Decibels as a measure of faith

In a country where outward displays of religiosity pass for true faith, communal disputes are always loud. Even literally.

In a Muslim-majority UP village, loudspeakers have been installed atop mosques. How do the Hindus react to it? Instead of getting them removed from mosques, they put up loudspeakers on their temple! According to a report in The Times Of India (April 9), “A dispute over loudspeakers on the roof of a temple in a Bijnor village has now escalated with threats by Hindu residents to leave the village en masse if the devices were not allowed. In protest many of them have now put up notices on the door of their houses saying their property is for sale.”

Now Hindus leaving their native places in India is a serious issue. It happened in Kashmir in the early 1990s when lakhs of Pundits had to quit their own homes because of the jihadist menace. There have been reports of Hindus forced out of their villages in the areas bordering Bangladesh and even in Kairana in UP. But by threatening to leave the Bijnor village just because of their illegal demand is not accepted is the trivialization of the serious issue.

For it is illegal to make noise by way of loudspeakers; there is a ruling by the Supreme Court, though it is rarely implemented by the local authorities. In the Church of God (Full Gospel) in India Vs. K.K.R. Majestic Colony Welfare Association & Others (2000), the apex court said that “no religion prescribes or preaches that prayers are required to be performed through voice amplifiers or by beating of drums. In any case, if there is such practice, it should not adversely affect the rights of others including that of being not disturbed in their activities.”

The court went on to point out that “because of urbanization or industrialization the noise pollution may in some area of a city/town might be exceeding permissible limits prescribed under the rules, but that would not be a ground for permitting others to increase the same by beating of drums or by use of voice amplifiers, loudspeakers or by such other musical instruments…”

The TOI report quoted Naresh Saini, a resident of the village who has put up a ‘for sale’ notice. He said, “Of the 4,000 people in the village, 500 are Hindu. The temple is 400 years old. After the loudspeakers were removed in 2007, we have been using them inside the temple. The other community uses loudspeakers on top of their place of worship regularly.”

A stupider argument is difficult to find: if my neighbor causes some nuisance, I should also be allowed to do the same. The correct approach would be to reason with the neighbor and convince him to behave properly; if he doesn’t do that, the help from the authorities should be asked.

The problem with the Hindus, however, is that they—most of them, at any rate—have forgotten the essence of their faith; worse, they have started equating the ostentatious ceremonies and elaborate rituals with the kernel of Hinduism. The kernel comprises two cardinal concepts—karma and dharma; sacraments and rites, though an integral part of Hinduism, are the shell. The shell is shriveling, while the shell is getting gloss by the day. And often the gloss is garish, gaudy, and loud. As in the present instance, with some people confusing decibels with religiosity.