Rohit Shelatkar At Aberdeen In Scotland

“Good afternoon everybody. Thank you for having me here and sharing my views while we celebrate our socio-cultural heritage and remember our glorious past. Marathas have been leaders in various areas in the past but a noticeable difference between the historically known image of the Marathi manus and the present day deviation in that image has been a cause of concern for the present and future generations of Maharashtrians. Maharashtrians, who are educated and forward-thinking. For them, their diminishing influence in most walks of life in post-independence India is worrying. It is hard to believe and digest the fact that after the Independence of India from the British rule the Marathi community has so quickly been relegated to the back seat.

With its pioneering and sustained contributions, Maharashtra was an acknowledged front-runner in the socio-cultural and economic development of India during the 19th and the 20th centuries. I recently visited the British science museum and was amazed to see the Maratha war rocket on display. The rocket was described as the world’s first combat rocket used in the Anglo-Maratha war against British having a good range of nearly one kilometre, quite substantial for that time. Until this moment, like many others, I was made to believe that war rockets were an invention of Tipu Sultan but Tipu Sultan’s name was no where in the museum. This Maratha rocket proudly stands as item no 1 in the world class science museum.

This is a proof of not only bravery and valour but also military intelligence and brilliance in mechanical engineering of the Marathas. I made some more research and found out the Marathas not only troubled the British with the war rockets but also gave them a very hard time with the specially designed war cannons, which could go on firing nonstop for over 30 min. unlike their British counter parts which became wobbly after firing a few shots and had to be cooled down for a few minutes before being used again. During my research I came across a letter written by the Duke of Wellington (Commander in Chief) to the head of the East India Company in Britain about how difficult it was to combat the powerful Maratha cannons lined with Brass which kept the inner diameter line in tact.

In Maharashtra’s prime, its radiant contribution had led many to consider it the most progressive state of the Indian union. Whether in political or social movement e.g.: the contribution of Lokmanya Tilak, Mahatma Phule ; bravery of Sadashivrao Bhao, Tatya Tope, Veer Savarkar; theatre of films- Dadasaheb Phalke , Lata Mangeshkar, V Shantaram , Bhimsen Joshi; Education and Sports and above all India’s freedom struggle. Maharashtra has been an undisputed leader.

The only war lost by British on Indian soil was the war against the Marathas. The Wadgaon memorial is a standing example of that victory. Even the funds required for building this memorial were collected from within the community.

First time in 5000 years history of India we have only one example when the troops mobilised from Pune to Panipat to stop the Afghan army. It took them 5 months to reach Panipat. When the tired and fatigued army reached there, not even one Rajput Maharaja joined the Marathas in fighting the mighty Pathans. What better example of betrayal and cowardness can you find in History? Not only that when the war was lost the Rajput maharajas sent their soldiers to capture the treating Maratha soldiers and handed them over to the Afghans. Also the families of the Maratha officers who were camped in tents about 30 miles away were not provided refuge.

In the beginning and the middle of the 20th century Marathi leaders had a say in regional and national issues and international matters concerning India. That was when they took pride in their national outlook on the belief that they had expanded out of the regional thinking. It was this progressive Maharashtra that attracted people from all over India. This was the time when talent from all over India wanted to come to Mumbai to try their luck. Mumbai, which has become a dreamland of economic success for outsiders, is no longer at the front of socio-cultural progress. It is common knowledge that central leadership under prime minister Pandit Nehru was against Mumbai being a part of Maharashtra state as its capital. This is naked and deliberate discrimination! Did Maharashtra and Maharashtrian deserve this after their contribution in the freedom struggle? Mumbai had a distinct social-cultural Marathi stamp. Maharashtra without Mumbai was like body without soul. The struggle to keep Mumbai as our capital dragged on for 10 long years, between 1950 to 1960. Is this not discrimination? While all other states get to keep their capitals why was Maharashtra denied of the right to keep its capital Mumbai. 10 crucial years were lost and while other states made progress our people were left fighting and protesting, throwing stones and burning buses and earning the bad name, being maligned as rowdies.

Let me draw your attention to the current state of Mumbai in India. As Mumbai still remains to be a money spinner and financial hub of the country, Delhi has used Mumbai as nothing but a hen that lays golden eggs. A city that generates big revenues for the country by means of taxes and huge economic turnaround. This has been a one way traffic. Mumbai and Mumbaikars have never got anything in return from Delhi. An average Maharastrian has been impoverished and has even been made fun of. It is unbelievable that once regarded as the most enterprising community is now often referred to as the most laidback, relaxed and slacked community and the attitude of a Maharashtrian man being blamed for his economic deficiency.

The selfless nature of Mahrashtrian did not help them match the cunning schemes from the North. WE lost out 10 precious years of progress and also earned the title of rowdies and lazy Marathas planted on us.

In the past few years official debt is crossing the 2.4 lakh crore mark. 10M jobs have been lost. There has been of drop of 36% in food production, there are severe health, employment and ground water problems in rural Maharashtra. No mega projects are lined up in the near future that can be of benefit to the common man. There has been a marginal increase in power whereas 1000 MW power plants have closed down. 3 M Below the poverty line families have been deleted from the food security and health and social security scheme. 57604 farmers have committed suicides in our state since 1995 (the highest in the country).

The Vidharba region farmers have urged the EC to relax the model code of conduct, to enable the state government disburse aid to farmers, whose crops were ravaged by heavy rain and hailstorm between February and March this year. The Maharashtra government has announced a compensation of package of Rs 4000 crore for the farmers. The aid disbursal has been stuck amid the Lok Sabha elections. Atleast 6 farmers have committed suicide in the meanwhile pushing the toll to 368 nationally in year 2014. Vidharba region alone has a death poll of 116 this year. Some social activists have called on families of 80 such farmers and discovered that they did not receive any aid so far while money lenders continue to harass them for recovery. District and village officer keep telling the farmers to wait until May 16th, when the election process will be completed. One should find how much of this aid has been given to borrowers of more than Rs 10 lakhs.

During the past 55 years Maharashtra and Mumbai both have changed their countenance, character and culture. Over- ambitious and unscrupulous leaders of political parties of all types, ever in search of power and greed, readily became stooges and accomplices of Delhi. The Marathi community remains pitifully deprived of enlightened leadership, which has resulted in closing of the Marathi mind. The community has become inward looking and has started living on the past glory, which is also not very clear.

I consider myself a very optimistic and positive person but even with this optimism I sometimes worry whether this community will ever come up and restore the lost glory of the past.

If a community gets a feeling of constant suppression, consistent denial of rights of the locals, even denial of opportunities, an absence of fair play on level grounds, how should it express its discontent.

Today the slightest expression of Marathi regional pride is galling to others. The weaker the supporters from Maharashtra the higher position he or she is granted in national levels of power by Delhi authorities. It’s no wonder that Marathi people feel betrayed in their home state as well as at national level.

It is high time that the Marathi youth rises to the occasion, feels the necessity of gathering himself and his community and starts working towards  regaining the lost past glory that the community once had under the leadership of Shivaji Maharaja, Bajirao Peshwa, Veer Savarkar, Lokmanya Tilak, Ranade and Gopal Krishna Gokhale.

This is exactly what my charitable trust “Grand Maratha” will be aiming to achieve.

Before I conclude I would once again thank you all for having me here. I wish you all happiness, health and success in your walks of life. Jai hind, Jai Maharashtra!

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