|Bal Keshav Thackeray|
|Founder and President of the Shiv Sena|
19 June 1966 - 17 November 2012
|Preceded by||Position created|
|Succeeded by||Uddhav Thackeray|
23 January 1926|
Pune, Bombay Presidency, British India
(now in Maharashtra, India)
|Died||17 November 2012
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
|Political party||Shiv Sena|
Bal Keshav Thackeray (IPA: ['ʈʰa:kə'ɾei]; 23 January 1926 – 17 November 2012) was an Indian politician who founded the Shiv Sena, a right-wing Marathi ethnocentric party active mainly in the Western Indian state of Maharashtra. He was called as 'Balasaheb' by his supporters. His followers called him the Hindu Hruday Samraat ("Emperor of Hindu Hearts").
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 (United Maharashtra) movement, which advocated the creation of a separate linguistic state of Maharashtra. Through Marmik, he campaigned against the growing influence of non-Marathis in Mumbai. In 1966, Thackeray formed the Shiv Sena party to advocate for the interests 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. Thackeray was also the founder of the Marathi-language newspaper Saamana and the Hindi-language newspaper Dopahar ka saamana. He was the subject of numerous controversies. Upon his death, he was accorded a state funeral with a large number of mourners present.
Early and personal life
Thackeray was born in the city of Pune on 23 January 1926 to Ramabai and Keshav Sitaram Thackeray (also known as 'Prabodhankar' Thackeray). He was the eldest of nine siblings. His family belonged to the Marathi Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu (CKP) community. Keshav Thackeray was a progressive social activist and writer involved with the Samyukta Maharashtra Chalwal (literally, United Maharashtra Movement) in the 1950s, arguing for Maharashtra to become an independent Marathi-speaking state with Mumbai as its capital. His father was said to have supported the use of strategic violence and the reason his father left the movement was his stance against communists.
Thackeray began his career as a cartoonist in the Free Press Journal in Mumbai. His cartoons were also published in the Sunday edition of The Times of India. In 1960, he launched the cartoon weekly Marmik with his brother. He used it to campaign against the growing numbers and influence of non-Marathi people in Mumbai, targeting Gujaratis and South Indians. 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.
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. The Party grew in power when in the early 1970s he was joined by senior leaders such as Marathi Literature Historian Babasaheb Purandare, Chief Attorney for Trade Union of Maharashtra Madhav Mehere as a party Attorney and experienced Trade Union Chartered Accountant Madhav Deshpande to back him up for various aspects of the party operations. 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 declared himself to the 'remote control' chief minister.
On 28 July 1999 Thackeray was banned from voting and contesting in any election for six years from 11 December 1999 till 10 December 2005 on the recommendations of the Election Commission for indulging in corrupt practice by seeking votes in the name of religion. After the six-year voting ban on Thackeray was lifted in 2005, he voted for the first time in the 2007 BMC elections.
Thackeray claimed that the Shiv Sena had helped the Marathi manoos (Marathi person) in Mumbai. Thackeray believed that Hindus must be organised to struggle against those who oppose their identity and religion. especially in the public sector. 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.'
In 2006, Thackeray's nephew Raj Thackeray broke away from Shiv Sena to form the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). This was when Bal Thackeray on his retirement from active politics appointed his son, Uddhav rather than Raj as the leader of Shiv Sena. Raj continues to maintain that Thackeray was his ideologue.
Issues and actions
On 14 February 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." Thackeray and the Shiv Sena remained opposed to Valentine's Day celebrations, although they indicated support for an "Indian alternative." However, in some cases, the SS has been more tolerant during Valentine's Day celebrations.
Thackeray was criticised for his praise of Adolf Hitler. 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." 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."
Accusations of Xenophobia
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. Following the riots, Thackeray took stances viewed as anti-Muslim. In 2002, Thackeray issued a call to form Hindu suicide bomber squads to take on the menace of terrorism. In response, the Maharashtra government registered a case against him for inciting enmity between different groups. 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 India by militants.
Thackeray 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." The Shiv Sena is viewed by the liberal media as being anti-Muslim, though Shiv Sainiks officially reject this accusation. When explaining his views on Hindutva, he conflated Islam with violence and called on Hindus to "fight terrorism and fight Islam." In an interview with Suketu Mehta, he called for the mass expulsion of illegal Bangladeshi Muslim migrants from India and for a visa system to enter Mumbai, the Indian National Congress state government had earlier during the Indira Gandhi declared national emergency considered a similar measure.
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." 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: "We must look after the Muslims and treat them as part of us." 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." 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." 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."
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, a 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. 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. 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. 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."
On 27 March 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. 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. Goyal further said "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."
The 2011 documentary Jai Bhim Comrade depicted a speech by Thackeray at a public rally, in which he articulated "genocidal sentiments" about Muslims, stating that they were the "species to be exterminated." The documentary followed this by showing several Dalit leaders criticizing Thackeray for his beliefs. Following Thackeray's death in 2012, the Pakistani newspaper Express Tribune published an editorial defining him as a "bigot" who instigated racism and violence against Muslims.
Thackeray died on 17 November 2012 as a consequence of a cardiac arrest. Mumbai came to a virtual halt immediately as the news broke out about his death, with shops and commercial establishments downing their shutters. The entire state of Maharashtra was put on high alert. The police appealed for calm and 20,000 Mumbai police officers, 15 units of the State Reserve Police Force and three contingents of the Rapid Action Force were deployed.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for calm in the city and praised Thackeray's "strong leadership", while there were also statements of praise and condolences from other senior politicians such as the chief minister of Gujarat (Now Prime Minister of India), Narendra Modi, and the BJP leader and MP, L. K. Advani.
He was accorded a state funeral at Shivaji Park, which generated some controversy and resulted from demands made by Shiv Sena. It was the first public funeral in the city since that of Bal Gangadhar Tilak in 1920. Thackeray's body was moved to the park on 18 November. Many mourners attended his funeral, although there were no official figures. The range reported in media sources varied from around 1 million, to 1.5 million and as many as nearly 2 million. His cremation took place the next day, where his son Uddhav lit the pyre. Among those present at his cremation were senior representatives of the Maharashtra government and the event was broadcast live on national television channels. The Parliament of India opened for its winter session on 21 November 2012. Thackeray was the only non-member to be noted in its traditional list of obituaries. He is one of few people to have been recorded thus without being a member of either the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha. Despite having not held any official position, he was given the 21-gun salute, which was again a rare honour. Both houses of Bihar Assembly also paid tribute.
The funeral expenses created further controversies when media reports claimed that the BMC had used taxpayers' money. In response to these reports, the party later sent a cheque of Rs. 500,000 to the Corporation.
Thackeray is satirised in Salman Rushdie's 1995 novel The Moor's Last Sigh as 'Raman Fielding'. Suketu Mehta interviewed Thackeray in his critically acclaimed, Pulitzer-nominated, non-fiction 2004 book Maximum City.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bal Thackeray.|
- Profile by BBC dated 19 July 2000 referring to him as the "uncrowned monarch of Maharashtra"
- Funeral pictures