Let’s look at Mumbai – Maharashtra - India equivalents in the world…
Montreal – Quebec – Canada
Munich – Bavaria – Germany
Barcelona – Catalonia – Spain
All are cities of commerce in provinces that do not speak the “national language” of their nation. These cities assert their different character from the national mainstream (even antagonistic at times) and yet have not lost the attractiveness as commercial centres or tourist magnets… In fact all three have been host to the much coveted Olympic Games, arguably the ultimate symbol of a global city. This shows that a regional identity does not mean “bad for business and tourism”.
I would like to present some lessons from Barcelona, the city of commerce in Spain and also the capital of Catalonian Province. The region has always reflected pride in having an independent language and culture from the main Spanish stream. In 1939, after the Spanish civil war, General Franco usurped the power and started suppressing regional identities like Basque and Catalan. Franco’s “Nationalistic” drive ensured that Catalan culture and language was suppressed to a large extent giving rise to a resistance movement. Catalan was prohibited in schools and babies could not be given Catalan names! After Franco’s death in 1975, Catalan pride resurged with a great bang and the new constitution had to accept Catalonia as a separate “nationality”. Within 10 years, Spanish was almost wiped out from street signages to school textbook. Today all the government communication is in Catalan and you have to “request” for a Spanish version. Please note that half the population of Catalonia claims their mother tongue to be Spanish and not Catalan!
So what’s the point I am making? Many a times, the “National majority” fails to understand the regional sentiments and imposes what they feel is right. Biggest example is of Han Chauvinism in China. We have seen how forced imposition of Hindi in the 1960s led to Tamil backlash. Today, I see that Marathi Manoos is feeling swamped by others… especially people from UP and Bihar. He is sniggered at when he speaks in his mother tongue in public. Earlier, it was considered to be a Mumbai phenomenon where "assimilating with other cultures" is a way of life… but with semi-urban and rural centres feeling the heat, there suddenly seems to be an anti-Hindi sentiment spreading in Maharashtra. Statement by the Yadavs and Mayawatis of the world like “UP to ek jhaanki hai… Maharashtra abhi baanki hai” has fuelled the current Marathi vs Hindi spat. Raj Thackeray is using this plank to establish himself in Maharashtra politics and seems to be succeeding in his goal.
It is high time the central government looks into the matter seriously to understand the ground realities and takes steps to assuage the fear of Marathi Manoos.
3M is worried that the undercurrents of this anti-Hindi movement in Maharashtra are stronger than what most people would like to believe. If the pressure builds up, a "Catalonian backlash" could be felt in Maharashtra.
3M Trivia – Catalan has only 66 Lac native speakers while Marathi is estimated to be spoken as a primary language by over 800 Lac people across the globe.