Marathi nationalism

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Marathi nationalism refers to a nationalist stance applied to Maharashtra and the Marathi people who inhabit the ethno-linguistic region of Maharashtra,[1] which was created after the linguistic reorganisation of provinces in India in 1956. King Chhatrapati Shivaji is considered as the Father of Maratha Kingdom.[2] Hindavi Swarajya was an ideology espoused by Shivaji to consolidate Maratha empire by piecing together several marathi speaking Deccan kingdoms.[citation needed] The defence of culture, country and religion were the war cry used by Shivaji to rally together Marathi Hindus.[3][4] One of the famous saying of Shivaji was "This is not a kingdom of Shivaji; it belongs to Dharma".[5] MAHA (महा, Great) RASHTRA (राष्ट्र, Country/State) is generally associated with a desire for greater, better and progressive state. The defence of Maratha culture, religion, country and freedom to the Marathas is what inspired the Maratha warriors in defeating the Sultanate of Bijapur and Mughal Empire and free the Marathas and their land from occupation and creation of the Maratha Empire.[citation needed] Unarguably, Marathi nationalism stems from the fact that the Marathis/Marathas are credited to a large extent for ending the Mughal rule in India.[6][7] and furthermore they were considered by the British as the biggest native power of 18th century India, capable enough to act as a bulwark against British paramountcy over India.[8][9] In modern context, it furthers the ideology of the preservation of Maratha Culture, promotion of Marathi Language and progress of Marathi people. Mee Marathi (मी मराठी, I am Marathi ) are two words that have always inculcated Marathi pride.[citation needed]


The first strands of a modern Marathi nationalism were elucidated at least as early as the beginning of the twentieth century.[citation needed] However, Lokmanya Tilak merged this with a contemporaneously emerging pan-Indian nationalism during the build-up period to the Indian independence movement.[10]

Movement for Maharashtra State

After the Independence of India in 1947, regional administrative divisions from the colonial era were gradually changed and states following linguistic borders were created. The States Reorganisation Act of 1956 created states along linguistic lines. States of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala were created on 1 November 1956 for Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam languages respectively. However, despite being the fourth largest spoken language in India, no Marathi-speaking state was created. Bombay Presidency remained a bi-lingual state shared by Marathis and Gujaratis. Marathi-speaking population remained divided between the Bombay Presidency and regions of Hyderabad State. Moreover, the Marathi-majority district of Belgaum was removed from Bombay Presidency and added to the newly formed Kannada-speaking state of Karnataka, which remains a disputed issue till date.

A massive popular struggle was launched for the creation of a state for the Marathi-speaking people under the name Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti (roughly translated as United Maharashtra Committee). The Gujarati politicians of Bombay Presidency demanded that in case of a separation, the city of Bombay (now Mumbai), a native of marathi people and Marathi people-majority area surrounded by Maharashtra, should be transferred to Gujarat. In January 1960, a peaceful demonstration of the Samiti was fired by the police at Flora Fountain in Mumbai, on the order of the Gurarati Chief Minister of Bombay Presidency, Morarji Desai. 105 people were killed in the firing. This subsequently led hate between marathi and Gujarati and led to the division of the presidency into two linguistic states, and two states of Gujarat and Maharashtra were formed on 1 May 1960. Bombay (now Mumbai) was included in Maharashtra and became the state capital.[11] In addition, Marathi-speaking regions of Hyderabad State were amalgamated with Maharashtra, making it the third largest state in India. Flora Fountain was subsequently renamed Hutatma Chowk or "Martyr's Crossroads" in the memory of the demonstrators who were killed.

However, Goa (then a Portuguese colony), Belgaum, Karwar and adjoining areas, which were also part of the Maharashtra envisaged by the Samiti, were not included in Maharashtra state. Inclusion of Belgaum into Maharashtra remains an unresolved dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka.

Rallying points

Modern-day Marathi nationalism has found an ideologue in the Hindu Maratha Empire, an independent Maratha nation established by Maratha warrior and King Shivaji Bhosle after he defeated the Sultanate of Bijapur to free the Marathas and their land from occupation. Shivaji's call for freedom and to fight and live like free men was an inspiration to the Marathi people which not only helped protect the Maratha Kingdom from the Mughal Empire but also led to the expanision of the Maratha Kingdom into Maratha Empire by capturing non-Maratha parts of the Mughal Empire.[original research?]

Support for Marathi nationalism from non-Marathi people

MN Singh, Mahesh Bhatt and Alyque Padamsee have said there is some legitimate grievance to give credence to some form of a Marathi nationalism. Padamsee thought that a "Marathi manoos is a good idea" as "nobody has given any importance to the language." Singh added that the political parties which bank on the support of the Marathi manoos do so rightly so "as they has been able to protect the interests of the Marathi-speaking population in the state." He added that "Maharashtrians have a justified grievance. Outsiders have not been able to identify with Marathi culture. Bhatt chipped in that he supports, in addition to the Marathi manoos "the whole Marathi culture, the Maratha pride." Adding that "in the age of globalisation, that this culture is being overwhelmed. Let me give you an example: This city has been the source for thousands of Bollywood films, but does anyone bother for the indigenous people, the local people of Film City, who are suffering?"[12]

Contemporary sub-nationalism

In the past few decades, Mumbai and sometimes larger Maharashtra have witnessed a growing resentment towards South Indians and recently towards migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. There is also a recent movement towards compulsory use of Marathi language in Mumbai in places including the Municipal Corporation. This "Maharashtra for the Marathis" sub-nationalism or regionalism[13] has been condemned by mainstream political parties such as Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan has assured protection for both North and South Indian immigrants.[14][15] Much of such trouble has been created by the concept of Three language in Govt. of India. Three Language concept says that all offices of Govt. of India have to use Hindi, English and any other regional language. Regional languages are encouraged but at the same time use of Hindi and English is imposed on workers forcing them to learn additional languages. Class-iV workers find it difficult to learn additional languages while they can work efficiently in mother tongue Marathi. At one point Marathi and Hindi share same grammar rules as they are derived from same ancestral language Sanskrit .[16] And one who knows Hindi can easily learn Marathi and vice versa. This language war has been exploited several times and is used by several political parties to gain some easy hold on citizens and eventually hold on vote bank. For several years now, even use of English is opposed by mainstream Marathi nationalists which is always opposed by English speaking non-Marathi states.[17]

Support for Marathi Workers

Mumbai, in many ways is an economic capital of India. In early 60's there was an increasing flow of South Indian white-collar job seeker migrants to the Mumbai city.[18] In 1960 Bal Thackeray, a Mumbai-based cartoonist, began publishing the satirical cartoon weekly Marmik. Through this publication he started disseminating anti-migrant sentiments in support of local marathi workers. On June 19, 1966, Thackeray founded the Shiv Sena as a political organisation. At the time of its foundation, the Shiv Sena was not a political party as such.[19] The political approach of the Shiv Sena was centred around the concept of bhumiputra (sons of the soil), the idea that Maharashtra inherently belonged to the Marathi community. The Shiv Sena was thus born out of a feeling of resentment about the relative marginilisation of the native Marathi people in their own state by people whom they perceived as outsiders.[20]

Shiv Sena set out ideological declarations which encouraged Maharashtrians not to eat in Udupi restaurants, not to sell their properties to non-Maharashtrians and Marathi businessmen employ only Marathis.[21] The Shiv Sena especially attracted a large number of Marathi youth. Shiv Sena cadres became involved in various attacks against the South Indian communities, vandalising South Indian restaurants and pressuring employers to hire Marathis.[22]

Cause of Marathi Nationalism

Attacks on South Indian migrated workers

Shiv Sena party was formed in 1966 to fight for the rights of the marathi people. Thackeray started his political life by intimidating and sometimes attacking South Indians who worked as clerks and owned small restaurants as they were taking away local jobs.[23][24] South Indians were derisively referred to as yandugunduwalas and lunghiwalas.[25][26]

South Indians were his main targets as he claimed that they were taking away jobs from Marathis. He lampooned "Madrassi" in his writings and drawings. Udupi restaurants, which is mainly owned by Kannada people and homes of Tamil and Telugu speakers were attacked.[27]

However other political parties in the state have been more conciliatory in their approach towards South Indians.[28]

Attack on migrated workers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar

The attacks on immigrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in Maharashtra began on February 3, 2008 after violent clashes between workers of two political parties—Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and Samajwadi Party (SP)—at Dadar in Mumbai, capital of the Indian state of Maharashtra. The clashes took place when workers of MNS, a splinter faction formed out of the Shiv Sena] (a major political party of Maharashtra), tried to attack workers of SP, the regional party based in Uttar Pradesh, who were proceeding to attend a rally organised by the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA). Defending his party’s stand, MNS chief Raj Thackeray explained that the attack was a reaction to the "provocative and unnecessary show of strength" and "uncontrolled political and cultural dadagiri (bullying) of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar migrants and their leaders".

Promotion of Marathi and Anti-English sentiments

In a growing movement towards promoting Marathi in public life in Mumbai, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai headed by BJP-Shiv Sena alliance passed an order to make all communications only in Marathi. Marathi has been an official language in the corporation since 1971, however English and Hindi were used for distribution of information.[29][30][31] After his campaign against north Indians, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) president Raj Thackeray on 14 July 2008 asked English medium schools in the state to make Marathi a compulsory subject from first standard and shopowners to put up nameplates in Marathi.[32] On 27 August 2008 around 50 activists of MNS were arrested in south Mumbai for forcing shopowners to put up Marathi nameplates instead of English signboards . Despite the arrest of the activists, MNS spokesperson Shirish Parkar warned that the protest will continue and that the deadline of 28 August will not change.[33]

See also


  1. Benei 2008:80
  2. Hinduism and Islam in India: caste, religion, and society from antiquity to By S. V. Desika Char, p 225
  3. Soul and Structure of Governance in India, Jagmohan, p295, Google book
  4. Sanskrit and Prakrit, Madhav M. Deshpande, p121-122, Google book
  5. Hinduism and Islam in India: caste, religion, and society from antiquity to By S. V. Desika Char, p 225-227
  6. "The Marathas". Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 
  7. "Bal Gangadhar Tilak". Encyclopedia Britannica. 
  10. (PDF) Archived from the original (PDF) on June 10, 2007. Retrieved October 17, 2008.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. S Balakrishnan, TNN, Nov 29, 2005, 01.39am IST (2005-11-29). "Sena fate: From roar to meow". The Times of India. Retrieved 2010-10-15. 
  12. "India's Independent Weekly News Magazine". Tehelka. Retrieved 2010-10-15. 
  13. State Politics in India By Babulal Fadia, p496, ref
  14. Agencies. "BJP won’t allow regionalism to flourish:Rajnath". Retrieved 2010-10-15. 
  15. "Stand together against regionalism: Sonia". Retrieved 2010-10-15. 
  16. "Languages Of India". Retrieved 2010-10-15. 
  17. "Following The Beaten Path". Retrieved 2010-10-15. 
  18. "Sena fate: From roar to meow". The Times of India. 2005-11-29. Retrieved 2006-08-11. 
  19. Shiv Sena Shakha no. 111
  20. "Shiv Sena On The Threshold Of Disintegration". The Indian Express via Retrieved 2006-07-22. 
  21. Babulal Fadia (1984). State politics in India Volume I. Radiant publishers, New Delhi. pp. 496–497. 
  22. "Know Your Party: Shiv Sena". Retrieved 2006-07-22. 
  23. "Profile: Bombay's militant voice". BBC News. 2000-07-19. Retrieved 2010-10-15. 
  24. "Politicians, patriotism and pettiness". 1999-07-15. Retrieved 2010-10-15. 
  25. "'The General' in his labyrinth". Retrieved 2010-10-15. 
  26. "Know your party:Shiv Sena". 2004-04-23. Retrieved 2010-10-15. 
  27. Ramachandra Guha, India after Gandhi, p 430
  28. "Narayan Rane to support South Indians in Mumbai politics". 2007-10-30. Retrieved 2010-10-15. 
  29. "Politics & Marathi language: New lingua franca at BMC". 2008-06-25. Retrieved 2010-10-15. 
  30. TNN, Jul 6, 2008, 05.47am IST (2008-07-06). "Marathi-must muddle at BMC". The Times of India. Retrieved 2010-10-15. 
  31. Shweta Desai (2008-07-16). "Weeks after BMC made Marathi compulsory, 3 Cong corporators continue to get copies in English". Retrieved 2010-10-15. 
  32. PTI, Jul 14, 2008, 08.30pm IST (2008-07-14). "Make Marathi compulsory in schools: Raj Thackeray". The Times of India. Retrieved 2010-10-15. 
  33. PTI (2008-08-26). "Mumbai: 50 MNS men arrested". The Times of India. Retrieved 2010-10-15. 


  • Benei, Veronique (2008). Schooling passions nation, history, and language in contemporary western India. Stanford University Press. 

External links