Lucknow: At a time when calls for a ban on loudspeakers at mosques are steadily amplifying in Karnataka and Maharashtra, a man who claims to be a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) worker has started playing recitals of the Hanuman Chalisa through a loudspeaker on his terrace in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. The recitals allegedly coincide with the azaan, or the Muslim call to prayer, which is made five times a day.
Sudhir Singh is a resident of Saket Nagar Colony, located near the Sankat Mochan temple in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency. His Facebook profile says he is part of the BJP as well as president of the ‘Shri Kashi Vishwanath Mukti Andolan’.
On Tuesday, Singh shared a video of himself and others reciting the Hanuman Chalisa while the hymn played on a loudspeaker in the background, on his Facebook profile. The video has gone viral on social media.
He also posted a video message on Tuesday, in which he claimed that the decision to play the Hanuman Chalisa five times a day on loudspeaker was taken after a meeting of his outfit (Mukti Andolan).
“Earlier, in the mornings we would wake up to suprabhatam (a collection of Sanskrit hymns or verses recited early in the morning) and now, when we wake up, the azaan is heard. Yeh Kashi hai ya Kaaba hai, hamaari samajh mein nahi aa raha hai (Is this Kashi or the Kaaba, we fail to understand),” he said in the video.
“Hence, we are appealing to everyone that wherever there are temples, mics be put up and like before, the morning should start with suprabhatam and Hanuman Chalisa being played…we want this to be repeated and the flavour should remain of Kashi and not be converted to that of the Kaaba…,” he continued.
Asked about the rationale behind this move, Singh told ThePrint that when the Supreme Court had issued directions banning use of loudspeakers between 10 pm and 6 am, “their use was stopped in temples but not at mosques”.
“We are opposing this as we do not understand the azaan. Now when we are playing out the Hanuman Chalisa paath (recital) on loudspeakers, they understand how it feels,” he further said.
Singh also claimed that he was part of the BJP. Asked to elaborate, he said: “Humaara koi pad nahi hai, karyakarta hain (I don’t hold any post, I am a party worker).”
BJP state spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi told ThePrint that he is unaware about whether Singh is a party worker.
Asked to comment on Singh’s decision to play Hanuman Chalisa on loudspeaker, Tripathi said: “The law of the land should prevail and in case the volume exceeds the mandated level, the law should follow its due course.”
Contacted by ThePrint, Prashant Kumar, ADG (law and order), UP Police, told ThePrint that Singh has been told to “maintain law and order”.
“No new arrangement will be allowed. If anyone violates the law, the law will take its own course. Action will follow,” he added.
‘Will play Hanuman Chalisa at 101 temples’
Speaking to ThePrint, Singh also claimed that his outfit plans to play the Hanuman Chalisa at 101 temples across Varanasi.
“We will play Hanuman Chalisa on loudspeakers atop 101 temples across Varanasi. And this will not stop even if someone tries. The youth who are getting misled will also be brought closer to our culture,” he claimed.
Asked if his actions may disrupt communal harmony, he said: “They have been listening to azaan for 20 years and the responsibility of maintaining harmony lies not only with Hindus but also with Muslims.”
Singh further claimed that the administration had not stopped them, and that even Muslim residents of the area had not objected so far.
In 2020, Singh was in the news after declaring that he would start a movement to “free the Shivling and Parvati idol” from the premises of Varanasi’s Gyanvapi mosque, and demanded that the mosque “be shifted elsewhere”.
In February that year, he was arrested over a Section 144 violation when he was about to lead a ‘Dandvat yatra’ from the Sankat Mochan temple to the Kashi Vishwanath temple.
‘Act in continuance of BJP’s narrative’
However, Maulana Abdul Batin Nomani, a prominent Muslim leader of Varanasi, also known as Mufti-e-Banaras, told ThePrint that people are upset with the act.
“This atmosphere has been prevalent especially in the past three years, and it is not good for India. Azaan is being played not now but for years — why are they bothered now? Ever since the directions came not to hold azaan between 10 pm and 6 am, we started playing it at five specific times during the day,” Nomani told ThePrint.
“A few years back, we were told that only masjids with permission would be allowed to play the azaan, and we started taking permission from the administration after duly filling out the forms at the local police station,” he added.
“They (Singh) are trying to vitiate the atmosphere. It is my appeal to Muslim brothers to play azaan in a way that it does not disturb people. This is wrong and Allah will not let this harassment continue for long,” he further said, adding that “silly people were behind this act”.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)