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To school or not to school?

That is the question. There is a big hoopla going on in the city tonight, and we may be getting an extra day off before the long weekend (Friday there are no classes – but teachers have professional development – and Monday is a vacation day. We are heading to the massive conglomeration of Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu caves of Ajanta and Ellora in central India near Aurangabad). Let’s see if I can summarize, with my casual Westerner’s eye towards longstanding Indian issues, just what the deal is.

Raj Thackery raises the Sword of Maharastra!There is a guy in this particular state of India who comes from an extensive line of what he would call nationalists and what other people would call fascist xenophobes. He and his uncle – who interestingly enough is grandfather to students currently attending our school – along with other politicians with a similar mindset have made their careers out of bashing Indians from outside the state of Maharashtra (of which Mumbai is the capital). They hate foreigners (that is, anyone not originally from this region), hate the use of English (or really any language except the native Marathi), hate the name Bombay, hate any cultural influence that is not Maharashtran – do you see a trend developing? In other times, in other places, their names might be mentioned in comparison with certain people whose first names were Adolf and Slobodan, but apparently that’s not done here.

In any case, the political parties they’ve founded have habitually beaten up migrant workers in the city, defaced English and Hindi texted signs, destroyed shops selling items that reflect the West rather than India (such as stalls that sell Valentine balloons), held strikes and paralyzed transport, and even killed local ministers who’ve opposed them. According to another teacher that I was talking to today, the word thug is Hindi in origin, and is a perfect descriptor of how these groups act.

Finally fed up with all this, the government charged them with breaking the law. And not just any old law – oh no, they apparently have broken section 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot – ooooh!!), 153 A (promoting enmity between groups on the basis of place of birth, residence, etc – aaaahhh!!) and 153 B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration – argggg!!!).

So now the big question on everyone’s mind is, “How will the parties react tomorrow?” All after-school sports and activities were shut down today so people could get home in relative safety, and we’ll see if we get an SMS sometime tonight about the situation. Breck and Alea are, of course, hoping that there’ll be full fledged rioting and chaos in the streets – well, maybe not full-fledged, but enough to get school canceled for the day. If I were a betting man, I would put money down on the proposition that there are even some adults at the school who would like there to be an itsy-bitsy protest march really early in the morning as well, but since I’m not a betting man I won’t speculate any further (except to say that I personally don’t think anything’s going to happen).

But that’s the big news in town tonight. Guess we’ll have to see what happens tomorrow…

UPDATE – no riots. We have school.

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