After wielding the stick, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) now wants to wield the ruler.
The Raj Thackeray-led party is planning to hold classes on Marathi for non-Maharashtrians in the city.
On February 3, the MNS assaulted north Indians attending a rally organised by the Samajwadi Party at Dadar’s Shivaji Park. This was followed by continued assault on north Indians.
The MNS workers damaged taxis in Dadar, assaulted taxi drivers, roadside vendors and passers-by. The violence spread to other parts of the state including Nashik and Pune.
But, the idea to teach Marathi to non-Maharashtrian cadres was mooted before they went on the rampage. It gained momentum after the violence.
About a fortnight ago, MNS President Raj Thackeray in a meeting with party members said he wanted the non-Maharashtrian cadres to learn the language. He had also said in a press conference earlier that only those who knew Marathi would be given tickets for election.
After assaulting the outsiders and spreading fear among them, the party wants to teach Marathi to all non-Maharashtrian residents of the city.
Two party leaders have shown willingness to take Marathi classes that would be held on Sundays.
Arvind Gawde, district President (South Mumbai), and Chetan Pednekar, vice-president, MNS student wing have taken an initiative to start the classes and that too free of cost. “Not only party workers, but all outsiders from south or north India are welcome for our classes,” said Gawde.
Saying that it is imperative for outsiders to learn the local language, Pednekar added: “We realised that many migrants wanted to learn Marathi but couldn’t as there were no proper centres. Hence we are offering them facility free.”
According to the party, it would be of great help for the non-Maharashtrians as it an official language of the state.
Now, MNS workers are scouting for places to hold classes. Depending on the response, the frequency of classes would be increased.
The cadres are talking to educationalists to chalk out the programme.
After the violence and fear unleashed by the MNS, the migrants are wary of every move of the party.
“Mumbai is a cosmopolitan city and since I am fluent with both English and Hindi, I needn’t learn Marathi,” said Gayatri Baruah, an advertising executive from Assam. “We respect Marathi but it should not be forced on us,” she added.
The Congress has called it a publicity stunt. “First, they beat the people and now they come with a proposal to teach the language. Who would believe in them?” asked Rajendraprasad Choube, Congress corporator.