Controversy over installing loudspeaker at Naya Goan in Akbarpur Chendri village in Kanth town of Moradabad

For Bijay, the 47 years-old Dalit labourer, installing a loudspeaker in the village temple is not a “big deal” but a “right” of what he terms as Hindu minority living in the Nayagaon Akbarpur Chendri village in Kanth town of Moradabad.

Two weeks after the local administration removed a loudspeaker from the Shiva temple, the only temple in the village which has Muslims in majority and Dalit Jatav community constituting about 10 per cent of the total population, on Saturday the situation in the village and its vicinity is coming to a semblance of normalcy. There was heavy deployment of police and Section 144 of CRPC remained in force prohibiting any unlawful gathering.

But a random talk with its inhabitants leaves an impression that shadows of tension are not very far from the village.

Sitting on the temple premise, Bijay, a member of Jatav community, a Dalit sub-caste, refers to the big confrontation between the BJP workers and local police after the party's plan to organise a “Hindu Mahapanchayat” on the issue of removal of the loudspeaker. He praises the local BJP MP Kunwar Sarvesh Kumar Singh and other Hindu groups for standing up with the Dalit minority and the larger “Hindu” cause.

The idea of what would appear to many as a pretty mundane issue of a loudspeaker, remains at the centre of the controversy which has shot up the religious tempers of majority and minority communities in this sensitive region of Western Uttar Pradesh which has barely emerged from the deadly ravages of Muzaffarnagar riots which left many dead and thousands from the minority community displaced

But contrary to reports, the controversy did not start with the removal of the loudspeaker. Going by what the local SSP Dharmveer, it all originated when the local BJP MP forcibly installed the loudspeaker in the temple which never had a loudspeaker as a permanent feature.

“The loudspeaker was never a permanent feature of the temple. The tradition in the village has been that only on two occasions of Mahshivratri, and Janmashtmi, a loudspeaker gets used for bhajan and kirtan. The next morning the devotees themselves used to remove it, Mr. Dharmveer told The Hindu

The SSP argues that the local MP was trying to politicise and polarise the atmosphere ahead of the by-election in Thakurdwara, an Assembly segment of Moradabad which was earlier represented by the present MP himself.

“This region is very sensitive. When we got to know by some members of minority community that a loudspeaker has been forcibly installed on June 16 by the BJP MP, we got it removed,” he added. The SSP specifically mentions that among the crowd of thousands which clashed with the police on Friday no one belonged to Kanth or Moradabad. “All of them were outsiders. Even among the 62 people arrested by us and whom we presented before a judicial magistrate, no one belongs to this area but have been brought from Bijnor to disturb the social harmony,” adds Mr. Dharmveer.

But Mr. Bijay does not agree with the SSP and argues that the police administration was acting on behalf of a conspiracy of the UP Minister Azam Khan to put the Hindus irrespective of their separate identity of caste into submitting Muslim domination, a narrative which came into play during Muzaffarnagar riots.

Interestingly, a compromise was reached on July 3, just a day before the BJP's plan to hold the Mahapanchayat, between Anisurrahman, the local MLA and the BJP leaders like Mr. Singh, BJP MP from Sambhal Satyapal Saini, former MLA from the region Rajesh Kumar and others in which it was agreed that Muslim had no problem with installing a loudspeaker in the temple and it would be installed on August 3, next day of Eid.

The compromise was documented and signed by the people present there including the BJP leaders, says Anisurrahman, the Samajwadi Party MLA. But terms of the compromise were rejected by the BJP supporters and Mr. Singh called him to communicate that the loudspeaker should be installed the very day otherwise the compromise stood annulled, he adds.