Maharashtrians must all speak Marathi. And they must not temper the language with Urdu, Hindi or English words. That is the only way to keep non-Maharashtrians out of Mumbai and the state, says Sena chief Bal Thackeray.
But who cares? The Sena Tiger’s exhortation to Shiv Sainiks through Saamna columns on Wednesday has no takers — not even Shiv Sainiks.
Many of their children and grandchildren go to the best English-medium schools.
And not so very long ago, Sainiks had even rioted and destroyed property at schools run by Jesuit missionaries.
This was because they wanted “convent” education for their children and their kids could not make the grades at the entrance tests to these schools.
However, Thackeray who is playing to the gallery in the run-up to elections to the Brihanmumbai and Thane Municipal Corporations has slightly shifted his stance as of old. It is all right to speak in Hindi or English to non-Maharashtrians, he says, but not to each other.
Thackeray’s grandchildren are students of Bombay Scottish School as are the grandchildren of senior Sena leader Pramod Navlkar, who was Minister for Culture in the Sena-BJP government of the nineties and the culture police of the city.
But Navlkar laughs when asked to explain the contradiction. “The exhortation is meant for Shiv Sainiks,’’ he told Hindustan Times.
“Not for their children or grandchildren. In any case, the children and grandchildren of Sena leaders no longer listen to their fathers or grandfathers,’’ he laughs.
On a serious note, he adds that Thackeray’s statement was only a reminder to Shiv Sainiks to go back to their roots.
“But just outside the Siddhivinayak temple, there is a Sena banner in Hindi. So it is not as though the party is against other languages.”
But writer Dilip Raote, fluent in both English and Marathi (he runs two columns in the language), says Thackeray is completely out of touch with the modern-day reality of Maharashtra.
“There are pure Maharashtrian homes (where there is no inter-marriage) which get no Marathi newspapers. They subscribe to only English newspapers because that is what their children want and it is with English that their future will be made,” he said.
“But there are also the lower economic rung, who work as domestic servants or gardeners or in other menial jobs, to send their children to English medium schools as they feel that Marathi will give them no future,” Raote adds.
Thackeray’s ire about Maharashtrians speaking a mix of Marathi and Urdu or English, Raote says, is also quite misplaced.
“Most television channels and even spoken Marathi have a mix of English, Hindi or Urdu like most other languages today. Pure Marathi is spoken only in academic circles. Even Thackeray and his Shiv Sainiks speak chaalu Marathi.”
So if Thackeray thinks he is winning elections by playing the Marathi card, he could well end up with nothing, says Raote. “Forcing Marathi on the people is just a way to keep them down. If they know what is good for them, they will ignore Thackeray,” he adds.