On 1st May 2022, the foundation day of the Maharashtra state, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray addressed a public meeting at Aurangabad in Maharashtra. Raj Thackeray had declared this public meeting after he warned the government of Maharashtra to take down the loudspeakers on the mosques before 3rd May 2022, falling to which, he said that, his party workers would play Hanuman Chalisa on speakers in front of mosques with a volume double that of the Azaan.
Recalling the Hindu history of Maharashtra
Raj Thackeray started his speech with his well-known ‘salutation to all the Hindu brothers, sisters and mothers’. At the very beginning of his speech, he took his critics head-on. He said, “This is not about just Sambhaji Nagar (Aurangabad). All my next public meetings will be lined up in the Marathwada region. Then I will go to Vidarbha. I will also address the public meetings in Konkan, Khandesh, and western Maharashtra region.”
Raj Thackeray said, “Khadki is the original name of Sambhaji Nagar. Both our capitals are from here. One was Devgiri (of Yadavas) and the other is very near here, Paithan (of Satavahanas). We must not forget our history. I repeat what I had said earlier. The people who forget their history don’t have any geography left.”
At this juncture, there was some ruckus in the public meeting. Looking at this, Raj Thackeray said, “If someone does anything unsolicited, beat him at the very place. This is an MNS rally. If someone tries to disturb us, we will make a tripod of him.” Citing that the defeat of Devgiri was an inside job and that Alauddin Khilji secured the victory with an army much smaller army than one lakh as it was rumored, Raj Thackeray said that ‘one lakh army of Khilji’ was the first fake news in Maharashtra. He later praised Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, and gave a brief account of the great Maratha empire that went on to win Attak which is now in Pakistan near Peshawar. Citing Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar he said that the day a ghost called Shivaji grabs our minds, we will win the world.
Criticism of contemporary caste politics by NCP
Raj Thackeray said, “What kind of politics is going on here? Maharashtra gave certain thoughts to the nation. We gave socialism, we helped Buddhism to spread, communists were also here and Hindutva too. And political leaders use abusive language. Are we going to put this ideal before our kids? Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party stirred poison in people’s minds for the sake of his electoral benefits. This venom is injected into the kids going to school and college.”
He further said, “Sharad Pawar is an atheist. His photos while praying to gods and doing puja rituals were made viral after my speech. Don’t do drama, don’t act. Your own daughter said in parliament that her father is an atheist. Sharad Pawar asked me to read books by my grandfather Prabodhankar Keshav Seetaram Thackeray. I have read him thoroughly. But all Sharad Pawar does is cherry-pick. Sharad Pawar quotes my grandfather only when his quotes suit the caste politics of Sharad Pawar. My grandfather was a Hindu. He was not against Dharma but he was for social reforms needed in those days in Dharma. His writings have the contexts of those times.”
Slamming NCP and its caste politics, Raj Thackeray said, “These NCP people divided Maharashtra in caste politics over a book written by James Lane about Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. They (NCP people) say that the British writer wrote false and derogatory things about respected Shivaji Maharaj and it was Shiv Shahir Babasaheb Purandare, a Brahmin, who gave such information to that writer. Sharad Pawar was in power for so many years. He was a union minister. Why didn’t he drag that writer to India? Why didn’t he ask him? Here is India Today’s interview of that writer James Lane. In this interview, he clearly said that Babasaheb Puranadare did not provide me with any information and I never talked to him. I have written stories that I knew from various other sources. I did not write history.”
Raj Thackeray further asked Sharad Pawar, “Why did you set Brahmins and Marathas in the state on a fight? Was Ramdas Swami Shivaji Maharaj’s guru or was it Saint Tukaram is not an issue. All of them were great. But are we going to see them with a caste lens? Will Ramdas Swami be seen as a Brahmin? Will Lokmanya Tilak who built Shivaji Maharaj’s Samadhi be seen as a Brahmin while the name of his first newspaper was Maratha? This caste politics will not be tolerated in Maharashtra anymore.”
Raj Thackeray also said that the recent public meetings of NCP are seen by people. “People of Maharashtra know what that Amol Mitkari has said about our Dharma. Even NCP president Sharad Pawar used to mention that this is Maharashtra is of Shahu-Phule-Ambedkar. Yes, I too say that it is their Maharashtra, but before them, it is of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. It seems that Sharad Pawar has an allergy to the word Hindu. It is only after my criticism that the NCP people are putting an idol of Shivaji Maharaj on their stage. Before that, they didn’t even put a picture of him on stage. They just take his name to mislead our Maratha brothers and sisters.”
Loudspeakers and Hanuman Chalisa
When MNS workers in the audience urged him for speaking about loudspeakers and Hanuman Chalisa, he said, “Yes, I am coming to that point. It is not now that I am speaking on this issue. I have spoken about it much earlier. Many others have talked about it too. All I have done is I gave an alternate solution to the problem. I don’t want riots in Maharashtra. I have neither intention nor any urge to disturb the harmonious nature of our state Maharashtra. But, if Uttar Pradesh can remove the loudspeakers, so can Maharashtra. Whatever you want to recite, do it inside your mosques. I repeat, the loudspeaker is a social issue, not a religious one. But, if you give a religious turn to this issue, we will have to answer it by our Dharma only. Don’t force us to take a harsh stand when we are actually not willing to take one.”
He further said, “All the loudspeakers are illegal. That machine needs permission from the local police station which none of the mosques has taken. Here, in Sambhaji Nagar, there are 600 mosques. All have loudspeakers. So is it an Azaan concert here? And so is the thing with the country. This is everywhere. Why should we suffer every time? You offer Namaz on the streets. Who gave you this right? I humbly request the government and the administration. Today is 1st May. Tomorrow is 2nd May. The day after that is the 3rd of May and Eid. I have nothing to do with their festival. I don’t want to disturb the festival. But I will not listen to you from the 4th of May. I request all Hindus, put on Hanuman Chalisa on speakers with double the volume of Azaan right in front of mosques. Loudspeaker doesn’t even fit into your religion.”
Somebody signaled him that Azaan may soon start in a nearby mosque. At that time Raj Thackeray said, “I request the police of Sambhaji Nagar, wherever it is starting, turn it off right now. And if they don’t listen to the things told in a rightful manner, then I even don’t know what will be its consequences. Whosoever is the police officer, I request him to immediately switch off that loudspeaker. And if they don’t understand my requests, then let the things happen in whatever way they could take place. None of us should keep quiet. Wed will show them the power in the arms of Maharashtra. I request all Hindus in the country. Don’t give it a second thought. Pull these loudspeakers down. Pull the loudspeakers from all the religious places down. Yes, we will take down the loudspeakers from temples too, but only after taking them off from all these mosques. It is now or never. If these people don’t stop, take permission from police and start Hanuman Chalisa and solve this social issue for once and all.”
Significance of the venue chosen by Raj Thackeray
It is notable that the public meeting organized amidst the ongoing Azaan row in Maharashtra was held at the Marathwada Sanskrutik Mandal’s ground in Aurangabad where Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray had held such huge public meetings in the past. He had held a thanksgiving public meeting here after the people of Aurangabad voted Shiv Sena to power in the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation which was newly formed then. Balasaheb Thackeray had thanked the public with a ‘Sashtang Namaskar’ on the stage. Therefore, Hindus in Aurangabad have a special connection with this ground.
The ground has been a center for many Hindu-centric incidents in the political history of the city which is considered to be the tourism capital of the state and the main city driving the Marathwada region. The ground is just in front of the Khadakeshwar Mahadev temple which is the Gram Daivat of Khadki, that is, Aurangabad. Gulmandi in Aurangabad holds the same importance for Shiv Sena as Dadar does in Mumbai. Raj Thackeray’s public meeting place is not so far from this area.
Local MNS workers presented idols of Lord Shri Ram to Raj Thackeray. But, at the same time, Raj Thackeray did not forget to display that despite taking up the Hindutva issue, he has not forgotten his pro-Marathi agenda. In this public meeting, a poster of a film based on the life of Maharashtra Shahir Krushnarao Sable. The film will be directed by well-known Marathi film director Kedar Shinde and Marathi actor Ankush Choudhari will play the role of Shahir Sable. Shahir Sable is known as one of the important Marathi folk poets who triggered the United Maharashtra movement in 1956.