This Article is From Nov 10, 2009

Why Raj Thackeray's men slapped Abu Azmi

Mumbai: What has embarrassed an entire country is a matter of great pride for Raj Thackeray's men.

As the new members of the Maharashtra Assembly were being sworn in, Thackeray's men pounced. Their target: Abu Azmi, Samajwadi Party leader. Azmi was pushed and slapped, until security guards were able to rescue him and escort him out.

Thackeray's gang, and it was that in every sense of the word, proudly said "it's a fitting reply" yo Azmi insisting on taking his oath in Hindi.

According to Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), that's insulting to Marathi pride. Also, their opinion - expressed and enforced with no room for dialogue- is that Hindi is not the national language.

Azmi said, after the attack, "I cannot speak Marathi, so I took the oath in Hindi. I respect Marathi as much as I respect my mother." That logic doesn't hold good with the MNS. "Why couldn't Azmi learn four lines in all these days?'' asks Ram Kadam, one of the MLAs who hit Azmi.

And then came the usual tirade against other states like Bihar and UP. When asked if the violence was demeaning for the Assembly, Shirish Parkar, the MNS spokesperson responded, "Illiterate states like UP have witnessed far murkier scenes. This is for the pride of Maharashtra."

The attack, shameful as it was, was not utterly without warning. In the morning, Raj Thackeray had appealed to MLAs to take their oaths in Marathi, a veiled warning aimed at Azmi, who has repeatedly asked for Hindi to be added to the language of the legislature.

Backed by a unanimous condemnation of the violence, the Speaker has suspended four MNS MLAs for four years: Shishir Shinde from Bhandup West; Ram Kadam from Ghatkopar West; Vasant Geete from Nashik Central; and Ramesh Vanzale from Kahdakvasla. But the MNS remains unrepentant, satisfied that the violent politics of chauvinism has planted the party in the news again.