March 15, 2016

Dont push Marathi and Maratha pride into the school - Editorial in The Telegraph 15 March 2016

Editorial in The Telegraph 15 March 2016

Not an option

The Maharashtra government is making a curious effort to repackage the old as the new. First, it wants school textbooks to have a more detailed chapter on Chhatrapati Shivaji, who, in a feat of anachronistic imagining, is sought to be presented as a management guru. Second, the state government wants Marathi to be made compulsory till Class VII in all schools belonging to Central and international boards. The previous government, of the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party, had come up with a similar order, which fell through in the face of opposition from school management bodies. It is significant that the different political parties in Maharashtra - the Bharatiya Janata Party, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, Congress - which constantly bicker with one another on various issues are yet united in their professed belief in the importance of the Marathi language. It pays, in terms of votes, to stoke Maratha pride by upholding the mother tongue and the warrior who had managed to unite a diverse group of people under the rubric of language. This is a matter of pitting the fabled Marathi manoos against the thousands of immigrants who take up residence in Mumbai. It is on the strength of such sentiments that MNS supporters had attacked migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in Mumbai in 2008.
Students should not be made to bear the brunt of divisive politics. Why should the children of people from other states and countries be forced to put up with Marathi till Class VII when they may not need the language later? Students, whether from Maharashtra or elsewhere, deserve to have the option of not continuing with Marathi once they have learnt its basics. A state can very well take pride in its mother tongue. But it cannot turn that pride into a badge of belonging, designed to exclude those who do not belong. Such a policy ill suits a state whose capital is famed for its cosmopolitan culture.