After his campaign against north Indians, Raj Thackeray has now trained his guns on private English-medium schools in the state.
In a press meet organised on Monday, Thackeray issued an ultimatum to these schools to make Marathi a compulsory subject from Class 1.
“We will no longer tolerate institutions that do not teach the Marathi language,” he said. “The state language is compulsorily taught in every state. Why should Maharashtra be an exception? I don’t mind schools teaching French or German, but they should not make Marathi optional.”
Thackeray was emphatic that since the schools use resources subsidised by the state — such as water and power — they are bound to teach the state language.
He also warned that his men would launch a full-fledged agitation if schools did not toe the line.
Declining to name a deadline since the academic year has already begun, the founder and chief of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena said he “expected that positive steps would be taken at least from the next academic year”.
“I will soon issue letters to all English-medium schools of the SSC, ICSE, CBSE and IB boards,” he added.
Schools reacted cautiously to the demand.
“Mumbai is a cosmopolitan city, there would be some problems,” said Jessie Vaz, principal of the ICSE Jamnabai Narsee High School. “It would be difficult for the many students who come here from various regions.”
N.N. Nayyar, former principal of the CBSE APJ School in Nerul, said Marathi had already been made compulsory from Class 3 to Class 5, but was optional thereafter. "We will consider keeping it as a compulsory subject if the students want it,” Nayyar added.
Another target of Raj Thackeray’s ire were shopkeepers who still have not added Marathi nameplates outside their establishments. He accused these shopkeepers of insulting Maharashtra.
“Shopkeepers have to change their nameplates to Marathi and conduct business in our language or they will face the music,” he warned.
The community called this step unfortunate. “Raj Thackeray is a seasoned politician and should realise that having Marathi signboards where people don’t understand the language will serve no purpose,” said Mohan Gurnani, president of the Federation of Associations of Maharashtra.
Thackeray also urged the state crack down on illegal migrants and “not encourage them by issuing false domicile certificates”.
“I have given them a period of one month,” he added.