Karnataka govt issues loudspeaker licences to over 10,000 mosques – Deccan Herald

Far from having mosques remove loudspeakers, the state government has issued licences to at least 10,889 of them to use sound equipment for Azaan – the Islamic call to prayer.
The handing out of licences comes despite a shrill campaign by the right-wing outfits demanding a ban on loudspeakers earlier this year, prompting a leader from the SDPI to note that the entire episode done for “polarisation” had ended up affecting temples as well.
Each licence, issued by the police, costs Rs 450 and more than 10,000 mosques are among 17,850 establishments that have been given licences with a 2-year validity to use loudspeakers.  
The highest number of loudspeaker licences is in Bengaluru at 1,841, which includes mosques, temples, churches and even restaurants, according to home department data analysed by DH. Vijayapura has the highest number of mosques with loudspeaker licences at 744. 
Earlier this year, Karnataka along with other states was roiled by protests over the use of loudspeakers at mosques. Right-wing outfits such as Bajrang Dal accused mosques of violating the Supreme Court’s directive that loudspeakers should not be used before 6 am. To counter Azaan, Hindu groups launched a campaign to play Hanuman Chalisa loudly outside temples. 
Under pressure, the BJP government, in May this year, issued a circular and asked all loudspeaker users to obtain written permission. A committee was constituted to issue licences.
BJP national general secretary CT Ravi said the government authorising mosques to use loudspeakers was not a failure of the right-wing campaign against Azaan.
“All we said was that the rule has to be followed,” he said, adding that the Supreme Court had issued directions on the use of loudspeakers. “Even if the licence is given, what’s the decibel level? We want these things to be enforced.”
The noise level at the boundary of a public place where a loudspeaker is being used should not exceed 10 decibels above the ambient noise standards for the area or 75 decibels, whichever is lower, the May circular said.
BJP MLC N Ravi Kumar pointed out that the government had issued licences without discrimination. “But, are the prescribed sound levels being followed? I don’t think so,” he said, adding that loudspeakers affect students and patients in hospitals. “I will raise the issue of compliance at the winter session of the legislature.” 
The use of loudspeakers between 10 pm and 6 am, except during public emergencies, is banned. Between 10 pm and 6 am, loudspeakers can be used only in closed premises such as auditoria, conference rooms, community halls and banquet halls, the circular said.
“The anti-Azaan campaign was meant for political polarisation. It was unnecessary,” SDPI state president Abdul Majeed said. “They tried to target one community, but everyone was affected. Even temples had to apply for licences.”
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