‘Azan Row’: What's the Politics Behind Karnataka’s New Order on Loudspeakers?
Citing several rules to curb noise pollution, Karnataka has banned use of the loudspeakers from 10 pm to 6 am.
Karnataka has banned the use of loudspeakers between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am, as per the new order passed by state government. The circular states that nobody will be allowed to use a loudspeaker or public voice relaying system without obtaining permission from the authorities concerned.
The order was issued as per the rules laid out by the Ministry of environment, forest and climate change to control noise pollution.
"A loud speaker or a public address system shall not be used at night (between 10.00 pm to 6.00 am) except in closed premises for communication within...auditoria, conference rooms, community halls and banquet halls," the order added. The government has asked all users of loudspeakers to obtain written permission for the same, within the next 15 days.
The order has come at a time when several right-wing groups have been demanding a ban on the loudspeakers for Azan or the Muslim call for prayer.
Detailed Order on Sound Producing Instruments
The Karnataka government has quoted the Noise pollution (regulation and control) rules of 2000 and the government order dated 13 August 2022, while issuing the order. Citing a Supreme Court order, the circular also dictates that the noise level at the boundary of any public place, where loudspeaker or public address system or any other noise source is being used, should not exceed 10 decibels than the ambient noise standards for the area.
With regard to the commercial usage of loudspeakers, the order dictates that there should be no usage of sound producing instruments such as drums, trumpets or sound amplifiers between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am.
The sound produced by a privately owned sound system should not exceed by more than five decibels than the ambient air quality standard specified for the area in which it is used.
For vehicular noises, automobiles can use horns between 10 pm and 6 am in residential areas with an exception of circumstances.
Right-Wing Groups Demand Ban on Azan Loudspeakers
A few days earlier, Sri Ram Sene Chief Pramod Muthalik had held Suprabhatam (Hindu morning chant) sessions early in the morning in Mysuru, warning the Muslim community of consequences if they continue to use loudspeakers for Azan. Members of Sri Rama Sene also used loudspeakers to play Hanuman Chalisa and other devotional music at 5:30 am in the morning.
Defending their move, the Sene activists had said that they too will violate norms, as their fight was not against Azan in mosques, but against the use of loudspeakers.
Speaking to The Quint, Gangadhar Kulkarni of Sri Ram Sene said, "We have clarified on this matter. We used loudspeakers and other electronic devices as a protest. However, after the SC order, we have clearly stated that we are not going use loudspeakers or play Suprabhata, as we respect the government order".
"Our stand is clear. We will wait for 15 days. Let the government do its job. They issued a circular and we will see if they implement it properly. If not, we will be unrestrained in our agitation," added the activist from Sri Rama Sene.
Muslim Religious Leaders Intend Talk to Karnataka Government
The Karnataka government has based the circular on the Supreme Court order of 2005 that highlighted the need to control noise pollution.
Responding to the order passed by the Karnataka government, Maqsood Imran, a maulana at Jamia Masjid in Bengaluru's KR Market said, "Even before 1947, we have had a tradition of using loudspeakers five times a day. Now, a new order has been passed by the Karnataka government. But, we do not want to hurt anybody's sentiment."
Clarifying that the intention of minority Muslim community was to not trouble anybody, the religious leader also assured that they would come to a consensus on the issue by Friday, 13 May.
"The government has given us time for 15 days. We are allowed to perform Azan four times as of now. However, the order has been passed. So, all religious leaders of our community will come together to discuss the further course of action. Soon, we will talk with the government to address our concerns."Maulana Maqsood Imran, Jama Masjid
Politics Over Loudspeakers in Karnataka
With the Karnataka government issuing a circular regarding the use of loudspeakers and sound amplifiers, state Home Minister Araga Jnanendra said that its execution will be ensured and that if there should be an occurrence of any infringement, strict action would be taken.
Addressing the media, Home Minister Araga Jnanendra said, "The law will be enforced without discrimination, including churches, mosques and temples. The process of removing noise pollutants and unauthorized loudspeakers is going on in the entire state. If anyone breaks the law, then action will certainly be taken."
However, the government did not respond to the agitations from right-wing groups such as Sri Rama Sene.
Meanwhile, Congress leader BK Hariprasad ran into a controversy as he called Sri Ram Sene leaders terrorists. "They (Sri Rama Sene) are terrorists. They should be arrested under UAPA. These are fringe elements trying to cover-up for the failures of the government," said the opposition leader in the Legislative Council.
Earlier, UT Khader, another Congress leader, had expressed angst over the government not taking disciplinary action against those who were creating communal issues in the state.
"The government is silent for political gains. Besides, it wishes to deflect people's attention on real issues such as price rise and inflation," UT Khader had said in the Legislative Assembly.
UT Khader had also led a delegation to meet the Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai to request the government not to link the loudspeaker menace with any particular religion or community.
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