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Opinion | How Yogi Adityanath’s Brand of Secularism Defeats Minorityism

Author: Yuvraj Pokharna
Publication: News18.com
Date: May 4, 2022
URL:      https://www.news18.com/news/opinion/opinion-how-yogi-adityanaths-brand-of-secularism-defeats-minorityism-5105509.html

By removing loudspeakers not just from mosques, but also from temples and gurudwaras, the Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh administration has set the best example of communal harmony and secularism

The loudspeaker row on Azaan and Hanuman Chalisa — topics of national altercations on national TV and political quarters — emerged from Maharashtra with Raj Thackeray of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) issuing an ultimatum regarding the purging of loudspeakers that hung over the minarets of mosques, moved to the Rana couple sailing on the same boat, and has now reached the most contentious and talked-about chief minister, Yogi Adityanath of Uttar Pradesh.

Following the orders issued by the UP administration, the police said that over 53,000 unauthorised loudspeakers have been uninstalled from diverse religious places, including temples, mosques, and gurudwaras, across the state, upholding the true spirit of secularism. “So far, till 7 a.m. (Sunday) in the morning today, 53,942 loudspeakers have been removed from various religious places across the state,” informed Prashant Kumar, Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) in Uttar Pradesh.

Prior to this action, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath issued an advisory to restrict the volume of loudspeakers strictly inside the institution’s premises. Later on, the sound level of 60,295 loudspeakers was reduced and brought down to the level of standard parameters by the authorities. As fate would have it, the controversy that followed came on the heels of the communal violence witnessed around the recent Hindu festivities of Ram Navami and Hanuman Janmotsav in several states, and the issue has been heating up ever since. Yogi got a thumbs up from Raj Thackeray who said, “In Maharashtra, we don’t have ‘yogis’ in power; what we have are bhogis (hedonists).”

In fact, here’s what various courts, at various points in time, observed:

  • Supreme Court (2005): In July 2005, the Supreme Court issued an order prohibiting the use of loudspeakers and music systems in public places between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. (except in cases of public emergencies), citing the serious health effects of noise pollution on those who live in such areas.

 

  • Bombay High Court (2016): In August 2016, the Bombay High Court declared that using loudspeakers was not a basic right. According to the Bombay High Court, no religion or sect could argue that the ability to use a loudspeaker or public address system constituted a basic right protected by Article 25 of the Indian Constitution.
  • Uttarakhand High Court (2018): “Even after 12 a.m., the loudspeakers continue to blare.” According to the court, “the loudspeaker cannot be used without formal authorisation from the administration, even by temples, mosques, and gurdwaras.”

 

  • Karnataka High Court (2021): The Karnataka High Court ordered the state government to take action against unauthorised loudspeakers at religious sites across the state in January 2021. It directed the state government to give urgent instructions to the police and the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) to take action against the use of amplifiers and loudspeakers in religious buildings, citing noise pollution regulations and Supreme Court rulings as justification. The Karnataka High Court then requested that the state government explain the legislative provisions that allow loudspeakers and public address systems in mosques, as well as what efforts are being made to curb their usage by November 2021.
  • Haryana and Punjab High Courts: In July 2019, the Punjab and Haryana High Court issued an order prohibiting the use of loudspeakers in public areas, including religious organisations. According to the court, public address systems should only be utilised with prior approval and the noise level should never exceed the permissible limit.

 

Thus, by removing loudspeakers not just from mosques, but also from temples and gurudwaras, the Uttar Pradesh administration has set the best example of communal harmony and secularism. While it has been discussed at length how India identifies or rather ratifies itself as a “secular country” but is impudently not so, Yogi Adityanath seems to be on a rampage to bust the popular myths regarding the Nehruvian brand of secularism followed by the Left for decades.

Left academics, ideologues, and activists have cunningly branded and reduced secularism to having vile and slanderous opinions about Hindus and their cultures, thus proving shallowness of their “secular credentials” and their “solidarity” with the minority communities in India. Beyond the deeper meaning of the word, Oxford Dictionary defines secularism as “the belief that religion should not influence or be involved in the organisation of society, education, government, etc.” And this is exactly what the Yogi government is achieving, by challenging the set brand of secularism that relentlessly rests on minority appeasement. In Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh, neither Vikas Dubey nor Mukhtar Ansari is spared. If loudspeakers are not utilised during aarti at temples such as Kashi Vishwanath Dham, Kaal Bhairav, Sankatmochan Temple, Durga Temple and Tulsi Manas Temple in Varanasi, the government has also pared down the level of loudspeakers located at the Gyanvapi Mosque.

Ever since the saffron-clad chief minister came to power, he has put forth his no-nonsense policy in clear terms regarding crimes in Uttar Pradesh and said in an interview, “Agar apraadh karenge toh thok diye jayenge.” The toughest actions against criminals have been taken under the chief minister’s pet project ‘Operation Clean’ and the Yogi government seems to have got a firm control over the law and order in the state as the crime rate stands well below the national average. It is only worthy to note that not a single case of communal clashes, rioting, or even violence was observed in Uttar Pradesh, once considered an epicentre of riots, on the occasion of Ram Navami, while stone-pelting, violence, arson by Islamists were witnessed across the length and breadth of India.

However, the Indian variant of the Stockholm Syndrome is yet again making “liberals” the worst bigots who are out to decimate all the values they purportedly claim to uphold for good. The central theme that is being orchestrated to peddle a false narrative around violence is this: The Hindus triggered the local Muslim communities by playing “provocative music” and “raising slogans” while passing through the “Muslim areas”, but liberals must be careful in propagating this argument because by propagating it, they’ve reached the edge of the cliff and must know that their days of relevance are severely numbered. If merely playing music in a religious procession is “provocation” for violent acts being justified, not only is this a call for Hindus to concede more, restricting their religiosity to private spaces while Muslims are a given free hand to even pray in public places such as roads, but it also incentivises radical Muslims to keep using anarchy as leverage. This minorityism, a neologism for a political structure or process in which a minority segment of a population has a certain degree of primacy in the entity’s decision-making, has been the sine qua non of the Indian polity since 1947.

You should not be surprised to know that music acting as a “provocation” for violence is not new. In a chapter on communal aggression, B.R. Ambedkar expressed, “Another illustration of this spirit of exploitation is furnished by the Muslim insistence upon cow-slaughter and the stoppage of music before mosques. Music may be played before a mosque in all Muslim countries without any objection. Even in Afghanistan, which is not a secularised country, no objection is taken to music before a mosque. But in India, the Musalmans must insist upon its stoppage for no other reason than that the Hindus claim a right to it.” B.R. Ambedkar, infamous for his criticism of Hinduism, was all the more-brazenly sharp and brutally honest in his censure of Islam. However, it is ironic how two different treatises by the same man, critiquing two different communities, are read so differently, but certainly display the most fascinating cocktail of discrimination and the ‘victim card’ we witness, where even the onus of violence and arson by Islamists on the auspicious day of Ram Navami is laid at the door of the Hindus.

Coming back, CM Yogi, the first UP chief minister to take the oath for a second term, in a rally said that nowhere was there any tu-tu main main (arguments), leave alone riots and ruckus. “This is proof of UP’s new progressive way of thinking. Here, there is no place for riots and chaos. UP has demonstrated this on the anniversary of Ram Navami,” he added. In fact, the well-maintained law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh was the monk CM’s ace in the pack of cards this election. UP is relentlessly wooing businesses, experiencing the lowest crime rates, and maintaining communal harmony as an ideal state must. From Mulayam Singh’s infamous “ladke hai galti ho jaati hai” misogynistic argument opposing capital punishment for rape to Yogi Adityanath’s “agar apraadh karenge toh thok diye jayenge”, Uttar Pradesh has evidently come a long way!

 

-Yuvraj Pokharna is a Surat-based educator, columnist, and social activist. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.
 
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Author: Alka Dhupkar
Publication: The Times of India
Date: May 2, 2022
URL:      https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/loudspeaker-lessons-for-india-from-a-maharashtra-village/articleshow/91259002.cms

The villagers of Barad have passed a resolution to stop the use of loudspeakers

Barad shows that strong-arm tactics are not needed to curb noise pollution; a simple matter of sitting across a table and discussing can do wonders

Barad is a biggish village in Nanded district of Maharashtra with a population of around 15,000. It is roughly 20km from Nanded city. Over time, the village has prospered and places of worship, among other buildings, have been renovated.

The village has 15 religious places — 12 Hindu temples and a place of worship each for Buddhist, Jain and Muslim communities. In some neighbourhoods, these religious places are in close proximity. No problem there.

It was only when these places started using loudspeakers to broadcast sermons, aartis and bhajans that the problem started. It became a veritable Tower of Babel — all noise and confusion.

“Since five in the morning, we used to play songs. In some places, one couldn’t hear the other’s songs or for that matter what was played in our temple,” says Suresh Deshmukh, a trustee of the local Hanuman temple.

For days on end, farmer Sharad Kawle’s 80-year-old grandmother couldn’t get a peaceful night’s sleep because of the rampant use of loudspeakers in the village.

But all this is in the past now. In charged times like these, Barad stands out as a model of communal harmony. Back in 2018, the villagers unanimously decided to remove loudspeakers from all religious places.

So, what happened in 2018?

According to deputy sarpanch Balasaheb Shankarao Deshmukh, sometime in December 2017, a Ganesh temple was using loudspeakers to broadcast maha aarti and a Buddha vihar nearby was playing religious songs. This went on till late at night.

“Groups from both sides started raising voices against each other, asking that the volume be lowered. Harmony in the village was completely disturbed,” he says. “Somehow we managed to cool tempers, but the tension simmered.”

But this wasn’t the only incident. A local school kept complaining about noise pollution to the Shiva temple trust and others in their area. The students couldn’t concentrate on studies because there was a kind of competition in using loudspeakers till late night and early mornings among all the religions.

The villagers were fed up. Some of them met after the tension escalated between Buddha and Ganpati followers. During a meeting with the local police, they discussed the proposal of removing all loudspeakers.

Thereafter, the villagers held a meeting with all the religious groups separately. Everybody accepted that the use of loudspeakers was a cause for concern and social discord. The religious trusts said if it was mandatory for all religious groups then they would also stop using loudspeakers.

After the consultations, a special gram sabha was called and a unanimous resolution was passed.

The villagers agreed to use sound boxes instead of loudspeakers. The only caveat: the volume of the sound box should be maintained at a pre-mandated level so the sound does not go beyond the walls of the holy place.

The gram panchayat has already installed around 40 small sound boxes for local announcements such as deaths, vaccination or other government programmes.

After the noise, peace

Yogesh Ratnparakhi, who runs Om Sai Coaching Classes in Barad, says, “In my centre, there are around 100 students and I can’t tell you how happy we all are that the loudspeakers have finally stopped. Earlier, students would use unending noise as an excuse not to study. Now, they properly focus on studies.”

Kiran Mahajan, a trustee of Chandra Prabhu Digambar Jain temple, says, “Ours is a private temple that is open to the public. We too had installed a loudspeaker because others installed it too. But after the removal of loudspeakers, we didn’t lose any devotees. Loudspeakers actually don’t matter.”

Sharad Kawle, the farmer, says, “Many of us in this village are followers of the Varkari bhakti movement. I believe that your religious activity should not disturb others. Keep it personal, so we all supported this proposal.”

His views are echoed by Sardar Sattar Khan Pathan of Jama Masjid in Barad. “We respect festivals of all communities. The kind of communal harmony we have maintained would not have been possible with loudspeakers at each religious place in the village.”

According to Vasant Lalme, a trustee of the Shiva temple, loudspeakers are not essential for singing bhajans or kirtans. “Devotion is a very personal feeling. It can be attained without loudspeakers. We have proved it.”

Model village

Deputy sarpanch Deshmukh, however, is disappointed that his village has not been given due recognition for the innovative solution to the menace of unchecked loudspeakers. The village doesn’t encourage the use of loudspeakers even for political rallies, weddings or other celebrations.

In other ways, too, Barad can be touted as a model village. It has received state awards for cleanliness and drinking water distribution management, open defecation-free status, success of ‘tanta mukti’ yojana (a scheme to clear local disputes at the village level) and other achievements.

The village has 20 CCTV cameras, which have helped curb theft, sexual harassment and other crimes. The village has developed a proper watershed system; a dormitory near a rural hospital is a unique feature of the village. It has also built a hostel for girl students, it has a zilla parishad school, multiple anganwadis, among other facilities.

As the noise over the use of loudspeakers at religious places grows louder and various state governments are using strong-arm tactics, perhaps it is Barad’s use of consultation that stands out more than its other achievements.