Bal Thackeray

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Bal Keshav Thackeray
File:Bal Thackeray at 70th Master Dinanath Mangeshkar Awards (1) (cropped).jpg
Personal details
Born (1926-01-23)23 January 1926[1]
Pune,[2] Bombay Presidency
Died Script error: No such module "age".[3]
Mumbai, India
Political party Shiv Sena
Spouse(s) Mina Thackeray
Children Bindumadhav Thackeray
Jaidev Thackeray
Uddhav Thackeray[4]
Residence Mumbai
Signature Bal Thackeray's signature
Website shivsena.org

Bal Keshav Thackeray (IPA: [ʈʰakəɾe]; 23 January 1926[1] – 17 November 2012[5]) was an Indian politician who founded the Shiv Sena, a right-wing Marathi ethnocentric party active mainly in the western India's Maharashtra. His followers called him the Hindu Hriday Samraat ("Emperor of Hindu Hearts").[6]

Thackeray began his professional career as a cartoonist with the English language daily The Free Press Journal in Mumbai, but left it in 1960 to form his own political weekly Marmik. His political philosophy was largely shaped by his father Keshav Sitaram Thackeray, a leading figure in the Samyukta Maharashtra movement (United Maharashtra movement), which advocated the creation of a separate linguistic state of Maharashtra. Through Marmik, he campaigned against the growing influence of Gujaratis, Marwaris, and south Indians in Mumbai.[1] In 1966, Thackeray formed the Shiv Sena party to advocate more strongly the place of Maharashtrians in Mumbai's political and professional landscape. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Thackeray built the party by forming temporary alliances with nearly all of Maharashtra's political parties.[7] Thackeray was also the founder of the Marathi-language newspaper Saamana and the Hindi-language newspaper Dopahar ka saamana.[8] He was the subject of numerous controversies.[7] Upon his death, he was accorded a state funeral with over 2,000,000 mourners.[9][10]

Early and personal life[edit]

Thackeray was born to Keshav Sitaram Thackeray (also known as 'Prabodhankar' Thackeray) in Pune,[2] in a Marathi Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu family.[11] Keshav Thackeray was a progressive social activist and writer who was against caste biases and played a key role in the Samyukta Maharashtra Chalwal (literally, United Maharashtra Movement) in the 1950s to form the Marathi-speaking state of Maharashtra with Mumbai as its capital.

Thackeray was married to Meena Thackeray and had 3 sons Bindumadhav Thackeray, Jaidev Thackeray and Uddhav Thackeray. [12] His wife Meena and son Bindumadhav died in 1996. [13]

Early career[edit]

Thackeray started his career as a cartoonist in the Free Press Journal in Bombay.[14] His cartoons were also published in the Sunday edition of The Times of India. In 1960, he launched a cartoon weekly Marmik with his brother.[14] He used it to campaign against the growing numbers and influence of non-Marathi people in Mumbai, targeting Gujaratis and South Indian labor workers.[14] After Thackeray's differences with the Free Press Journal, he and four or five people, including George Fernandes, left the paper and started their own daily News Day. The paper survived for one or two months.[15]

Politics[edit]

He formed the Shiv Sena on 19 June 1966 with the intent of fighting for the rights of the natives of the state of Maharashtra.[16] The early objective of the Shiv Sena was to ensure job security for Maharashtrians competing against immigrants from southern India, Gujaratis and Marwaris. In 1989, the Sena's newspaper Saamna was launched.

Politically, the Shiv Sena was anti-communist and wrested control of trade unions in Mumbai from the Communist Party of India. It later allied itself with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance won the 1995 Maharashtra State Assembly elections and came to power. During the tenure of the government from 1995 to 1999, Thackeray was nicknamed 'remote control' since he played a major role in government policies and decisions from behind the scenes. Thackeray lost his wife Meena to a heart attack in September 1996, and his eldest son Bindumadhav ("Binda") to a road accident on 20 April 1996.[17]

On July 28, 1999 Thackeray was banned from voting and contesting in any election for six years from December 11, 1999 till December 10, 2005 on the recommendations of the Election Commission.[18] After the six-year voting ban on Thackeray was lifted in 2005, he voted for the first time in the 2006 BMC elections.[19]

Thackeray claimed that the Shiv Sena had helped the Marathi manoos (Marathi language speaking person) in Mumbai and also fought for the rights of Hindu people. Thackeray was a staunch Hindu and believed that Hindus must be organised to struggle against those who oppose their identity and religion.[20] especially in the public sector.[21] Opposition leftist parties allege that the Shiv Sena has done little to solve the problem of unemployment facing a large proportion of Maharashtrian youth during its tenure, in contradiction to its ideological foundation of 'sons of the soil.'[22]

Factionalism[edit]

In 2006, Thackeray's nephew Raj Thackeray separated from the Shiv Sena to form the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. This was after Thackeray's son, Uddhav, was given the task of leading the party when Thackeray announced his retirement from active politics. Raj continues to maintain that Thackeray was his ideologue[23]. Following, the Maharashtrian legislative assembly election, 2010 in which Shiv Sena and MNS split their expected consitituency leading to an inability to form a government. Thackeray then spoke negatively of the rift with the MNS blaming Raj for the defeat.

Issues and actions[edit]

On February 14, 2006, Thackeray condemned and apologised for the violent attacks by Shiv Sainiks upon a private Valentine's Day celebration in Mumbai. "It is said that women were beaten up in the Nallasopara incident. If that really happened, then it is a symbol of cowardice. I have always instructed Shiv Sainiks that in any situation women should not be humiliated and harassed."[24] Thackeray and the Shiv Sena remained opposed to Valentine's Day celebrations, although they indicated support for an "Indian alternative."[25] However, in some cases, the SS has been more tolerant during Valentine's Day celebrations.[26]

Thackeray was criticised for his praise of Adolf Hitler.[27][28] He was quoted by Asiaweek as saying: "I am a great admirer of Hitler, and I am not ashamed to say so! I do not say that I agree with all the methods he employed, but he was a wonderful organiser and orator, and I feel that he and I have several things in common...What India really needs is a dictator who will rule benevolently, but with an iron hand."[29] However, Indian Express published an interview 29 January, 2007: "Hitler did very cruel and ugly things. But he was an artist, I love him [for that]. He had the power to carry the whole nation, the mob with him. You have to think what magic he had. He was a miracle...The killing of Jews was wrong. But the good part about Hitler was that he was an artist. He was a daredevil. He had good qualities and bad. I may also have good qualities and bad ones."[30] He later told the Star Talk talk show on Star Plus that he did not admire Hitler.[31]

Accusations of xenophobia[edit]

Thackeray and the Shiv Sena were blamed for inciting violence against Muslims during the 1992-1993 Mumbai riots in an inquiry ordered by the government of India - the Srikrishna Commission Report.[32] Following the riots, Thackeray took stances viewed as anti-Muslim. In 2002, Thackeray issued a call to form Hindu suicide bomber squads in response to Islamist suicide bombers and other violence.[33] In response, the Maharashtra government registered a case against him for inciting enmity between different groups.[34] At least two organisations founded and managed by retired Indian Army officers, Lt Col Jayant Rao Chitale and Lt Gen. P.N. Hoon (former commander-in-chief of the Western Command), responded to the call with such statements as not allowing Pakistanis to work in India due to accusations against Pakistan for supporting attacks in Indian by militants.[35][36]

Following the Mumbai riots, Thackeray took stances viewed as anti-Muslim. However, he also declared that he was "not against every Muslim, but only those who reside in this country but do not obey the laws of the land...I consider such people [to be] traitors."[37] The Shiv Sena is viewed by the liberal media as being anti-Muslim, though Shiv Sainiks officially reject this accusation.[38] When explaining his views on Hindutva, he conflated Islam with violence and called on Hindus to "fight terrorism and fight Islam."[39] In an interview with Suketu Mehta, he called for the mass expulsion of Bangladeshi Muslim migrants from India and for a visa system to enter Mumbai.[40]

He told India Today "[Muslims] are spreading like a cancer and should be operated on like a cancer. The...country should be saved from the Muslims and the police should support them (Hindu Maha Sangh) in their struggle just like the police in Punjab were sympathetic to the Khalistanis.'[41] However, in an interview in 1998, he said that his stance had changed on many issues that the Shiv Sena had with Muslims, particularly regarding the Babri Mosque or Ram Janmabhoomi issue:[42] "We must look after the Muslims and treat them as part of us."[42] He also expressed admiration for Muslims in Mumbai in the wake of the 11 July 2006 Mumbai train bombings perpetrated by Islamic fundamentalists. In response to threats made by Abu Azmi, a leader of the Samajwadi Party, that accusations of terrorism directed at Indian Muslims would bring about communal strife, Thackeray said that the unity of Mumbaikars (residents of Mumbai) in the wake of the attacks was "a slap to fanatics of Samajwadi Party leader Abu Asim Azmi" and that Thackeray "salute[s] those Muslims who participated in the two minutes' silence on July 18 to mourn the blast victims."[43] Again in 2008 he wrote: "Islamic terrorism is growing and Hindu terrorism is the only way to counter it. We need suicide bomb squads to protect India and Hindus."[44] He also reiterated a desire for Hindus to unite across linguistic barriers to see "a Hindustan for Hindus" and to "bring Islam in this country down to its knees."[45]

In 2008, following agitation against Biharis and other north Indians travelling to Maharashtra to take civil service examinations for the Indian Railways due to an overlimit of the quota in their home provinces, Thackeray also said of Bihari MPs that they were "spitting in the same plate from which they ate" when they criticised Mumbaikars and Maharashtrians. He wrote: "They are trying to add fuel to the fire that has been extinguished, by saying that Mumbaikars have rotten brains." He also criticised Chhath Puja an holiday celebrated by Biharis and those from eastern Uttar Pradesh which occurs six days after the Hindu New Year. He said that it was not a real holiday.[46] This was reportedly a response to MPs from Bihar who had disrupted the proceedings of the Lok Sabha in protest to the attacks on North Indians.[46] Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, upset with the remarks, called on the prime minister and the central government to intervene in the matter. A Saamna editorial prompted at least 16 MPs from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, belonging to the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal (United), Samajwadi Party and the Indian National Congress, to give notice for breach of privilege proceedings against Thackeray.[46] After the matter was raised in the Lok Sabha, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said: "If anybody has made any comment on our members' functioning in the conduct of business in the House, not only do we treat that with the contempt that it deserves, but also any action that may be necessary will be taken according to procedure and well established norms. Nobody will be spared."[46]

On March 27, 2008, in protest to Thackeray's editorial, leaders of Shiv Sena in Delhi resigned, citing its "outrageous conduct" towards non-Marathis in Maharashtra and announced that they would form a separate party.[47] Addressing a press conference, Shiv Sena's North India chief Jai Bhagwan Goyal said the decision to leave the party was taken because of the "partial attitude" of the party high command towards Maharashtrians. "Shiv Sena is no different from Khalistan and Jammu and Kashmir militant groups which are trying to create a rift between people along regional lines. The main aim of these forces is to split our country. Like the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, the Shiv Sena too has demeaned North Indians and treated them inhumanely."[47][48]

Illness and death[edit]

Announcement[edit]

Thackeray death was announced at 17:00 by his doctor Jaleel Parkar on 17 November at "Matoshree", his Mumbai residence, following cardio-respiratory arrest at 15:33 local time, according to his physician.[49][50][51] A vigil was held outside his house that night.[52] Mumbai came to virtual halt immediately after his death, with shops and commercial establishments closed, while auto rickshaws and taxis also stayed off streets;[53][54][55] even pharmacies and other essential good stores were closed. Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation announced that it would run additional services, along with BEST. The whole of Maharashtra was put on alert, while Mumbai had an additional 20,000 Mumbai police officers, 15 units of the State Reserve Police Force and three contingents of the Rapid Action Force were deployed.[56] An unnamed police officer said: "Nobody has been asked to shut their shops or malls. Everybody closed their shops voluntarily. Autorickshaws and taxis also voluntarily stopped plying on the roads."

Reactions[edit]

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for "calm and sobriety" amongst the populace in the city, while praising Thackeray's "strong leadership;" his Twitter account posted a message that read: "He was a consummate communicator whose stature in the politics of Maharashtra was unique." Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi wrote: "Full of life, Balasaheb Thackeray was an epitome of courage & valour. I am grieved to hear about his demise. May his soul rest in peace." BJP leader and MP L. K. Advani said: "It is rare that I have seen a leader who has left a deep and abiding imprint on the country's events as Balasaheb Thackeray. He was uncompromising in his patriotism. He possessed remarkable qualities of leadership and an abundance of attributes of head and heart." Politician Arvind Kejriwal wrote: "Balasaheb no more. May his soul Rest in Peace. Our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family." The Federation of Associations of Maharashtra called for a bandh, terming it Shraddhanjali Day, on 19 November as a mark of respect for Thackeray. "The state of Maharashtra and the trading community has lost a true friend and a well-wisher. Balasaheb was a great son of the soil and a true nationalist who minced no words to express his views." FAM's affiliated include Agriculture Produce Market Committee and other commodity markets that trade in grains, sugar, dry fruits, metal, iron and steel and chemicals.[57]

Individual reactions included, Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata, whose condolence message reads: "Mr Balasaheb Thackeray was a strong leader of his people – respected and admired by many. He was outspoken but driven by his principles. My condolences go out to the members of his family. He has left his mark on Mumbai and Maharashtra, and will be missed by many."[58][59] Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani issued a statement that read: "I am deeply saddened by the passing away of Balasaheb Thackeray, the founder-president of the Shiv Sena. The nation and the state of Maharashtra have lost a great leader, whose robust patriotism matched his soaring popularity. His clear thinking, inspiring oratory and commitment to cause endeared him to the masses."[60] CNN-IBN anchor Rajdeep Sardesai wrote: "Tiger, Godfather, Mumbai icon, hero for many, villain for others. # Balasaheb Thackeray RIP"[61] and "Line of the day: Bombay made Bal Thackeray, Balasaheb made 'Mumbai'! Gnight."[62] Celebrity reactions included, Amitabh Bachchan wrote: "Each day he continued his struggle with a grit that was baffling even for the doctors on hand...And just a couple of hours back, as I stand next to his still, peaceful, saffron draped body, it is difficult to imagine...that he has left us!" Fellow Maharashtrian singer Lata Mangeshkar said: "I feel that the state has been orphaned. When I last met him he placed his hand on my head and blessed me. He was very close to my family." Superstar Rajinikanth wrote " Sri Bala Saab Thackrey was a great leader & a father figure to many, including me....this is a great loss to all...."[63]

Other reactions from the industry came on Twitter from Kabir Bedi, Arjun Rampal,[64] Ram Gopal Varma, Hema Malini, Mahesh Bhatt, Karan Johar, Madhur Bhandarkar, Neha Dhupia, Aftab Shivdasani, Vivek Oberoi, Smriti Irani (who wrote in Marathi), Dia Mirza, Riteish Deshmukh (son of former INC Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh), Ranvir Shorey, Kunal Kohli, Ritesh Sidhwani, Ajay Devgn, Hrithik Roshan, Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher[65] and Shobhaa De.[66] There were also visitations to his house in the days prior to his death by opposition and allied politicians, as well as celebrities like Salman Khan.

Funeral[edit]

He was accorded a state funeral. The funeral procession was held on 18 November 2012, at Shivaji Park, Dadar, at the same location where Thackeray had held many political rallies. On the day of his death, Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh said: "I appeal to people to remain calm and maintain law and order. Citizens should step out of the houses only if it is urgent;" He added that further arrangements were organised at Shivaji Park due to the expectant crowds and arrival of VIPs.[67][68] People came from across Maharashtra for his funeral including the party's strongholds of Thane, Raigad, Pune, Aurangabad and Konkan regions. Police said that 200,000 people walked alongside the hearse and were later joined by others on the way to the cremation site. The media also indicated that non-Hindus, such as Muslim women and Christians, were mourning and joined the procession.[69] His body was wrapped in the tricolour flag after the body was taken from its glass case on a truck that was decked with flowers. The truck also carried his daughter-in-law Rashmi and grandson Aditya, while his son, Uddhav, was seen in tears on television broadcasts, and his estranged nephew, Raj, was also present but walked behind the hearse after getting off the truck to join the procession. The cortege's route stopped at Sena Bhavan (his party's headquarters in Dadar, before proceeding to Shivaji Park for the cremation[70] where over 2,000,000 mourners attended his funeral,[71] with his cremation taking place just after 18:00 the next day. His son, Uddhav, lit the pyre.[72] His nephew, Raj, was also seen in tears.[73] The funeral included state honours, such as a guard of honour and a 21-gun salute.[74] [75]

VIPs at his cremation included: Maharshtra Cheif Minister Prithviraj Chauhan, Maharashtra Governor K. Sankaranarayanan; BJP MPs L. K. Advani, Maneka Gandhi, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, Gopinath Munde and Madhya Pradesh Chief Menister; and Nationalist Congress Party MPs and cabinet members Praful Patel and Sharad Pawar, as well as his daughter, Supriya Sule. Others included Amitabh Bacchan, Anil Ambani, Sanjay Dutt, fellow Maharashtrians Nana Patekar and Mahesh Manjrekar. His funeral ceremony was broadcasted live across all national television channels, including the vernacular media.[76]

The government's decision to allow the use of Shivaji Park for cremation generated a debate.[77][78] The government of Maharashtra allowed his funeral to take place at Shivaji Park due to the size of the expected crowd; it was the first public funeral in the city since that of Bal Gangadhar Tilak's in 1920.[79][80]

In the neighbourhood of Palghar in the Thane district, two women were arrested under hate speech laws in India and the IT Act for writing the comment People like Thackeray are born and die daily, and one should not observe a bandh for that on Facebook. [81][82] One of the girls was arrested for posting the comment, while the other girl was arrested for 'liking' the comment.[83] The arrest came after a complaint was made concerning the two girls at the local police station. Subsequent to the arrest, both were granted bail on surety of 15,000 (US$230).[84][85] Kapil Sibal said that he was deeply saddened by arrest of the two girls over the Facebook post questioning shutdown for Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray.[86] Kapil Sibal stated that it is just their point of view and law should not ban people from expressing their views.[86] This statement of Sibal, India's former Union Information and Technology minister was described as a former web censor turning into an advocate for freedom of expression.[87]

Obituary in Parliament[edit]

He is the only non-MP to get obituary references in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha a on Friday, on 21st November 2012, the first day of the winter session of parliament [88] Thackeray is amongst the few leaders ever to get obituary references without being a member of either house. [89]

Cultural references[edit]

Thackery is satirised in Salman Rushdie's 1995 novel The Moor's Last Sigh as 'Raman Fielding'.[90] Suketu Mehta interviewed Thackeray in his critically acclaimed, Pulitzer-nominated, non-fiction 2004 book Maximum City.

Further reading[edit]

  • Jñāneśa Mahārāva, Thackeray, life & style, ( 2001 ) ISBN 8174480927[91]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]

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