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Hindi Will Destroy Marathi Language, Culture and Identity in Mumbai and Maharashtra (India)

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, May 2010 (ID. 2010-05-01)

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 1. Mumbai Taxi Cab Drivers, Hindi and Marathi

 2. Power of Hindi Politicians

 3. Hindification and De-Marathification of Mumbai 

 4. Official Language of Mumbai City Municipal Corporation

 5. Hindi in Maharashtra State Legislative Assembly

 6. Mumbai is a Metropolis (Metropolitan City)

 7. Consequences of Indian Government's Language Policy

 8. Decline of Marathi Language Study and Use

 9. Decline of Marathi Literature

10. Loss of Marathi Culture and Identity

11. What Can Marathi People Do to Protect Marathi Language, Culture and Identity?

12. Message to Other Non-Hindi States

DEFINITIONS

Hindians: People whose mother tongue is Hindi (similar to Tamil speakers are sometimes referred as Tamilans or Tamilians).


1. Mumbai Taxi Cab Drivers, Hindi and Marathi

Chief Minister of Maharashtra State, Mr. Ashok Chavan, told reporters on January 20, 2010 that taxi driver permits would be issued only to those who can read and write Marathi, the language of Maharashtra area for over a thousand years. There are over 200000 taxi drivers in the city of Mumbai (Bombay) and many of them are from Hindi states who have come to Maharashtra seeking jobs. Most of them cannot read or write Marathi. General Secretary of Mumbai Taxi Drivers Association strongly opposed the new requirement and said, "These are laborers. They cannot go to school and learn Marathi." We have to wonder. These taxi drivers must have passed drivers' test. If they can learn the rules of the road, why can't they learn the language of the state? How can a Maharashtrian visiting their state's crown jewel Mumbai (Bombay) converse with taxi drivers to go from railway station to a hotel or from bus station to a hotel? Hindians want people all over India, including the non-Hindi state of Maharashtra, to learn Hindi and communicate with them in their language while they refuse to learn the language of the soil - Marathi. This arrogance, this imperial attitude, pervades not only among Mumbai Hindians but also among most Hindians who migrate to work in other non-Hindi states [Reference 1]. Can a Marathi go to the Hindi city Lucknow and expect to drive taxicabs there without knowing Hindi? No, absolutely not. Shirish Parkar of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) correctly pointed out, “People from other states come to Maharashtra because of their need, not ours. It should be made imperative for them to learn Marathi.”

2. Power of Hindi Politicians

Opposition to the Marathi requirement came not only from Hindians who came to Mumbai to work but also from Hindi politicians in Hindi-belt states. Chief Minister of Maharashtra reeled back from this Hindian "assault" and withdrew the order the very next day. The power of Hindi politicians runs not only in their own states but throughout India. No chief minister could displease Hindi politicians too much and expect to hold the chief minister position for long. At the 83rd All-India Marathi Literary Meet held in Pune on March 28, 2010, former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Mr. Manohar Joshi, said, “The state government wants to implement laws [making Marathi compulsory] but it is afraid of the Centre [Indian Government].” Why should a chief minister elected by the people of the state and have a majority in the state legislative assembly be afraid? Indian government can dismiss any state government (and thus the chief minister). Indian parliament is dominated by Hindi politicians and thus they control the Indian government [Reference 2]. If a state government acts in a manner that is detrimental to the interests of Hindi people, Indian government could dismiss that state government. This threat hangs over every chief minister and they do consider it while making decisions.

3. Hindification and De-Marathification of Mumbai 

Some who opposed the Marathi language requirement said that Mumbai is a metropolitan city and so does not belong to Maharashtra but to India and there should be no requirement of Marathi. At the very same time that Hindi politicians oppose Marathi language requirement for Mumbai taxi drivers, the very same Hindi politicians support the Indian government requirement that all employees of Indian government and Indian-government controlled enterprises must pass Hindi examinations. Indian government owned enterprises include Indian Railways, airports, nationalized banks, Life Insurance Corporation (LIC), Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and many more; they employ hundreds of thousands of employees throughout India.

Let us examine this double standard of Hindi politicians. A taxi cab driver in the streets of the Maharashtrian city of Mumbai should not be required to learn Marathi but those who work in the State Bank branches in Mumbai must pass Hindi examinations; there is no requirement that they know Marathi although most customers at these branches are likely Marathi speakers. Employees at the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) branches in Mumbai must know Hindi but knowledge of Marathi is not a requirement although many of its customers are Marathi speakers. Now go to the railway station. There also employees must know Hindi but no requirement that the stationmaster or ticket clerks or any employee know Marathi. Go to Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA). All customs and immigration officials should know Hindi but no requirement for Marathi. Embark on any Indian-government owned Air India flight to anywhere. All flight attendants must know Hindi but most do not know Marathi. This is the unfair language policy of India and any attempt by states to enforce their linguistic identity are opposed by Hindians and Hindi politicians. This policy makes the language of the soil--Marathi--unnecessary and useless in Mumbai but a language from hundreds of miles away, Hindi,  is made essential and necessary. In other words Mumbai, the crown jewel of Maharashtra, is de-Marathified and Hindianized.

4. Official Language of Mumbai City Municipal Corporation

While opposing Marathi language requirement for Mumbai taxi drivers, Mumbai Hindians want to make Hindi an official language of Mumbai City Municipal Corporation. These people came to Mumbai to earn a living. Instead of learning the local language they want Mumbai City Municipal Corporation to communicate with them in their mother tongue. The audacity and arrogance of Hindians! There are Tamils, Bengalis, Punjabis, Telugus, ... who live in Mumbai but none of these people demand that their language be made an official language of the city. Would the Hindi city Delhi make Marathi or any other Indian language an official language because large numbers of them live in Delhi? No. Then what right do Hindians have to ask Mumbai to make Hindi an official language of Mumbai? Only linguistic group in India to make such a demand is Hindi speakers. People who go to another state to earn a living must learn the local language; they shall not demand that local people learn their language. Shirish Parkar of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) is correct when he said, “People from other states come to Maharashtra because of their need, not ours. It should be made imperative for them to learn Marathi.”

5. Hindi in Maharashtra State Legislative Assembly

In October 2009, Samajwadi Party MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly), Mr. Abu Asim Azmi, demanded that he should be given the legislative documents in Hindi, as he is not fluent in Marathi. According to his own admission, he was living in Maharashtra for 40 years and had not learnt Marathi. Linguistic states were formed in the 1950s so state business could be conducted in the state language and all major languages of India get their due place and develop as modern languages. Politicians serving in the Maharashtra State Legislative Assembly must learn the state official language, and not demand that the language of the state where they were born be used. This destroys the very core of the formation of linguistic states.

6. Mumbai is a Metropolis (Metropolitan City)

Some who opposed Marathi requirement for taxi drivers argued that Mumbai is a metropolitan city (large, busy city) and so Marathi knowledge should not be a requirement. Metropolis or not, Mumbai is a Maharashtrian city and just because it is now a major business and cultural centre it shall not be de-Marathified and Hindified. Paris is a metropolitan city but every taxi driver knows French. Tokyo is a metropolitan city but every taxi driver knows Japanese.

If Mumbai is a metropolitan city and thus Marathi should not be a requirement for taxi driver license, why is Hindi a requirement to work in Mumbai railway stations? Why is Hindi a requirement to work in Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA)? Why are flight announcements made in Hindi in Air India flights from and to Mumbai? (By the way, Air India refuses to make flight announcements in Marathi.)

7. Consequences of Indian Government's Language Policy

So far we discussed the current language situation in Mumbai and the ongoing tussle between Marathi and Hindi in Mumbai. Pro-Marathi camp wants to make the language of the soil, Marathi, a requirement for at least some jobs in Mumbai. Pro-Hindi camp wants to make Marathi an "unnecessary language" for employment and business in Mumbai while making Hindi a "required  language" at least for jobs in Indian government establishments in Mumbai such as railway stations, airport and banks. What are the consequences if the pro-Hindi camp succeeds in sidelining Marathi in Mumbai?

8. Decline of Marathi Language Study and Use

When knowledge of Marathi becomes unnecessary to get and hold most jobs in Mumbai and at the same time Hindi is a requirement for holding tens of thousands of jobs at Indian government establishments, parents would make sure that their children are proficient in English and Hindi and neglect Marathi study. This is not because Marathi parents love English/Hindi over their mother tongue; they do so because Marathi is  becoming non-essential to get jobs. Make Marathi essential to get and hold jobs in Maharashtra whether private jobs or state government jobs or Indian central government jobs, parents would make sure that their children are proficient in Marathi.

Neglect of Marathi starts in major cities but will soon spread to other regions of Maharashtra. Generation after generation, within the next few generations, Marathi would become a language just spoken at home, while English and Hindi would reign as the language of education and business. Hindi would never meet the fate of Marathi because Hindi is a requirement for hundreds of thousands of jobs at Indian government establishments throughout India. Only way to protect Marathi from being relegated to the backyards is to make Marathi a requirement to get and hold jobs in Maharashtra whether with private businesses or state government or Indian central government.

9. Decline of Marathi Literature

Once Marathi is neglected in schools, readership of Marathi literature would decline. If only a few are reading Marathi literature, very few writers would opt to write in Marathi but would choose to write in English and Hindi. The rich classical literature in Marathi would also feel the effect. In the next and the following generations, fewer and fewer Marathis would be able to appreciate or even understand classic Marathi literature. Marathi classics would collect dust in libraries. Only way to enrich Marathi language is through the creation of new modern literature and studying and analyzing classical literature. Government subsidies to Marathi literature creation and studies would only be a cosmetic solution, the real solution is to make Marathi an essential language for business and employment in Maharashtra.

10. Loss of Marathi Culture and Identity

Literature is not just entertainment; this is especially true of classic literature. Embedded within the classic literature are historical information, heritage and cultural roots. Much of the Maharashtra population in two or three generation may not or cannot read their classics and would not have an appreciation for their literature and heritage. A people who do not know their roots, culture and heritage would soon lose their identity as a people. This sad state of affair awaits the Marathi people if effective action is not taken by the Maharashtrian government and people on the language front now. The current tussle over Marathi language requirement for Mumbai taxi cab drivers is just the beginning of a tug of war over the protection of Marathi identity of Mumbai and the state. If Mumbai is de-Marathified today, the entire state of Maharashtra would follow suit over the decades.

11. What Can Marathi People Do to Protect Marathi Language, Culture and Identity?

A systematic and carefully planned movement is necessary to protect Marathi language, culture and identity in Mumbai and the entire Maharashtra. Periodic or sporadic protests here and there over specific issues like Marathi language requirement for taxi drivers, compulsory Marathi courses at schools, Marathi name boards in shops, etc. would not solve the problem. The root causes of the problem should be addressed. 

1) Education used to be under the exclusive domain of states. Then it was moved under the joint domains of state and central governments. Education should be brought back under the exclusive domain of state government, and all schools, universities and institutions of higher education should be under state jurisdiction. Only then will Marathi language receive its due place in the educational system. Indian government shall devolve more taxes to states so they may fund all educational institutions from primary schools to institutions of higher learning. States need not have to beg the central government for funds.

2) Everyone working in Maharashtra should be able to read and write Marathi well, whether they are employed by private business, municipalities, state government or central government.

3) All communication between Indian central government offices in Maharashtra and residents of Maharashtra shall be in Marathi.

State government does not have the power to implement these steps. Only the Indian parliament could enact laws and amend the constitution to achieve these goals. This writer, who has studied Indian government's language policies and actions over the years, is of the opinion that Indian parliament, dominated by Hindi politicians (although not a majority), would NOT do so. Marathi people should either accept that Marathi language would continue to decline in Maharashtra or chart a course of action to protect Marathi.

12. Message to Other Non-Hindi States

Today it is Mumbai. Tomorrow it would be Calcutta, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai. All major cities would be Hindified (Hindianized) and the state languages sidelined. This destructive process would spread from the major cities to other areas of the states. In fact it is already happening in Bangalore and Chennai (I am not familiar with Calcutta and Hyderabad). All non-Hindi states should support the Maharashtrian people in their move to protect their Marathi identity instead of watching the events from sidelines.

(Author Thanjai Nalankilli is from Tamil Nadu and he has written over a dozen articles on the effect of Indian government's language policy on the future of Tamil and Tamil Nadu. Search the Internet and Internet Archives for Nalankilli Hindi imposition.) Thanjai Nalangkilli

REFERENCES

1. Hindi and Hindian Arrogance Test our Patience (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, April 2010 (15 KB)

2. Who Rules India? (Part I) (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, November 2000 (44 KB)

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FEEDBACK

May 2010

I refer your article "Hindi Will Destroy Marathi Language, Culture and Identity in Mumbai and Maharashtra". I congratulate you for correctly analyzing the problem in Maharashtra and the problem of Marathi. I am a member of a Non-Government Organization (NGO) "Marathi Abhyas Kendra" which tries to deal with the issues of Marathi language and Marathi culture. 

I feel that we should form a network of individuals and NGOs who are passionate about Indian Languages particularly non-Hindi languages and make a collective representation whenever required. 

Once again thank you very much for understanding the issue of Marathi in Maharashtra. 

Nitin Nimkar
Marathi Abhyas Kenra
Thane, Mumbai
http://www.marathivikas.org (in Marathi language)



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