Maharashtra’s ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi and opposition Bharatiya Janata Party were on Monday again in a confrontation – this time over ‘Azaan’ and ‘Maha-Aarti’.
Shiv Sena’s South Mumbai Vibhag President Pandurang Sakpal suddenly professed his admiration for the Muslim call of prayer, ‘Azaan’ and even announced that there should be a ‘Azaan Recitation Competition’, on the lines of the ‘Bhagwat Gita Competitions’ held frequently.
He informed media that he had suggested to a Mumbai-based NGO, My Foundation to consider such an ‘Azaan’ competition to encourage Muslim children to recite the Muslim call of prayer which is given out by the muezzins from mosques daily.
“I live next to the Bada Kabrastan at Marine Lines… I get to hear the ‘Azaan’ daily and I find it very amazing and pleasing. Whoever hears it once, eagerly awaits the next round of ‘Azaan’. This gave me an idea to organise the competition,” Sakpal said.
He said that the ‘Azaan’ last barely 5 minutes, it is as important as a ‘Maha-Aarti’, symbolising peace and love and castigated attempts to give it a communal colour.
Even as the BJP slammed the move, he made it clear that its not being organized by the Shiv Sena, but by an NGO in south Mumbai.
BJP leader Atul Bhatkalkar wondered why the Shiv Sena founded by the late Bal Thackeray was so keen on such a thing, especially since it had always opposed Muslim ‘namaaz’ on roads, etc in the past.
“The same Shiv Sena in past campaigned for votes saying voting for Congress was akin to voting for ‘terror’ or ‘Kasab’. Its not a question of opposing ‘Azaan’, but of religious politics,” he alleged.
However, Sakpal found support from the ruling allies Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress who welcomed the move for an ‘Azaan’ competition for Muslim kids.
“Such competitions are already being organized for ‘Bhagwad Gita’ in Maharashtra and other parts in which Muslim girls have won top prizes. What’s wrong with an ‘Azaan’ competition,” NCP national spokesperson Nawab Malik said.
He attacked the BJP for attempting to view arts and culture with its “Hindutva brand of spectacles”, and pointed out how Bollywood actors like Dilip Kumar, Shah Rukh Khan or Salman Khan have portrayed religious roles or temple scenes with remarkable excellence and professionalism.
Welcoming the initiative, Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant rued that “those who have hatred in their hearts can never comprehend the beauty of conversation between man and God”.
“This is a good start and must be encouraged given the current divisive atmosphere created in the country by the BJP to divide the people on religious lines,” Sawant said.
Sakpal said that even Muslim children recite the ‘Azaan’ with grace and such a competition would provide a platform to bring out the hidden talents among them, based on the pronunciation, voice modulation, recitation and the overall effect of the ‘Azaan’ rendition.
The ‘Azaan Recitation Competition’ maybe the first of its kind in the country and he anticipated a good response for it, even promising to bear the cost of the prizes.