Sure, let us talk about imposed religiosity

Noise pollution is a menace in India. The honking, the loudspeakers, the marriage drums and the constant noise of flowing traffic that starts early in the morning and continues late into the night. In principle any reasonable person would agree with Sonu Nigam and Suchitra Krishnamurthy that using loudspeakers for Azaan at unearthly hours is unacceptable.

Use of loudspeakers in public spaces should be strictly regulated at any time of the day. It is important to cultivate respect for quiet surroundings. Some countries like Australia wont allow flights to land in their major cities during night hours. A good uninterrupted sleep is vital for healthy functioning of mind and body.

Most people are in their third phase (delta phase) of their sleep at dawn. Unless the sound is too loud it is quite unlikely that a person in the third phase of sleep could be woken up by any noise coming from a distance. However if this sleep cycle is broken due to any reason then you cant blame the person for being edgy and annoyed throughout the day.

It is unlikely that Sonu Nigam or Suchitra Krishnamurthy live anywhere close to a mosque. Sonu Nigam posted a recording of Azaan he could hear from a distance in early hours of the morning. While this Azan may be loud enough to disturb those living in the vicinity of the mosque(mainly Muslims) it is nearly not loud enough to disturb anyone who lives at a distance especially someone who is in the delta phase of his sleep.

Half-celebs creeping out of the woodwork to oppose Azaan has less to do with a desire to seek quiet surroundings and more to do with the exponential rise of anti Muslim bigotry that is fast becoming a hallmark of Indian society since Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to power in 2014. This is evident because they are singling out Azaan as one source of discomfort that is worthy of their attention and condemnation.

They call it imposed religiosity. And I agree with them on a broader principle. Religion cannot be an excuse to invade someone’s personal space. Religion cannot be an excuse to cause discomfort to the masses.

Air quality Index (AQI) is used to measure the quality of the air. AQI in the range of 200-300 is considered very unhealthy. AQI in the range of 300-500 is considered hazardous and most countries would issue a public health warning much before the air quality breaches that mark. During the Diwali season parts of Delhi record an AQI of 500. This poisonous air invades everyone’s personal space regardless of their religious affiliation. There is reduced visibility on the roads due to heavy smog resulting in vehicle accidents. Thousands of people are hospitalized for burns due to firecrackers and there are hundreds of calls to the fire brigade to respond to Diwali related fires at properties. All this at taxpayers expense. Sure, let us talk about imposed religiosity.

In 2015 there were 197 crematoriums in Bombay. Only 11 out of 197 were electric crematoriums. All others use wood to cremate the dead. Most of these crematoriums are situated amidst densely populated areas. There has been no attempt or desire on the part of Hindus to  modernize these crematoriums. The smell of burning human flesh lingers in the area for hours depending on number of people cremated everyday. Sure, let us talk about imposed religiosity.

Every year millions of idols are immersed in the water systems of India as a part of Ganesh Utsav and Durga Puja rituals. A good number of these idols are made out of ‘Plaster of Paris’ which can takes years to dissolve in water. The idols are painted with chemicals that contain heavy metals like lead, iron, copper and mercury. These chemicals don’t dissolve at all and eventually end up in the soil that is used to grow crops and vegetables. Decline in quality of food affects every Indian irrespective of religious affiliation. Sure, let us talk about imposed religiosity.

People all across India light bonfire to celebrate the festival of Holi. This adds to the air pollution but more importantly it leads to increased deforestation. The colors used in Holi often contain toxic chemicals like copper sulfate and lead oxide. These chemicals again end up in water systems and eventually in the food we consume. Shopkeepers use large plastic sheets to protect their shops from dye based colors that ruin the shutters and signboard. Sure, let us talk about imposed religiosity .

Hundreds and thousands of cremations take place on the bank of river Ganges everyday. If the cremation does not burn the body completely, the remains are dumped into the river. Many poor families who cant afford cremations simply dump the body in the river. The bodies flow downstream creating a apocalyptic scene where decomposing bodies end up on the banks only to be eaten by dogs. River Ganges is a national asset and a country that claims to be secular should protect it from imposed religiosity.

Now let us come back to to the issue of noise. It is not uncommon during Hindu festivals to have huge loudspeakers playing very loud music late at night. Most of which has absolutely nothing to do with religion. Then there are Devi Jagran Jagrata or rhythmic chants that carry on throughout the night on loudspeakers mounted on the top of Hindu Temples.  Sure, let us talk about imposed religiosity.

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During major Hindu festivals, Pandals are installed blocking busy streets. Whole sections of the towns are closed down. There are hundreds of Yatras all across India where devotees block major roads and use public transport for free. Recently a Hindu guru was allowed to destroy a national asset like the Yamuna plains because he wanted to teach people the art of living. Hundreds and thousands of Crores of tax payers money is spent on organizing Hindu festivals all across India. Sure, let us talk about imposed religiosity.

It beggars belief that people who are hardly concerned about declining food quality, destruction of water ways, rising air pollution and disruption of normal life due to religious festivals would oppose Azaan merely because they want to make their surroundings more livable. The growing chorus against the Azaan led by half-celebs is not rooted in the desire to make India a better place for its inhabitants. They simply don’t want to be reminded of the fact that they share “their” country with Muslims. Azaan keeps reminding them of the Muslims around them.

Muslims can and Muslims should do away with Azaan on loudspeakers especially during hours that can disturb people’s sleep. And all right minded Hindus would agree that protecting the land and waterways of India is way more important than protecting aspects of their religion, tradition or culture.

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