Ban loud­speak­ers from all places of wor­ship

Sound of the deci­bel level found in a dis­cotheque is not req­ui­site for prac­tice of faith.

The Sunday Guardian - - World -

Among the med­ley of sto­ries on na­tional tele­vi­sion was an item about a grave­yard for the Mus­lim com­mu­nity in Pan­jim, where loud­speak­ers have now been banned with the con­sent even of those us­ing them. The ar­gu­ment in favour of the ban got clinched when it was pointed out that “loud­speak­ers are used not in grave­yards, but in houses of wor­ship”. Such a view as­sumes that sound of the deci­bel level found in a dis­cotheque is a req­ui­site for the prac­tice of faith, when in fact the re­verse is true. The mag­ni­fi­ca­tion of sound as a con­se­quence of be­ing ex­pressed through a loud­speaker makes it more, rather than less dif­fi­cult to achieve the con­tem­pla­tive state that is most con­ducive to calm de­vo­tion. The rea­son why dis­cos are loud is be­cause they en­cour­age a mood of an­tic­i­pated plea­sure. Ex­cite­ment gets gen­er­ated through the high deci­bel mu­sic played within the room where danc­ing takes place. Surely it is not such a mood that is sought to get repli­cated in re­li­gious places, but the op­po­site. Of course, it is true that of­ten re­li­gious is­sues gen­er­ate heat and pas­sion that some­times lead to ar­gu­ments and even fights. How­ever, such emo­tions are not nat­u­ral to the spirit of gen­uine re­li­gious ex­pe­ri­ences, which are deep­est in an am­bi­ence con­ducive to con­tem­pla­tion. Which is an am­bi­ence from where loud­speaker noise has been ex­cluded. All loud­speaker noise. Some time ago, the Sa­ma­jwadi Party gov­ern­ment in Ut­tar Pradesh si­lenced loud­speak­ers in a tem­ple com­pound, while per­mit­ting the same in a nearby mosque. In like man­ner, the Tri­namool Congress regime in Kolkata had sought to down­scale Puja cel­e­bra­tions in some lo­ca­tions, “so as not to of­fend mi­nor­ity sen­ti­ments”. Aside from the Wah­habi fringe, it is ridicu­lous to as­sume that Mus­lims would ob­ject to the cel­e­bra­tion of a fes­ti­val as joy­ous as Durga Puja, and by mak­ing such an as­sump­tion, the Tri­namool Congress is con­tin­u­ing the pol­icy pur­sued by the Congress Party since Ma­hatma Gandhi gave sup­port to the 1919 Khi­lafat ag­i­ta­tion of the Ali broth­ers. This is to ig­nore the mod­er­ate ma­jor­ity of Mus­lims and treat only the ex­treme fringe as rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the world’s se­cond largest re­li­gious de­nom­i­na­tion. The em­pow­er­ment that suc­ces­sive na­tional gov­ern­ments in In­dia gave this fringe has re­sulted in the skew­ing of pol­icy to favour the fringe at the cost of the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity within the Mus­lim com­mu­nity. Such em­pow­er­ment of a few has, for gen­er­a­tions, cre­ated an im­passe in mat­ters such as a res­o­lu­tion of the Ayodhya, Mathura and Varanasi lega­cies. So long as these three left­over prob­lems from his­tory do not get reme­died, the dan­ger ex­ists of a poi­son­ing of in­ter-com­mu­nal re­la­tions in a way that goes against the in­ter­ests of both Mus­lims and Hin­dus.

Ma­hatma Gandhi en­tered on a pro­gramme of con­sis­tent accommodation of fringe el­e­ments in the Mus­lim com­mu­nity with the no­blest of in­ten­tions. He wanted a united coun­try and was op­posed to Par­ti­tion, see­ing in such an out­come, a moral and po­lit­i­cal de­feat. After the shock to Bri­tain of the 1914-19 war and af­ter­wards that caused by the 1939-45 war, there was zero doubt that the Bri­tish would soon hand over their sub­con­ti­nen­tal em­pire to its le­git­i­mate inhabitants. Free­dom be­came an out­come close at hand once the loy­alty of In­dian mem­bers of the armed forces to the Bri­tish Em­pire be­gan to dis­in­te­grate from 1945 on­wards in a se­ries of mu­tinies and de­ser­tions. The real task be­fore the Congress lead­er­ship was not the (by now in­evitable) se­cur­ing of free­dom, but the preser­va­tion of unity within the sub­con­ti­nent of In­dia. Who would pre­vail, Ma­hatma Gandhi and his ef­forts at unity, or M.A. Jin­nah and his bid to di­vide the coun­try?

Jin­nah won and Ma­hatma Gandhi lost, al­though in our his­tory books this is not seen as a de­feat, but as a nat­u­ral con­se­quence of the per­fidy of the Bri­tish. In re­al­ity, par­ti­tion was not in­evitable, ex­cept that Jin­nah se­ri­ally out­smarted the Congress lead­er­ship, trans­form­ing an ini­tially weak Mus­lim League hand into a win­ning one on the back of the nu­mer­ous mis­takes made by the Congress Party. These in­clude the res­ig­na­tion of its pro­vin­cial min­istries in 1939, the fu­tile ef­fort to “non-co­op­er­ate” with the war ef­fort and the as­sump­tion of moral equiv­a­lence be­tween the Axis and the Al­lied pow­ers. By back­ing the lat­ter dur­ing the war, Jin­nah ac­cu­mu­lated good­will among Bri­tish pol­i­cy­mak­ers suf­fi­cient to en­sure the fi­nal suc­cess of the “Di­vide & Quit” lobby. After the war, the Congress Party con­ceded equal rep­re­sen­ta­tion to the much smaller Mus­lim League in the pre-Independence gov­ern­ment, an ad­van­tage that was used by Jin­nah to sab­o­tage the func­tion­ing of the Congress-led gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing by en­sur­ing im­mu­nity for in­di­vid­u­als such as Sha­heed Suhrawardy, who let loose gangs in Ben­gal that ram­paged through a ter­ri­fied Hindu com­mu­nity. In tune with his na­ture, Ma­hatma Gandhi for­gave Suhrawardy and even took part in sev­eral joint ac­tiv­i­ties with the then Chief Min­is­ter of Ben­gal. The post-1919 def­er­ence of the Congress lead­er­ship to the es­ca­lat­ing de­mands of the Mus­lim League suc­ceeded not in keep­ing In­dia united, but in di­vid­ing the coun­try, just as a sim­i­lar def­er­ence to fringe el­e­ments since 1947 has re­sulted in a less than sat­is­fac­tory sit­u­a­tion con­cern­ing com­mu­nal re­la­tions in In­dia.

Chief Jus­tice of the Supreme Court Di­pak Misra is the au­thor of the SC edict that the na­tional an­them should get played be­fore any film gets screened in a the­atre. Pre­sum­ably, such an or­der in­creases the Pa­tri­o­tism Quo­tient within the film­goer pop­u­la­tion. Hope­fully, the CJI will now con­sider pass­ing an­other or­der, which is that loud­speak­ers get banned in all re­li­gious places of wor­ship in the coun­try. That would be a sig­nif­i­cant step to­wards en­sur­ing the con­tem­pla­tive at­mos­phere needed for the tran­quil­lity that is the core of faith.

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