, but it is Uddhav Thackeray’s political compulsion because he is in power with the support of Congress and NCP. If he allows recital of Hanuman Chalisa, Congress ad NCP may withdraw support.

BJP realizes the weakness of Shiv Sena, and this is the reason why Devendra Fadnavis, Chandrakant Patil and Narayan Rane are loudly reciting Hanuman Chalisa. Shiv Sena leaders claim they are also devotees of Lord Hanuman, but law is supreme. There should be no politics in the name of Bajrang Bali. Shiv Sena wants that there must be political consensus over the Azaan and Hanuman Chalisa loudspeaker issue. An all-party meeting was called on Monday, but BJP leaders boycotted it. Only 13 out of 28 leaders attend the all-party meeting.

The controversies relating to Hanuman Chalisa and loudspeakers are political in nature. Navneet Rana made a move by trying to corner Uddhav Thackeray and landed in jail. Secondly, BJP is right in alleging that the filing of sedition FIRs against the Rana couple was made at the behest of Uddhav Thackeray. The chief minister is himself on record having said that he will not tolerate such ‘dadagiri’. Clearly, he has taken up Navneet Rana’s challenge seriously. The matter is now before the court.

Navneet Rana will fight her legal case, and it is up to the court to decide whether the charges are true or false. Whatever Navneet Rana did can help both the BJP and Shiv Sena. Had she not come forward, Raj Thackeray could have taken the lead and it would have been more problematic for Shiv Sena.

Raj Thackeray was emerging as hero on the Azaan and Hanuman Chalisa issue, but now the entire attention has been diverted towards Navneet Rana, and this could help the BJP. She is not a member of BJP, but has given BJP a handle to challenge the Shiv Sena on the issue of Hindutva. NCP chief Sharad Pawar realizes this, and that is why, a lady NCP leader today wrote to the Home Minister seeking permission to recite Hanuman Chalisa outside the PM’s residence.

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