#PrayBeQuiet: Cops are not just mute spectators, but flout noise norms themselves
VIRAT A SINGH | Wed, 19 Apr 2017-07:30am , Mumbai , DNASinger Sonu Nigam's controversial tweets on Monday questioning the need for mosques to use loudspeakers for azaan has once rekindled the debate on noise pollution norms being flouted at religious places or during religious processions. The police have not only been mute bystanders to such violations, but have even been guilty of violations themselves.
On Friday, the Bombay High Court is set to hear a contempt petition filed on noise pollution norms being violated last year during the annual Mahim Dargah festival held in a silence zone, when a procession traditionally begins from Mahim police station and is led by officers from the police station.
On December 13, 2016, activist Sumaira Abdulali took decibel level readings during the inaugural day of the 10-day festival in Mahim honouring Sufi saint Makhdoom Ali Mahimi. She found that noise levels were 117.3 dB, much higher than the 50 dB level permitted in any silence zone. There is a balwadi (pre-school for underpriviledged children) as well as a mosque near the police station.
The petition filed by the activist was admitted by the HC on April 12, and the first hearing will be held on Friday.
"This was not the first time that there was a violation. I have been taking these readings since 2010, and every year, locals file several complaints. Loudspeakers and brass bands are played, and all this takes place right inside the police station as well as outside of it. I had even complained to the cops present at the police station, but they all claim that this is 'tradition'," said Abdulali.
She added that when she showed the high decibel level readings to a policeman, he replied that since it was a traditional event and the balwadi next door was closed, the procession was allowed to continue.
After Abdulali and several other activists submitted affidavits in the HC about noise pollution rules being flouted in Mumbai, Thane and other places — despite clear court directives on loudspeakers being banned in silence zones — the court had asked the activists to file contempt petitions. Around five or six such petitions were filed, and were clubbed together by the court. These contempt petitions will be up for hearing on Friday.
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NATION, CURRENT AFFAIRSSonu Nigam stokes row over AzaanDECCAN CHRONICLE. | NEHA L.M. TRIPATHI
Published Apr 18, 2017, 4:00 am IST
Updated Apr 18, 2017, 6:56 am IST
Soon after his tweet, anti-noise pollution acti-vist Sumaira Abdulali shot off a letter to the various officers.
Sonu NigamMumbai: Singer Sonu Nigam on Monday took to Twitter complaining about noise pollution caused by Azaan (a call for daily prayers at stipulated times outside a mosque) near his house. He tweeted: “God bless everyone. I’m not a Muslim and I have to be woken up by the azaan in the morning. When will this forced religiousness end in India.” He even termed it as gundagardi.
Soon after his tweet, anti-noise pollution activist Sumaira Abdulali shot off a letter to the various officers including the state environment secretary, stating that noise pollution is not restricted to one religious place but all religious places. “While I do not support Mr Nigam’s comments as related to noise pollution from one single religion only. I want the government to enforce rules as per the HC orders,” Ms Abdulali said. “Police does not take action, stating that it is a sensitive issue," she added.
Tags: sonu nigam, azaan, sumaira abdulali
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Apr 18, 2017 at 19:45
An Anti-Noise Activist On Why We Can’t Dismiss Sonu Nigam’s Stand On Azaan Debate Entirely
by Safwat Zargar
News > Originals
New Delhi: Nobody knows the anatomy of protest, better than 55-year-old Mumbai-based activist Sumaira Abdulali. For more than a decade, Sumaira has been fighting something that is all-pervasive in India - noise.
But the subject of noise can be tricky if seen through the lens of a religious festivals and rituals. Something similar happened on Monday when famous Bollywood singer Sonu Nigam went on Twitter over his displeasure with Azaan (Muslim call to prayer) waking him up and the "forced religiousness."
God bless everyone. I'm not a Muslim and I have to be woken up by the Azaan in the morning. When will this forced religiousness end in India
— Sonu Nigam (@sonunigam) April 16, 2017And by the way Mohammed did not have electricity when he made Islam.. Why do I have to have this cacophony after Edison?
— Sonu Nigam (@sonunigam) April 17, 2017I don't believe in any temple or gurudwara using electricity To wake up people who don't follow the religion . Why then..? Honest? True?
— Sonu Nigam (@sonunigam) April 17, 2017Gundagardi hai bus...
— Sonu Nigam (@sonunigam) April 17, 2017Not unsurprisingly, Nigam started trending on Twitter after a crowd of divided netizenry began debating the merits and demerits of his tweet.
ScoopWhoop News spoke to award-winning anti-noise pollution campaigner Abdulali over phone to seek her understanding on the issue. She also shed light on what was wrong with Nigam's tweet, if not the message, he was intending to convey.
Excerpts from the conversation
SW: Sonu Nigam tweeted about his unhappiness for being woken up by the sound of Azaan in the morning? Why did it became a controversy?
SA: Actually, the issue is non-controversial. The language used by Nigam turned it into a controversy. Way back in 2005, Supreme Court ordered that religion is not a reason to violate noise rules. In August last year, Bombay High Court directed the Maharashtra government to curb noise pollution.
Sonu Nigam's message is not wrong. I support his message but not the way it was delivered.
SW: What's wrong with his communication? Did he fail to address it correctly?
SA: People look up to Bollywood celebrities as leaders. They have to lead by example. The example is: if you are facing a problem with noise, you go to police, make a complaint, follow up and stop the noise. That's the approach. He could have taken that attitude rather than using words which we were meant to make people upset. The whole discussion then goes in a different direction with people asking whether it's a religious or a communal issue. It's not. Noise is a health issue.
Representational Image | Source: PTI/File Photo Law has laid down norms for everybody and he should have conveyed it that way. It would have been absolutely clear.
SW: The singer received a lot of flak for his Tweet. Many said he was "selective" in targeting a community. How should have people approached the issue?
SA: Unfortunately, the tweet was worded in such a way that it called for these kind of responses. That's very unfortunate. We should all take it as a neutral issue and do everything to safeguard ourselves.
It's not that you can't have Azaan without loudspeaker. So many options are there. Perhaps, they haven't thought of that. I think everybody needs to cool down and take it in a very neutral fashion.
SW: Tell us about the noise scene in Mumbai? How bad is it?
SA: In Mumbai, Churches used to have mid-night masses. But now they stopped doing it and finish the mass by 10 in the night.
Representational Image | Source: ReutersDuring Hindu festivals, there used to be a lot of violations. But since the High Court last year order, there were attempts by the people to control noise levels. Muslim community also put up banners during the celebrations of Eid-Miladasking for lowering the decibels of noise. Compared to previous years, the noise was very less.
I am not saying all the noise vanished but there was considerable impact of the High court order.
According to law, you can't use loudspeaker during the night whether is it for Azaan or anything else. So as per the law, Muslims too have to abstain from using loudspeakers.
In Mumbai, I can say with confidence this has worked because there has been awareness and enforcement which have gone side by side and people have understood the message.
SW: Has there been a resistance to your campaign against noise pollution?
SA: Strangely enough, when I started campaigning against noise 10-15 years ago, there was resistance but people understood very quickly that what I was saying was not against them. Whenever there's a noise during festivals or events, I am standing alone with a meter and everybody knows what I am doing. But they are not attacking me. People often come to me and ask the reading and if it's affecting their health.
Representational Image | Source: Reuters/File Photo We are all in it together. So it doesn't matter whether I am a Hindu, or a Muslim or a Christain. It clearly doesn't matter. The point is it's a health issue. Rather than putting the burden on somebody else, we have to control our-self first. All of us. And make complaints about the other person as and when necessary.
SW: Many argue it's easier to criticize and raise objections against minorities while as the same yardstick is not applied to majority? Your view?
SA: I started this whole campaign with festival noise. Festival noise is the loudest and is much louder than Azaan. I can say this with confidence because I have measured both. The loudest Azaan I measured was 97 decibels, the loudest festival noise I measured was 120 dbs. But the noise which exceeded even the 140 dbs was of firecrackers. Since Bombay High Court's order last year, they have reduced.
So those are the scales we are dealing with and that's why I started with the festivals. But you can't say it's against the Muslim community alone, from my side, I have been measuring all sorts of noise in temples, churches, gurudwaras, airports, railway stations and roads. Noise is noise to me and I wish everyone will take it like that. (After Nigam's tweet on Monday, Abdulali sent a letter to the various top government officials arguing noise pollution is not restricted to any one particular religious place).
SW: You are a Muslim and as you said, you have raised concerns of noise pollution irrespective of any particular religion. Do people bring that up while you're campaigning?
SA: Many people have said many things, but again I don't take it to heart because I feel these are ways of getting out of it. It's not a religious issue. It's free world, they are entitled to their opinion.
Representational Image | Source: Reuters/File Photo People ultimately understand that whatever I am saying has nothing to do with religion. It's unfortunate that the religious aspect was put in the fore. We don't need to concentrate on religious aspect but public health and law.
SW: Why are you still litigating against noise pollution? You said the court has already passed the orders?
SA: Bombay High Court passed a final order in August last year. But people are still violating the noise norms. So I have filed a contempt petition and that is very interesting because it's against Mumbai police for violating the noise rules themselves.
It's a matter across the board. Everyone, including enforcement authority, wants an excuse to violate the rule while being very moralistic about somebody else violating the rule.
The hearing in the petition is on Friday.
TAGS: Mumbai, Azaan, muslims, Sonu Nigam, Tweet, Sumaira Abdulali, Noise pollution, Festivals, Bombay High Court,
MUMBAI Denial of permission for religious services ticks off Christians Jyoti Shelar
APRIL 12, 2017 00:21 IST
UPDATED: APRIL 12, 2017 07:19 IST
Christians take out a march on Palm Sunday in Matunga. Police take no chances because as per noise pollution rules, grounds attached to church-run schools fall in silent zones and hence no loudspeakers Mumbai: Christians in the city are miffed with the Mumbai Police for refusing them permission to gather for the Holy Week religious services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the following Saturday, to call in the Easter celebrations. Many churches who organise the services in open grounds, which are attached to church-run schools, fall in silent zones, and have thus been denied permission as the services will involve use of loudspeakers.
“Several churches in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai have informed us that they have not been given the written permission to hold the services. Some police stations have said that they will not give anything in writing and will only act if someone complains,” said Fr Nigel Barrett, spokesperson of Archdiocese of Bombay, adding that the police have cited the noise pollution rules. “But it is unfair because the schools will be on holiday.”
While smaller parishes hold the services within the church, larger parishes that have grounds attached prefer to have large gatherings with loudspeakers so that everyone can hear. “These large gatherings have over 2,000 people in attendance. How can one hear without a loudspeaker?” asked Godfrey Pimenta of Watchdog Foundation that has written to the police. “The rules only prohibit use of loudspeakers between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Our services get concluded well before 10 p.m. Therefore, there is no chance of any breach if we get the written permission.”
With the recent action by the Mumbai High Court pulling up government officials for their failure to implement the noise pollution rules, the police don’t want to take any chances. If the permissions don’t come by Wednesday, the churches have no choice but to shift the services indoors.
Sacred Heart Church in Vashi has already issued a statement for its parishioners. “More than 2,000 parishioners of Sacred Heart Church, Vashi, are likely to be scattered outside the church when they attend the prayer services during the Holy Week on Maundy (Holy) Thursday, Good Friday, and for the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening. This will be the inevitable but heart-breaking fallout of the refusal by the Navi Mumbai Police Commissionerate to grant permission to the church to conduct its observances at the quadrangle of Sacred Heart High School as has been the custom for the past 40 years,” read the statement, adding that the church can accommodate only about 600 people. Parish priest Fr Gerald Fernandes said, “The parishioners are sorely disappointed.”
According to Fr Ronald Tevar, assistant priest at St Pius X church in Mulund, they are considering going ahead with the services but with a controlled decibel level. “We have not been given permission by the Mulund police. But we are thinking of keeping the sound low and continuing with the event.”
Activist Sumaira Abdulali, who is the convener of Awaaz Foundation, said, “As per the recent High Court order, the decibel level in silent zones should not cross 50. But with the use of traditional loudspeakers, that is not possible. Therefore, one can opt for distributed sound systems for such gatherings to ensure the decibel level is within the permissible limit.”
Mumbai Police PRO Ashok Dudhe, however, refused the allegations made by the community members. “We had received some messages of permission being denied in a few churches. I personally called and checked the police stations and learnt that no one was denied permission.”
Awaaz Foundation's anti- noise pollution campaign has been covered extensively in the Press and media since 2003.