Centre for Internet & Society

Marathi Language Day was recently commemorated across the state of Maharashtra to celebrate the Marathi language, its literature and culture.

Last week, the state of Maharashtra commemorated Marathi Bhasha Gaurav Din, a day to celebrate the Marathi language, its literature and culture. The celebrations mark the 105th birth anniversary of renowned Marathi poet and writer Vishnu Vaman Shirwadkar who wrote under the pen name Kusumagraj. Most notably, the Maharashtra state government issued a circular, appealing to all educational institutions and government offices to edit one paragraph on Marathi Wikipedia on 27th February(Marathi Language Day). Asmita Pote, a Marathi Wikipedian, believes that this “small step of writing one paragraph on Marathi Wikipedia will give those learning about Wikipedia for the first time, an opportunity to explore further and contribute”.

There were Wikipedia awareness programs and cultural festivities organised across the state’s schools and colleges to mark the week long(27 February to 6 March) celebrations. The Gateway of India in Mumbai held a large-scale cultural program with performances from leading Marathi singers, dancers and poets portraying their cultural heritage through their art. The state government promoted the celebrations on television channels, radio stations and newspapers with interviews of eminent Marathi achievers from different walks of life. These interviews can be found here.

This year’s theme for Marathi Bhasha Gaurav Din was ‘role of computer and internet in language’. The Minister for Education and Marathi Bhasha(among other portfolios), Mr. Vinod Tawde, encouraged citizens to edit on Wikipedia and urged the citizens to use unicode on their social media platforms to facilitate discussions in Marathi. Says Rahul Deshmukh, Marathi Wikipedia administrator, “this is the outcome of efforts channelled over two years. The government understood the need to take Wikipedia to the aam aadmi(common man) in Maharashtra in order to strengthen the language. The primary goal was to expose people to Wikipedia and raise awareness about Marathi Wikipedia.” In thanking the government officials who worked tirelessly for this initiative, he also appeals to other Indic language communities in India to see this as a role model. He believes that this initiative should be taken to other states and state governments as well.

The recent celebrations in Maharashtra have seen significant due to active government involvement. Priya Hiregange, a Marathi Wikipedian, says, “the government raised awareness not just in schools and colleges across the state but also in their own offices, giving training to government officials to write about their department or their organisation’s work on the free encyclopaedia.” The government circular appealing to citizens to edit on Wikipedia saw a great increase in the number of articles and editors. This goes to show that government involvement could immensely benefit the free knowledge movement in regional languages by creating awareness and exposure to these resources. It also sets a positive precedent for other state governments in India to emulate and promote their regional languages. Wikipedia is available in 23 Indic languages. A supportive government could go a long way to ensure the development of the free knowledge movement in India.

If you would like to contact Mr. Rahul Deshmukh for guidance on such initiatives for your language, please drop him a line here

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