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Hanuman Chalisa row: Erosion of an idea in Maharashtra

People were undoubtedly surprised when -- while hurting the soul of Balasaheb -- reading of Hanuman Chalisa became treason in Maharashtra, says BJP leader Prem Shukla

Column Hanuman Chalisa row: Erosion of an idea in Maharashtra
Mumbai, First Published May 1, 2022, 5:09 PM IST

During Ram Navami, processions after processions were attacked with similar tactics and strategies at various places across the country. Further, an organised syndicate was in the fray to vilify Hindus, from the road to Parliament to the media. There seemed to be a competition to show their allegiance favouring the attackers till the court. However, now Maharashtra deems to remain the laboratory of the secular model.

It is not as if there was not a secular syndicate in Maharashtra before -- in fact, it was more cruel, violent and ruthless. 

Yet, in Maharashtra, there used to be the voice of Balasaheb, a just, fearless and protective shield. With great reverence, he was called the Hindu Hriday-Samrat, and his image was assimilated with great respect throughout the country. He advocated Hindu philosophy and beliefs but was not opposed to any particular religion. 

He was an instant doom for the traitors of a pro-Pakistan country, those who influenced the Cine world. When the air of Mumbai was turning poisonous under the influence of D (Dawood Ibrahim) company's hooliganism and similar elements, this great 'avatar-like' man provided a shield to the broken morale of 'Marathi Manus', and the peace-loving people in miniature India called Mumbai. 

Today, the Shiv Sena government, which claims Balasaheb's legacy, has brought the reading of Hanuman Chalisa into the category of sedition. How much erosion of an idea can be felt in Maharashtra today? Balasaheb, too, would feel extremely sad to see such a scene today.

No one was surprised at the stone pelting led by Congress councillor Matlub Hasan on the Shobha Yatra of Varsha Pratipada in Karauli, Congress-ruled Rajasthan. When Rajasthan Chief minister Ashok Gehlot was found making rhetoric supporting stone pelters, no one was surprised. Everyone was comfortable with the silent consent of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on the Ram Navami procession attack in West Bengal. If the government of Hemant Soren gives protection to stone pelters in Jharkhand, everyone will see this development as normal. If Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal raises his voice against the Bangladeshis and Rohingyas, it would be devastating for him, as his policies and intentions are pro-appeasement for the Muslim vote bank. 

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi was inaugurating a 108-foot statue in Gujrat on the morning of Hanuman's birth anniversary, the communal polarisation of Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi was not unexpected, nor did anyone seem to be astonished at the opposition's pitch in unison. However, people were undoubtedly surprised when -- while hurting the soul of Balasaheb -- reading of Hanuman Chalisa became treason.

In the last fortnight, the voice raised against loudspeakers and Azaan at mosques in Maharashtra. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena President Raj Thackeray opposed pollution from loudspeakers. He further warned that his party would recite Hanuman Chalisa openly using loudspeakers if the same were not removed from mosques. 

Raj Thackeray's supporters also recited Hanuman Chalisa by putting up loudspeakers at some MNS offices. A case was registered against MNS workers in Mumbai's Ghatkopar West on the second day. The police, who could not register a case on any ear-troubling Azaan even after 16 years of the order of the then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court RC Lahoti on noise pollution in October 2005, suddenly revealed the knowledge of the law on the recitation of Hanuman Chalisa on the very first day.

Apart from MNS, some more people have also become active. BJP leader Mohit Kamboj announced that he would distribute loudspeakers for temples for free. Although Kamboj put a condition that the temple manager would have to follow the Supreme Court's standards of noise pollution while installing the loudspeakers, yet there were glares from the ruling Shiv Sena. 

Amravati's independent MP Navneet Kaur Rana also organised a public recitation of Hanuman Chalisa. It is known that Navneet Rana had previous animosity with Shiv Sena. She has accused Shiv Sena MP and former Union Minister Arvind Sawant of threatening her within Parliament premises. Shiv Sena took this move of Navneet Rana as a challenge upon itself. There was a period of rhetoric from both sides. Then Navneet Rana and her MLA husband Ravi Rana stood outside Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray's ancestral residence 'Matoshree' and challenged him to chant the Hanuman Chalisa. This certainly aggrieved Shiv Sena's controllers.

Shiv Sena felt threatened much more than how Raj Thackeray showcased his Hindutva stance in the last fortnight. While they were still searching for a way to deal with the imminent danger of ruling in Mumbai, they also faced challenges from Vidarbha. Firstly, Shiv Sainiks were assembled outside 'Matoshree'. One needs to remember that in the last two decades, whenever Shiv Sainiks have been ordered to mobilise, it has been under the orders of Uddhav Thackeray. 

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, being the Shiv Sena party chief, ordered hundreds of Shiv Sainiks first to gather outside 'Matoshree'. Then a contingent left for Navneet Rana's residence in Khar West locality. The police already surrounded Navneet Rana's house. After a while, Aditya Thackeray's cousin, Varun Sardesai, also reached there to lead the Shiv Sainiks. 

The indication was clear that the Thackeray family was extremely furious at the Hanuman Chalisa challenge. At 2:30 PM, Navneet Rana announced that she would not go to recite Hanuman Chalisa outside 'Matoshree' as the purpose of her challenge had been served. 

The Rana couple also postponed their decision to maintain peace ahead of the Prime Minister's visit. Meanwhile, Shiv Sena's chief spokesperson Sanjay Raut threatened to bury Navneet Rana 20 feet under the ground. Abusive slogans were being continuously raised outside Navneet's house. Bottles were thrown at their home. An attempt was made to break the door down.
Indecent slogans are raised by Shiv Sainiks outside 'Matoshree' as well. Just a day earlier, a swarm near 'Matoshree' carried out a deadly attack on BJP leader Mohit Kamboj with the intention of mob lynching. In the eyes of the Shiv Sainiks, it was a serious crime on Kamboj's behalf to distribute loudspeakers to temples. Besides this, there is no known reason for the enmity of Kamboj with Shiv Sena. 

The same evening, a meeting of BJP MLA Tamil Selvan was attacked at the Antop Hill locality. Tamil Selvan was addressing a 'Pol-Khol' meeting on the rampant corruption in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. Shiv Sainiks attacked the 'Pol-Khol' meeting of BJP MLA Amit Satam in Girgaum. When Shiv Sainiks were terrorising all over Mumbai, the police were giving them cover. Instead of saving innocents, the violent mob had the boon of the police. 

Even after 24 hours, no FIR was registered against the attacks on Tamil Selvan, Amit Satam or Mohit Kamboj.

When Leader of the Opposition Devendra Fadnavis became aggressive, a formal FIR was registered. Hundreds of Shiv Sainiks gathered in Bandra East and West without permission. They raised violent slogans, yet no action was taken against them. 

On the contrary, on a complaint by Varun Sardesai, MP Navneet Rana and MLA Ravi Rana were arrested by the police. Not only this, a case of sedition was filed against them. They (Navneet and Ravi Rana) did nothing but throw a challenge for a Hanuman Chalisa recital. Yet this is considered treason.

This controversy began with Raj Thackeray's protest against giving Azaan through the loudspeaker. Then Mohit Kamboj and Navneet Rana landed in it. Is the issue of Azaan through loudspeakers being raised for the first time? If the party of Sharad Pawar or Sonia Gandhi explodes on the anti-Azaan statement, it is understandable. But what if the party of the son and grandson of Hindu Hriday-Samrat are victims of secularism on this issue? 

Late Shiv Sena Chief Balasaheb Thackeray first raised the issue of Azaan on October 8, 1994, through a loudspeaker from Shivaji Park. He had warned the then Sharad Pawar government to take down the loudspeakers installed on the mosques, citing a decision of the Kolkata High Court. In that speech, he had also talked about holding the Maha Aarti on the road in protest against the 'namaz' on the road. 

In February 1993, such a Maha Aarti was organised by the Shiv Sena in Dadar. Uddhav Thackeray himself was present along with Manohar Joshi and Raj Thackeray in that Maha Aarti. Then, along with Balasaheb Thackeray, Raj Thackeray and Uddhav Thackeray used to openly oppose Sharad Pawar on the issue of Azaan from loudspeakers and Namaz on the road. 

Sharad Pawar was then called 'Suryaji Misal' (person who betrayed Chhatrapati Shivaji) in (Sena mouthpiece) 'Saamana'. Twenty-eight years ago, if it was freedom of expression to call Sharad Pawar' Suryaji Pisal' over Muslim appeasement, then today, a title should be given to those whose faith is being hurt by listening to Hanuman Chalisa. 

Hindu beliefs and ways of life have not been and will not be destroyed by countless oppressions. Whenever people came forward as the protector of these beliefs, people made them the object of deep reverence. At the same time, people have drowned those with the same readiness who became the barriers to these beliefs and the shields of destroyers.

The author is the national spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Views expressed are solely of the author

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