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SRK Controversy and Marathi Intellectuals February 14, 2010

Posted by Chetan Chitre in मराठी भाषा समाज आणि सेस्कृती.
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This whole SRK controversy – I really don’t feel like making any comment on this. Everybody is talking so much about it everywhere. Suddenly SRK and the Sena seem to be omnipresent. Whenever I have switched on a news channel here in India for the last 7-8 days, the only thing that I see is SRK and the sainiks.

Which was ok. That’s what Indian electronic media has come to be in the last few years. What to some extent compelled me to make a statement here is the fact that one of my friend, who runs an NGO supposedly for making constructive contribution to the cause of Marathi language has also come out with a public statement on the Economic Times website in support of the actions of the Sena and the likes.

This is sad. This reminds one of the days when militant Hinduism was at its peak in India some 18 years ago. One felt sad to see some sections of the intelligentsia also in a state of confusion. Infact these are the times when it becomes the duty of the intellectuals in a society to maintain social sanity.

The so called representatives of the Marathi voice have in the past few days raised a ruckus over some statements by a few celebrities such as Sachin Tendulkar, Mukesh Ambani, Shah Rukh Khan, Rahul Gandhi, etc. In the SRK and Rahul Gandhi case it led to an the Sena taking to the streets and threatening release of a film starring SRK.

What confuses me about these incidences –

(1) How relevant are these issues to the cause of Marathi culture? In what manner is the cause of Marathi or Mumbai served by burning posters of Rahul Gandhi?

(2) All that some of these people said was that Mumbai is an integral part of India or that they are Indian first and Maharashtrians later? What is wrong with such statements? Is Maharashtra no longer a part of India? Are Maharashtrians not Indians? Are not these Parties who take objections to such statements – more anti-Indian and traitors compared to SRK.

(3) Who do these miscreants represent? Does the average Marathi Manoos or an average Mumbaikar feel offended by statements of Tendulkar or Ambani? Has the Marathi culture in any of its versions (except the Sena version) denied its Indian-ness?

A very common justification is that these are symbolic issues. Well! May be they are. But symbols should represent something. I am afraid I – as an average Marathi manoos – don’t understand what these symbols mean.

I understand and accept that nationality as a concept is not absolute and is nothing more than a figment of one’s imagination – however, nationality continues to be the defining part of the imagination of the average Marathi speaking population even today. If the intellectuals of the society do not recognize this – they run a risk of being irrelevant. Or do they dream of engineering secession of Maharashtra from India!

While some sections of Marathi intelligentsia may come out in support of such Sena-like elements for their short term gains – they should realize the fact that they are feeding a Frankenstein’s monster. Such elements neither respect dissent nor have the ability and willingness to indulge in an intellectual dialogue.

There is an urgent need, therefore, for the Marathi society and Marathi intellectuals to disown such elements. They do not represent the average Marathi person. The average Marathi person has different ideas about his Marathiness and has different ideas about what he wants to do with his culture.

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