Rajat Sharma

Who is the greater Hindutva proponent? Raj or Uddhav Thackeray?

akb fullRaj Thakeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena began action on Wednesday against use of loudspeakers outside mosques and temples throughout the state. In response, police rounded up MNS workers who were trying to play Hanuman Chalisa on loudspeaker systems outside mosques. Already, the sword of arrest is hanging over Raj Thackeray for his speech in Aurangabad rally on Sunday.

The home department of Maharashtra government said on Wednesday that out of 1,135 mosques in Mumbai, there were 135 mosques where ‘azaan’(call to prayer) was being made over loudspeakers above the decibel limit set by the Supreme Court in its 2005 order. Nearly 1,500 mosques and 1,300 temples have sought permission from the state government for use of loudspeaker, a home department official said.

In the past 24 hours, 56 persons, mostly MNS workers, were arrested by police for creating law and order problems. Police have taken preventive action against 2,300 persons, mostly MNS workers, and have issued notices to nearly 7,000 people.

Raj Thackeray made one point clear: he said his party would take action against both mosques and temples where loudspeakers are being played above the permissible decibel limit. He said, his party would continue its agitation if the Shiv Sena-led MVA government failed to implement the SC order.

On the loudspeaker issue, the ruling Shiv Sena changed its stand on Wednesday. Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said, because of Raj Thackeray-led agitation, big temples in Maharashtra like Shirdi Sai Baba shrine and Tryambakeshwar Lord Shiva shrine have been unable to play morning ‘ kaakad aarti’ (prayers) over loudspeakers for the devotees. Raut said, adding “common people in Maharashtra will take no cognizance of those who are supporting pseudo-Hindutva and conspiring against the Shiv Sena”.

Sanjay Raut said, “there is no violation of loudspeaker related SC guidelines in Maharashtra, and the situation has not reached such a level that an agitation is required in Mumbai or Maharashtra.” On Raj Thackeray posting an old video of Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray saying, “the day his party will come to power, offering namaaz on roads will be stopped and loudspeakers from mosques will be removed.”

Reacting to this, Sanjay Raut said, “We cannot stoop to such a low level. Our party still runs on the ideology of Balasaheb. He stopped offering of namaaz on roads, after coming to power. No one should teach Hindutva to the Shiv Sena.” Elaborating, he said, “Maharahstra has got a Thackeray government. Even if the state has a Maha Vikas Aghadi (coalition) government, it is led by Uddhav Thackeray. He is the Sena chief, son of Hindu Hriday Samrat Balasaheb Thackeray. So he doesn’t have to take advice on illegal loudspeakers in mosques or allowing people to pray on roads.”

Sanjay Raut is the spokesman of Shiv Sena government, and he has every right to defend his party. But he is incorrect on one point. There is no need to remove loudspeakers from temples or mosques. The government needs to implement the SC guideline on keeping the volume of loudspeakers at a permissible limit. The state government has already set guidelines for giving permission for use of loudspeakers at religious shrines. In Mumbai, only 24 temples and 922 mosques have got permission to use loudspeakers. The state government needs to keep the decibel level of all loudspeakers at a permissible limit, but the entire issue has now been politicized.

Now that Uddhav Thackeray and Raj Thackeray are ranged against each other, the battle is on who is a greater ‘Hindutvawadi’(pro-Hindutva) and who is a sincere disciple of Bal Thackeray. Raj Thackeray is busy proving that Balasaheb’s son Uddhav has forgotten his father’s ideology in his quest for power, while Shiv Sena is busy trying to prove that Raj Thackeray in a desperate action for his party’s political survival has become a pawn in the hands of BJP. Shiv Sena leaders are openly saying that Raj Thackeray left his uncle Balasaheb, when the latter was alive, and floated his own party, but now, he is using his uncle’s name to score political brownie points.

Raj Thackeray wanted to launch his agitation against loudspeakers from May 3, but since it was Eid ul-Fitr festival, he postponed it by a day. On Wednesday, MNS workers came out in different cities of Maharashtra, and tried to play Hanuman Chalisa on loudspeakers outside mosques during ‘azaan’ time. India TV reporter went to Minara Masjid in Bhindi Bazar, a Muslim-dominated locality of Mumbai, and found 8 loudspeakers blaring out ‘azaan’ at a very high decibel level. Devotees who came out of the mosque after prayers, told our reporter that use of loudspeakers for azaan call does not matter for those who offer namaaz five times a day, as prescribed in Islam. Some devotees said, it was wrong to make a two-minute azaan call on loudspeakers as a big issue.

In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Wednesday night, we showed visuals from Pune, Nashik, Aurangabad, Osmanabad, Solapur and Dhule, where MNS workers came up with loudspeaker systems to play Hanuman Chalisa outside mosques. At the Maruti temple in Pune, where Raj Thackeray had come last month to perform ‘maha-aarti’, MNS workers performed prayers on Wednesday. At the Maruti temple in Solapur, when MNS workers started playing Hanuman Chalisa on loudspeakers, they were prevented by police, because a mosque was located a few hundred metres away. MNS workers then used ‘dholaks’ and bells and recited Hanuman Chalisa.

In Dhule, MNS workers chanted Jai Shri Ram and Jai Hanuman slogans at Shivtirth Chowk and tried to proceed towards a mosque during afternoon ‘azaan’ time, but were rounded up by police. In Nashik, MNS workers tried to play Hanuman chalisa on loudspeaker near a mosque during ‘fazr’ namaaz (morning prayer), but police seized their loudspeaker and amplifier. Most of the MNS workers were arrested.

The entire issue is not related to temple, mosque, azaan, Hanuman Chalisa or loudspeakers. The issue relates to political power. Raj Thackeray wants to regain political weight in his state and Uddhav Thackeray wants to retain his political power. The tool is the same for both: radical Hindutva. And the symbol for both is: Balasaheb Thackeray.

Uddhav Thackeray has to refrain from speaking about radical Hindutva now, given his political compulsions. He cannot replay the tapes of his father Balasaheb Thackeray, who used to give fiery speeches on Hindutva. NCP and Congress, both his main allies, will switch off the power connection, once Uddhav starts playing his father’s old tapes.

Raj Thackeray realizes Uddhav’s compulsions, that is why he has raised the loudspeaker issue and is playing Balasaheb Thackeray’s tapes loudly. The contest is: Who is a greater Hindutvawadi? Who is the true follower of Balasaheb Thackeray?

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