A message of communal harmony, amplified through a Kerala mosque's loudspeaker

The death of Thattumparambil Kuttappan (left) was relayed to the community from the loudspeaker of Thattuparambu Juma Masjid near Muvattupuzha.

It will not be the muezzin's call to prayer alone that will be broadcast from the loudspeaker of the Thattuparambu Juma Masjid near Muvattupuzha.

Last April, in what can be seen as a revolutionary break from orthodox conventions, the Jamaat Committee unanimously decided to use the masjid's loudspeaker to relay the news of deaths in the area.

The first such death was announced by the imam of the mosque, Muhammad Faisal Baqavi, on midnight of June 13, and it was that of a Hindu: Thattumparambil Kuttappan.

Kuttappan (75) was the first to die in the area after the decision was taken.

The name of the deceased, his address, age and time of death were announced through the loudspeaker. The announcement was made three times so that no one missed out.

The mosque is in Paipra grama panchayat, in Paipra East Ward, five kilometres from Muvattupuzha town.

Jamaat president Abdul Kabeer was amused when Onmanorama gave him a call. "The Jamaat Committee did not take the decision thinking it was radical or revolutionary. We just thought it would be of great help to the neighbourhood if there was such a facility," said Kabeer, a teacher.

He seemed a bit taken aback by the interest shown by the media. "We had no inkling that this would be news," he said.

Nonetheless, Kabeer is aware that the decision is unique. He knows that no other Jamaat in Kerala has used a mosque under it for a secular purpose like announcing local deaths.

Still, he is not anticipating any backlash from within the community. He has not even thought of such a possibility. "We did not arrive at this decision after an intense debate among our community members. In fact, we did not feel any need to deliberate hard on the matter. Nor did anything happen in the panchayat that made us think along these lines. We just thought that it would be helpful for all of us living here. Nothing more," Kabeer said.

The Jamaat's decision might also seem unnecessary in an era of mobiles. "We know that people can get in touch with each other over phones and that tools like WhatsApp can spread messages faster than ever before," Kabeer said. "But we also realised that even this will be confined to groups, not to the whole people in the area," he said.

The loudspeaker can reach homes within a two-kilometre radius of the mosque, covering within its range wards like Paipra, Paipra East, Thattuparamba and Pezhakappilly. There are over 450 households in each of these wards. Meaning, the loudspeaker can convey the message to nearly 2,000 households.

"We also thought that this way we can also quickly mobilise local help for the grieving family," Kabeer said.

The deaths in the wards near the mosque will be announced by the mosque authorities on their own. But if there is a death in a place far away from the mosque, and if the family wants an announcement to be made, the members will have to approach the mosque and make a request. "This family would have relatives in our area. If they ask us for an announcement we will do it after verifying the authenticity of their request," Kabeer said.

Not just deaths, the imam or other senior functionaries of the mosque would make an announcement if there are other emergencies, too. "Say if there is an accident and there is a need for blood. An announcement will be made," Kabeer said.

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