Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray is to the Marathi language what the Spanish Inquisition was to the Catholic faith: its worst advertisement. Acting on behalf of their führer, MNS legislators on Monday rushed to the floor of the Maharashtra assembly to stop Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Asim Azmi from taking his oath in Hindi, a language that Mr Thackeray and their logocentric goons consider to be an affront to Marathi. This was followed by MNS Ram Kadam slapping Mr Azmi in full view of a stunned gathering. Apart from taking immediate action against the MNS, the fact that the people of Maharashtra can speak in any of the constitutionally-mandated official languages of India should be driven home forcefully once and for all. It is one thing for Mr Thackeray and his band of louts to proselytise the virtues of Marathi. It’s quite another to force it down their throats.
The nation has seen its share of language riots in the past. During the 60s, a rage against the ‘imposition’ of Hindi led to popular protests that turned violent in many parts of South India. But as the southern states gained economic and social confidence, this manufactured discontent also receded. As even Mr Thackeray can vouch for, states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala have not, in the process, been overrun by the preponderance of Hindi-speakers; for these states, genuine success stories have gobbled up this silly red herring of an issue. The MNS credo of ‘Marathi manoos’, that proactively excludes other identities of Indianness, signifies a regression that is downright infantile. Who else but an infant will start bawling if he isn't given what it wants (‘or else...’)?
But these are big boys looking for their proverbial 15 minutes of infamy — and, by extension, atavistic support. We suggest that the authorities look into Section 332 of the Indian Penal Code that charges someone “causing hurt to deter a public servant from discharging his duty”. If they do not take action fearing a backlash despite the shameful action in the assembly, we suggest they stop any show of protesting against fascistic behaviour and quickly make Marathi the only mandatory language by law in the future oligarchy of Maharashtra.