The controversy over the use of loudspeakers at religious places of worship deepened on Sunday after MNS chief Raj Thackeray reiterated his May 3 deadline for removal of loudspeakers from mosques and said that if it doesn’t happen, he will not be responsible for what happens in Maharashtra after that.
Thackeray said that if loudspeakers are not removed from atop mosques, his party workers would play Hanuman Chalisa at double the volume. He also asked all Hindus to do the same if the MVA government fails to meet the deadline set by him.
Addressing a mega rally in Aurangabad, which he termed as “Hindu Jananayak”, the MNS chief said if Uttar Pradesh government could remove the loudspeakers, what was stopping the Maharashtra government, led by his estranged cousin Uddhav Thackeray, from doing so.
“I won’t be responsible for what all happens after the May 3 deadline to remove the loudspeakers from the mosques,” he said.
Continuing to target Sharad Pawar, he once again accused the NCP chief of playing caste politics in Maharashtra, and said he was allergic to the word ‘Hindu’.
Meanwhile, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Preeti Sharma Menon said Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray should take immediate action against the MNS chief over his “provocative remarks”. “If needed, there should be a pre-emptive arrest,” she added.
Raj Thackeray said, “Loudspeakers is a social issue, but if it is being made a religious one, then we shall give a reply in the same manner. Eid will be celebrated on May 3. We don’t want to vitiate the atmosphere. But from May 4, if loudspeakers are not brought down (from mosques), then all Hindus should play Hanuman Chalisa at double the volume in front of those mosques.”
Loudspeakers have no place in religion and therefore they should be removed, he said, adding that the police should look into the matter and see that they are removed. “If they (Muslims) don’t understand nicely, we will show them the power of Maharashtra,” he said.
“All loudspeakers (atop mosques) are illegal. Is it a concert that so many loudspeakers are being used?” he said.
During his rally held at Thane last month, Raj Thackeray had given an ultimatum to the Maharashtra government, saying that if loudspeakers were not removed from mosques by May 3, then Hanuman Chalisa would be played outside them in a louder way.
“It was not the first time that I spoke on the issue of loudspeakers. The difference is that last time I gave an alternative (of Hanuman Chalisa). We don’t want riots and the Muslim community should also understand that,” he said.
Thackeray said one Muslim reporter had also told him that his family faces problems because of loudspeakers atop mosques.
“Don’t force us to take an extreme stand. If loudspeakers in Uttar Pradesh can come down, then why not in Maharashtra. Loudspeakers at temples shall also be brought down, but only after them (mosques). Loudspeakers are illegal and they don’t have permission. Why only we should suffer due to loudspeakers?” he added.
Referring to American author James Laine, whose 2003 book ‘Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India’ had some controversial remarks about Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Thackeray asked, “Why didn’t Sharad Pawar bring James Laine to Maharashtra (for action against him) when he was the minister at the Centre. Pawar has an allergy of the word ‘Hindu’.”
“Videos of Pawar praying before god are being shot now after I said that he is an atheist. But his daughter Supriya Sule herself had told in Lok Sabha that he is an atheist,” he said.
Casteism today has percolated even to schools here, Thackeray said, adding that books are read by looking after the caste of the writer. Hitting back at Pawar for asking him to read the books writte by his grandfather, Prabodhnkar Thackeray, the MNS chief said his grandfather never indulged in casteism.
On the occasion, Thackeray announced that he would hold rallies in different parts of Maharashtra, including districts in Marathwada, Vidarbha, north Maharashtra and Konkan.