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Every Indian language is a great one

By Tarun Vijay
Last updated on: November 10, 2009 17:43 IST
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Tarun Vijay on what the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena's show of power in the state assembly on Monday means for India.

If anybody wants to know why a handful of Britishers could rule us for so many years, they must study Raj Thackeray's ascendancy.

He is just not an enemy to the grand Maratha culture, but an anti-pan Indian vision who has given credibility to a politics promoted by hate and communal strife.

Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi must thank Raj profusely for enabling him to enjoy the support of the state's gullible Hindi-speaking people who think here is a man in Maharashtra who stood for their language.

What an irony, and what a joke!

Those MLAs who roughed up Azmi in the Maharashtra assembly on Monday and have been suspended from the legislature for four years have shown no remorse. On the contrary, the MNS has conveyed that it will be more aggressive in the future. I am sure these suspended MLAs will be accorded a hero's welcome in many pockets of Maharashtra where they will wear the halo of martyrs.

All four MNS legislators won from erstwhile Shiv Sena strongholds. It shows that the emphasis on raising the volume and playing the 'victim' card riding on sectarian issues helps small regional parties in an atmosphere where the major players are unable to attract people's support on larger issues.

When one national player, the Congress party, began helping Raj to take on its arch rivals in Maharashtra, the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party, it was playing a dangerous game like it did in the late 1970s and mid-1980s when it promoted Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and placated Muslim extremists respectively.

Such steps may help momentarily, but in the long run they prove acidic for the nation's social fabric and damage the party playing with such fire.

I firmly believe that those who make a living in Maharashtra -- or for that matter in any other state and have their home there -- must not feel hesitant to learn, speak and be proud of Marathi or the local language. It will be an act of arrogance to say that one Indian language is superior to the other.

We accepted English quite meekly, that was pushed down our throats by British colonisers with an unmistakable contempt for Indian languages. Read Macaulay's infamous statement about it.

But we refuse to learn Marathi, the language that Shivaji used in Maharashtra, or Tamil in Tamil Nadu. Is that a sign of patriotism?

My take is we must try to learn as many Indian languages as possible. So why not learn Marathi even if we don't belong to Maharashtra and don't earn a living there? But it has to be through love, calm and educative persuasion, showing equal respect for the others's language preferences. Guns brings more guns in opposition and hate begets hate.

Every Indian language is a great one. Like our cousins, it is one of us. Why should we have to complain about its forced usage or suffocate having someone pushing it down our throats?

I think the best that an Amitabh Bachchan or a Shah Rukh Khan could do is to pronounce from their roof tops that 'Me Marathi Ahes (I am a a Marathi)'.

Being a Marathi doesn't conflict with being a good Indian. But not at gun point surely.

I have worked in Maharashtra, learnt Marathi and love to speak as much as I can to my Marathi friends. My 'Me Marathi' sentiment is borne out of my respect and affection for this great language and culture and not because someone is breathing down my neck to say so.

Where Raj fails India is the point of expressing his respect and devotion to Mother India's Language Parivar.

He is putting the idea of pan nationalism and a vision that encompasses the entire length and breadth of the country under one entity, Mother India, in conflict with local identities, helping fissiparous tendencies from Bihar to the north-east, from Punjab to down south.

This tendency has a fatal attraction for many and at a time when localisation of political issues seems to bring immediate rewards, small time politicians in every state will find it irresistible to begin an 'oust the outsider' movement.

Where will the space for an Indian be then? And where will the Marathi people find a comfortable place in Patna, Bhopal or Delhi? Shouldn't any place and corner of India be as inviting, hospitable and comforting to any Indian belonging to any state?

The idea of India is based on the unhindered flowering of diversity and safeguarding the vibgyor of a million flowers with as many fragrances. Else, what will the difference be between a China, a Saudi Arabia and us?

Way back in the early 1950s, the language issue had engulfed Punjab resulting in serious conflicts between votaries of Punjabi and Hindi. The latter were led by the Arya Samaj advocating Hindi as Punjab's official language. Shri Guruji Golwalkar, the then sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, was touring Punjab and saw the state being divided on the lines of language.

He issued a scintillating statement that must be an eye-opener for non-Marathi speaking Maharashtrians today. In Punjab he said all residents must register Punjabi as their mother tongue. It immediately helped to sooth inflamed emotions.

At a time when the nation confronts threats from belligerent neighbours and our economic development is at stake, raising language issues and making one Indian less empowered than the other on the basis of Talibani parochialism is a fragmented polity that must be nipped in the bud.

Tarun Vijay is the Director, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation.

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