Mosques shun loudspeakers, police keep Maharashtra peaceful

MUMBAI: Maharashtra state remained largely peaceful on Wednesday amid MNS chief Raj Thackeray’s call to play the Hanuman Chalisa in front of mosques if the azan was played on loudspeakers. Preventive action by Maharashtra Police, including detention of key MNS functionaries across the state, ensured there were no law and order issues, barring a few incidents of skirmish between party workers and the police.
At a press conference in the city, Thackeray said this was not a religious issue but a social one. He though told mediapersons if playing of the azan on loudspeakers is given a religious or communal turn, he too would not hold back from giving the issue of playing the Hanuman Chalisa a similar turn.
However, Shiv Sena asserted no guidelines related to use of the device have been violated in the state. Sena said all mosques in the state have taken permission for use of loudspeakers.
Home department officials said of the 1,141 mosques in the city, azan was played on loudspeakers only by 135. Local police said they will find out whether these mosques violated the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in its 2005 order.
Eight offences were registered and 56 were arrested in the past 24 hours for creating law and order problems. Police across the state have taken preventive action against 2,300 while 7,000 were served notices. Action against 600 was initiated and some were externed from city limits.
About 1,500 mosques and 1,300 temples have sought permission for the use of loudspeaker in the state. Notices were served too and many detained in the past five days.
MNS workers played the Hanuman Chalisa on a loudspeaker near a mosque in Charkop while authorities filed multiple FIRs in Nashik and Panvel against party workers, and made arrests.
Kandivali police registered an FIR against three MNS party workers for allegedly posting a clip on social media of Hanuman Chalisa being played on loudspeaker along with azan from a mosque. The clips were deleted later.
Meanwhile, police commissioner Sanjay Pandey and senior officials have called meetings of all temple officials and urged them to apply for permission to use loudspeakers. Of the 2,404 temples in the city, only 12 have sought permission. Meanwhile, 739 mosques got permission of the 773 that applied in the city, said an officer.
In Kalyan and Ulhasnagar, the first azan on Wednesday morning was performed without using loudspeakers. A large number of security personnel was deployed outside the mosques since morning.
In Kolhapur, most mosques delivered the ‘azaan’ through loudspeakers as usual. The security arrangements at mosques were at a bare minimum as many local outfits had pledged not to support “communal activities”.
Hearteningly, Muslims showered petals from atop mosques on a procession rally taken out in Islampur to celebrate the birth anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj on Wednesday.
(Inputs from Nishikant Karlikar, George Mendonca, Pradeep Gupta, Santosh Sonawane, Mohammed Akhef & Abhijeet Patil)