I am surprised that the intelligent, cosmopolitan lot in metropolitan Mumbai is shy of having signboards in a script which is understood almost all over India. It would be reflective of good culture on their part if they acknowledge the language which is spoken by more than 8 crore people. There is nothing unconstitutional or illegal in demanding this, a practice followed in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Bengal, Punjab, Gujarat and other states.
However I do not like the violent methods in enforcing a constitutional provision. I am sad that the Marathi society has brought this pitiable situation on itself. I believe that the political powers in Maharashtra, the Marathi elite, the universities and institutions that deal with Marathi literature and language have criminally neglected their language. That is why Maharashtrians have to plead to get respect for their language in their own state.
It is also sad that the authorities and the society do not take notice of any problems unless the masses go rampaging on the streets.
Unfortunately the Marathi people have a peculiar habit of abandoning their own language at the first opportunity. They have never imposed their language or culture on people coming to Maharashtra from other states.
Interestingly, a Marathi person on encountering a stranger bursts out either in Hindi or English whether it is in Mumbai or a taluka in Western Maharashtra. On one hand it is tolerant, generous and egalitarian; on the other it bred a kind of inferiority complex.
That is why the Shiv Sena and the MNS go to the street to assert their linguistic pride. It is a political competition between these two groups. But Marathi society and the Marathi elite are not bothered about whether the signboards on the shops are in English or Gujarati.
Sadhu is a Marathi novelist and journalist. He spoke to Neeta Kolhatkar