As Maharashtra enters its golden jubilee year, the newly constituted Maharashtra State Assembly witnessed unprecedented scenes on its very first day on November 9. The four MLAs of maverick Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) virtually took the law in their hands and tried to stop Samajwadi Party (SP) MLA Abu Azmi from taking the oath in Hindi in the House. In the parliamentary history of India since Independence, the Parliament and state assemblies have been witness to such incidents in the past. But what happened in the ‘progressive’ Maharashtra State Assembly should serve as an eye-opener to all those who believe in, and are committed to strengthen democratic traditions in India. It may be noted that the MNS and Raj Thackeray had earlier warned those opposing Marathi of dire consequences. The attack on Abu Azmi was a mere indication of things to happen in future if this diktat of Raj were ignored.
More disgusting and irritating was the ‘silence’ of the ‘protectors of democracy, and secularism’ sitting on the treasury benches. It was anybody’s guess that the MNS received encouragement from these so-called secular forces to sabotage the growing influence of Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. It was in a sense repeating the history. Years ago in the 60s and 70s the Shiv Sena received the same encouragement from the same ‘secular’ forces in its campaign for the ‘Marathi Manoos’. That time the target was the South Indians in Mumbai, who allegedly encroached upon the right to employment of the ‘Marathi Manoos’. Bal Thackeray then was clandestinely supported by stalwart strategists in the secular Congress like SK Patil and his ilk. Now his nephew Raj is simply repeating the history by stepping in his shoes. However, the target this time is the North Indians and Hindi.
All the languages have their origin in Sanskrit, the mother of all the languages of the world. Therefore, as Shri Guruji Golwalkar, the second Sarsanghachalak of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), had stated, all our languages are our national heritage.
The issue of languages has been debated in the Parliament and state assemblies earlier too. There had been violent agitations on this issue in various parts of the country. The issue is still burning somewhere as in case of Belgaum, or dormant somewhere as in case of Assam. But what the country has failed to understand and experience is the innate unity of expression all these languages provide in the peculiar Indian social and cultural milieu. Those who insist on a particular language forget that they are damaging the spirit of national unity. This is not to defend people like Abu Azmi or denounce the protagonist of Marathi like Raj Thackeray and his flock of hardliners. They might be raising this issue for the short-lived political gains, because they have to create their constituency in Maharashtra’s political environment, and what could be a better handy tool for them than raising the Marathi issue? But the more dangerous is the latent animosity towards people speaking other Indian languages living in a particular language-dominated state. They are the ones who have to bear the brunt of this mindless and meaningless hooliganism enacted in the name of ‘furthering’ the cause of their language.
When the issue to make Hindi our national language was being discussed and debated in the country immediately after Independence, similar opinions were expressed. Some people like Dr CP Ramaswami Aiyar even ridiculed Hindi, while some others felt Hindi would eclipse their mother tongues. But that did not happen. On the other hand, the rulers of that time hesitated in making Hindi the national language of India. Instead, the policy of language states was adopted by Pt. Nehru. States in independent India were reorganised on the basis of language ignoring the long-term danger it would pose. Now the bitter fruits of this policy are visible and have started taking a toll of our national integrity and unity. The MNS-Abu Azmi stand-off on the issue of Hindi is the glaring example of this sublime hatred generated by this language-state policy of the then Congress government.
Nevertheless, the hooliganism let loose in the State Assembly could not be ignored. Therefore, the action taken against those four MNS MLAs was justified. Such acts should not go without punishment. However, the extent of punishment could be debated on various platforms. But this is also the time to go deeper and think over the issue in a more logical way. The fear expressed by ‘Marathi Manoos’ in view of the increasing influx of people from other states in Mumbai, the financial capital of India, cannot just be ignored. A way out has to be devised to divert this influx. Creating more job opportunities in their own provinces can be one of the alternatives. For this, the government will have to encourage and support indigenous technology and locally available resources including the human resources.
Another aspect that needs attention of the society is that insistence on regional languages would undermine the importance of the national-link language, which is currently Hindi. Hindi has also been lingua franca since ages in India, much before the Constitution granted the status of official language to it. Hindi has also been a natural vehicle of inter-communication during the freedom struggle right from the 1857 war of independence to 1947. In that context Hindi can be described as swabhasha of India. Therefore, there is nothing wrong in somebody taking oath in Hindi. There is no reason or logic to oppose this, certainly not in the manner the MNS MLAs did. The supporters of Abu Azmi also should not use this incident to create a divide in the society. The recent reactions of SP leaders appear to go in that direction. It is in the interest of the nation that both Raj Thackeray and Abu Azmi understand the importance of language and not play politics over the issue.