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Maharashtra Restricts Use of Loudspeakers at Religious Sites Amid Azaan Row

This comes a day after MNS chief Raj Thackeray gave an ultimatum.

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Use of loudspeakers at religious sites in Maharashtra would be allowed only with prior permission, the state's Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil said on Monday, 18 April.

This comes a day after Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray said that if the Maharashtra government failed to remove loudspeakers atop mosques by 3 May, Hanuman Chalisa would be played at a higher volume outside mosques.

"State DGP, along with the Mumbai police commissioner, will formulate guidelines on the use of loudspeakers in public places. These guidelines will be issued in the next 1-2 days," Patil was quoted as saying by ANI.

"We have kept an eye on the law and order situation in the state. Strict action will be taken against those who attempt to disturb peace in the state," he added.

Patil will also meet Maharashtra Chief Minister (CM) Uddhav Thackeray to discuss the law and order situation in the state and the issue of the use of loudspeakers in public places.

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Meanwhile, Mumbai Police said that they have activated 'Social Media Lab' "to keep a vigil on the posts that could incite communal tensions in the state. Till now, 3000 such posts have been deleted."

Nashik CP Deepak Pandey said that permission would have to be taken before playing the Hanuman Chalisa or a Bhajan.

"It will not be allowed within 15 minutes before and after the Azaan. It will not be allowed within 100 metres of the mosque. The aim of this order is to maintain law and order," Nashik CP Deepak Pandey was quoted as saying by ANI.

"All religious places have been directed to take permission for the use of loudspeakers by 3 May. After 3 May, if anyone is found violating the order, then legal action will be taken against the violators," he added.

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What Had Raj Thackeray Said?

While addressing a press conference on Sunday, 17 April, Thackeray said:

"We don't want riots in Maharashtra. No one has opposed the offering of prayers. But if you (the Muslim community) do it on loudspeaker, then we'll also use loudspeakers for it. Muslims should understand that religion isn't bigger than the law. After 3 May, I'll see what to do."

Raj Thackeray has also written to Home Minister Amit Shah demanding the removal of loudspeakers from mosques.

"I appeal to PM Modi to raid the Madarasas at the Muslim shanties. Pakistani supporters are residing in these shanties. Mumbai Police know what's happening there. Our MLAs are using them for vote-bank, such people don't even have Aadhaar Card, but the MLAs get them made," he had earlier said.

Meanwhile, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut accused Thackeray of implementing the BJP's agenda.

"The issue of loudspeakers atop mosques could have been discussed with the government," he said. "But the intention was to create a law and order situation to fulfil BJP's wish for imposing the president's rule in the state."

In July 2005, the Supreme Court imposed a ban on loudspeakers between 10 pm and 6 am. However, in October that year, it ruled that loudspeakers could be permitted to be used till midnight on festive occasions for 15 days a year.

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