Why Did Delhi Cops Halt the Azan When There’s No Ban On It?


Why Did Delhi Cops Halt the Azan When There’s No Ban On It?

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

The holy month of Ramzan begins today, as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic. In India, with a nationwide lockdown in effect, religious gatherings are not permitted, which means those fasting will not be able to offer prayers in mosques. Even as Muslims in the country have decided to abide by the social-distancing norms, in Delhi, matters took a controversial turn when two police officers halted even the playing of azan (the Muslim call to pray), saying that Delhi’s Lieutenant-Governor had issued orders forbidding it.

The coronavirus lockdown has seen a fresh spotlight being cast on the underlying anti-Muslim prejudice in some Indians, with even Prime Minister Narendra Modi having to put out a call saying the coronavirus does not distinguish victims on the basis of faith. The embarrassment of Indian nationals in Gulf countries being called out for their bigoted posts on social media and the dangerous communalisation of the pandemic in the wake of the Tablighi Jamaat gathering in Delhi has brought hard times for the minority in the country. In this context, police officers stopping even the playing of azan when no individuals were gathering can be seen as troubling. After the video went viral, there was swift backlash on social media, which led to Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia issuing a clarification that while the ban on religious gatherings remained in effect, there was no prohibition on the playing of azan.

Around the same time that Deputy CM Sisodia was issuing his clarification, the Delhi Police put out a statement of their own. Therein, they requested that everyone observing the holy month of Ramzan offer namaz and break their fast while remaining indoors and respecting the rules of the lockdown. The Delhi Police also confirmed that azan could be played, in accordance with the guidelines of the National Green Tribunal.

The video went viral last night, but in the space of less than a day has led to much confusion. It has required the Deputy CM and police force to step in to clear citizen’s doubts. In a report published by The Quint on the incident, Delhi Police PRO Anil Mittal is quoted as saying “These cops are being identified and an official DCP-level inquiry has been launched into the matter.”

It might sound absurd, but it’s just another day of police overreach in India in the times of corona.