At 5:30 AM on Monday morning, singer Sonu Nigam was woken up by the sound of Azaan (call to prayer from mosques). The cranky, sleep deprived man pushed a tweet right away: “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.”
Full sympathies for the singer. No one deserves to be woken up by noise in the middle of their sleep. That’s a crime against humanity. In a world full of negativity and hostility, sound sleep remains our only chance at sanity. No religion can be above our right to a good night’s sleep and our peace of mind.
On Twitter, the matter has escalated to such an extent that filmmaker and a right-wing cheerleader Vivek Agnihotri joined the party with Nigam and gave a call to the Maharashtra government to ban loudspeakers relaying Azaan.
Clearly, Nigam has touched a few raw nerves and struck a few right chords with people with his apparent divisive tweet. He followed it up with a series of more explosive tweets calling out the religious “goondagardi”.
One could easily counter Nigam’s argument by highlighting how Muslims also suffer the after-effects of Hindu religious festivities. Someone made a very smart point about Diwali on Twitter: “I am not a Hindu, why should I endure Diwali induced pollution.” Another questioned if the singer and other proponents of the ban on loudspeaker have a problem with the religious fervor and noise during Ganesh Chaturthi.
To be honest, Jagrans, and Mata ki Chowkis can be extremely painful. Given a choice, I would prefer to be woken up by Azaan any given day over the ordeal of listening to the cracked voices of neighbourhood aunties and uncles giving each other competition in bad singing.
(Interestingly, Sonu Nigam has been a Mata ki Chowki enthusiast all his life)
The problem with the duel of binaries is that it’s a never-ending cycle. If we want to debate for the sake of debating, of course, we can take a dive in the Hindus vs Muslim communal filth we have gotten used to navigating through on a daily basis.
Sadly, our judgement is mostly shaped by our presumptions about another person. How do we know if Nigam’s views are driven by an innate hatred or disliking for a particular religion or is it originating from genuine inconvenience? We do not know the real motive behind Nigam’s tweets. We do not know if he is in the race for a Rajya Sabha ticket from a right-wing government. We do not know if he aspires to become the next Anupam Kher of the industry. If we are not sure about any of these facts how can we tag him as a bigot, or a sycophant? And even if his tweet was driven by any ulterior motive how, it was definitely not communal in nature.
I found an interesting tweet to buttress my point.
To be fair to Nigam, he did say that he is against relaying of ANY religion through loudspeakers.
How can we as a society claim to be secular if sinister motives are attached to a simple logical criticism of a religious practice? Why do so many people see a provocation in something seemingly as innocuous as a citizen expressing his grievances? How are those calling for boycott of Nigam any different from the right-wing brigade’s misplaced anger against Aamir Khan and his films?
At the cost of sounding politically incorrect and communal, Nigam has certainly sparked off an important debate on the use of loudspeakers to relay religion. It’s just not about a sound sleep. The use of loudspeakers is at the very foundation of religious conflicts.
Here are a few examples to prove my point:
On the contrary, if he is indeed a hardcore saffronite, the outrage has helped him achieve what he wanted.
Coming back to the Jagrans, Kirtans, and Azaan – clearly, there is no problem with any of these. But the problem creeps in when they are amplified into our drawing rooms and bedrooms without our permission and much to our inconvenience. All the talk about multiculturalism and secularism is futile if we as individuals cannot stand up for our right to private space and freedom.