Mumbai, April 06 (KMS): Extremist Hindu organization Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) leader Raj Thackeray’s nefarious and anti-Muslim move to launch a campaign against Azaan, the Islamic call to prayer, has triggered a veritable storm in the Indian state of Maharashtra.
Raj Thackeray proposed to disrupt the Azaan with playing of Hanuman Chalisa, a devotional song in praise of Hindu deity Hanuman.
BJP leader in the state, Mohit Kamboj, has announced to arrange loudspeakers to play the Hanuman Chalisa in public places. His offer is indicative of the saffron party’s inclination to forge an alliance with any party which is ready to fan a fractious campaign against Islam and Muslims.
“Anyone who needs a loudspeaker to install it in a temple can ask us for free! All Hindus should have one voice! Jai Shri Ram! Har Har Mahadev!” tweeted Mohit, a billionaire bullion trader, one of the richest BJP leaders.
The BJP and the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) have joined hands to intensify a campaign for ban on loudspeakers playing the Azaan from mosques, hence the offer from the BJP leader to bear the cost of loudspeakers is part of that campaign to mount pressure on the authorities.
MNS leaders have fanned out in several parts of Maharashtra to play the Hanuman Chalisa from loudspeakers after a call-to-arms by Raj Thackeray at a rally in Mumbai over the weekend on the occasion of the Marathi New Year festival Gudi Padwa. They are leaving no stone unturned to ensure the success of the scheme of the party chief.
The move is timed ahead of the elections for India’s richest municipal body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation or BMC, is no coincidence. In fact, the MNS chief knew that the controversy may help his party in the elections. The BJP has its own stake to join the campaign. It is seeing in Thackeray’s move an opportunity to get even with the Shiv Sena which is ruling Maharashtra in alliance with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress and thereby avenge its loss in the assembly elections.
The Shiv Sena has a history of changing its position on the issue of Azaan. Bal Thackeray, founder of the Shiv Sena, was among the votaries of banning the loudspeakers outside mosques. However, the party, under his son Udhav Thackerey, had to soften its hard-line Hindutva stance after forming the coalition in 2019.
Raj Thackeray, who broke away from the party in 2005 after a rift with Bal Thackeray’s son and now Maharashtra Chief Minister, has maintained the hard-line position. Now that the civic polls are round the corner the rebel Sena leader has raised the issue to embarrass his bête noir.
Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil of the NCP took exception to the latest provocations coming from the MNS. He said the statements are aimed at dividing the society.
Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut too hit out at the BJP and MNS, saying, “Raj Thackeray was talking about taking down the loudspeakers installed in mosques yesterday. First, see in which all BJP ruled states Azaan has been stopped, loudspeakers removed from mosques… This is Maharashtra, where law of the land is followed.”