Bal Thackeray cremated; Uddhav, Raj perform final rites(Updated:6.30PM IST)


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Bal Thackeray cremated; Uddhav, Raj perform final rites(Updated:6.30PM IST)

Updated: November 18, 2012 18:50 PM IST.

Pictures:NDTV

18:35 (IST)Bal Thackeray cremated; Uddhav, Raj perform final rites
Bal Thackeray has been cremated at Shivaji Park, where he launched the Shiv Sena 46 years ago at a massive rally on Dussehra. Nearly two lakh people, including several big names, have gathered at the sprawling ground as Mr Thackeray was consigned to the flames.

18:25 (IST) At least two lakh people are at the Shivaji Park grounds as Bal Thackeray is cremated. This is the first time the grounds have been used to cremate someone.

18:18 (IST) Son Udhav Thackeray lights the funeral pyre of Sena supremo Bal Thackeray.

18:17 (IST) Dileep Padgaonkar quotes Walt Whitman saying He (Bal Thackeray) was large enough to contain all contradictions.
18:13 (IST) Bal Thackeray’s older son Jaidev Thackeray who had broken ties with the family several years ago was is also seen at Shivaji Park during the final rites. 

18:06 (IST) Lakhs of people are chanting in Marathi and Hindi while the final rites are being performed. Loud roars of "Parat ya parat ya Balasaheb parat ya (Come back, come back, Balasaheb come back), Kon ala re, kon ala Shiv Senecha wagh ala (Who has come, who has come, Shiv Sena’s tiger has come)" and "Balasaheb amar rahe" (long live Balasaheb)
18:04 (IST) Raj Thackeray, the nephew of Bal Thackeray who broke ties with his uncle in 2006 to launch his own political party was seen crying standing next to the funeral pyre. Though estranged, Raj was seen by his uncle’s bedside quite often in recent times.

Meanwhile, the convoy with Mr Thackeray’s body has reached Shiv Sena Bhavan - the headquarters of the party. The picture below should give an idea of many people gathered to see him.

Bal Thackeray’s funeral procession on way to Shivaji Park; lakhs of supporters present

Updated: November 18, 2012 01:30PM IST.

Pictures:NDTV

Mumbai: The Shiv Sena chief’s body is being carried in a hearse on a flower bedecked truck. There is three-tier security around it - the Mumbai Police make up the first layer, the Rapid Action Force (RAF) is the second tier and Shiv Sena volunteers the third. Sena executive president and Bal Thackeray’s son Uddhav, his wife Rashmi and son Aditya are on the same truck. So are Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief and Bal Thackeray’s nephew Raj, his wife Sharmila and their children.

The body is being taken to Mahim Causeway, then to Sena Bhavan, the Shiv Sena headquarters in Dadar, to the Meena Tai statue in Dadar and finally to Shivaji Park, where, at a massive Dussehra rally in 1966, Mr Thackeray had launched the Shiv Sena. Mr Thackeray’s body will be kept at Shivaji Park till 5 pm for people to pay their respects. His last rites will be performed there at 6 pm; he will also be given full state honours. This is the first time a funeral will be held at Shivaji Park. Full permissions have been taken for that.

Food being distributed at Shivaji Park, where the funeral of Mr Thackeray will take place.

Updated: November 18, 2012 10:00AM IST.

Pictures:NDTV

Mumbai 18 NOV: Bal Thackeray’s final journey from his Bandra home, ’Matoshree’, to Shivaji Park has begun amid the presence of thousands of Shiv Sainiks, who have come from all across Maharashtra.

The Shiv Sena chief’s body is being carried in a hearse on a flower bedecked truck. There is a three-tier security around it - the Mumbai Police make up the first layer, the Rapid Action Force (RAF) is the second tier and Shiv Sena volunteers make up the third. Sena executive president and Bal Thackeray’ son Uddhav, his wife Rashmi and son Aditya are on the same truck. So are MNS chief and Bal Thackeray’s nephew Raj, his wife Sharmila and their children.


The body will be taken to Mahim Causeway, then to Sena Bhavan, the Shiv Sena headquarters in Dadar where Mr Thackeray’s A-list fans and friends, prominent leaders as also Sena workers are expected to gather, to the Meena Tai statue in Dadar and finally to Shivaji Park, where, at a massive Dussehra rally in 1966, Mr Thackeray had launched the Shiv Sena. Mr Thackeray’s body will be kept at Shivaji Park till 5 pm for people to pay their respects. His last rites will be performed at 6 pm.

The procession was supposed to start at 7 am, but was delayed as roads around Matoshree were filled with thousands of supporters. Bal Thackeray’s body was finally brought out of his house a little after 9 am in a hearse adorned with flowers. Uddhav broke down just before the body was loaded onto the truck.

Security has been beefed up across Maharashtra, particularly in Mumbai, where 48,000 policemen have been deployed to keep vigil. No autorickshaws and taxis will ply in Mumbai today; the Mumbai transport service has arranged for extra buses.

Mr Thackeray died on Saturday afternoon after a prolonged illness. He was 86. (Read more)

At Matoshree security has been very tight. As news of Bal Thackeray’s death spread, thousands of Shiv Sena workers gathered within minutes outside the Thackeray home. Till late in the night, there was a crowd of about 6,000 people there. About 2,000 cops have been posted there. The police has made an appeal to motorists to avoid the Western Express Highway as roads connecting the Kalanagar area, where Mr Thackeray’s residence is located, have been cordoned off. (Read: Traffic restrictions in Mumbai)

Today, at every 100 metres along the route of the funeral procession, 25 policemen have been deployed. The police has issued a traffic advisory and suggested that people stay home, unless absolutely necessary. "I appeal to people to remain calm and maintain law and order," Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh said.

A senior policeman at the Maharashtra Police Headquarters here, said, "The entire police force is on alert in Maharashtra. Lakhs of people are expected to visit Mumbai to get a last glimpse of Thackeray."

Along the procession route alone, around 20,000 cops, 15 companies of State Reserve Police Force and three contingents of the Rapid Action Force have been deployed. The Police Commissioner said he had cancelled his daughter’s wedding reception party on Sunday since he would be busy. Many Bollywood stars, important politicians and industrialists are expected to travel across the city today; they visited Mr Thackeray in great numbers over Wednesday and Thursday this week signalling that despite his divisive politics, Mr Thackeray commanded the attention of virtually every camp in the city. (Read: The legacy of Bal Thackeray)

Taxis and autorickshaws will remain off the roads today, their associations said here. There will be no cab and autorickshaw services from the city airports - domestic and international - either. BEST has decided to operate extra buses to facilitate travel for the last rites of the Sena leader. The Central Railway has also cancelled the megablocks on Central and Harbour line services tomorrow for the same purpose.

Mumbai has been calm till now, although most shops and other establishments - especially in the Sena stronghold of Dadar - began to close down as news of Mr Thackeray’s death came in. There were reports of shop being closed in Colaba and other Mumbai suburbs too and auto-rickshaw and cab drivers in many places reportedly refused to travel across the city for fear of violence or possible vandalism by Shiv Sena workers.

So much of the city wore a deserted look on Saturday evening with shops, hotels, restaurants and other commercial establishments were closed and there was sparse traffic on the streets. "We did not ask anybody to keep their shops shut. People are doing it voluntarily," the police commissioner said.

Pictures from : Rons Bantwal :Bal Thackeray’s Final Journey

 


NEW DELHI: Wrapped in the tricolour, Bal Thackeray’s final journey has begun. A sea of grieving people converged since early Sunday in Bandra here as preparations were underway for the funeral of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, who passed away Saturday afternoon.

The procession was to start at 7 am, but was delayed as roads around Matoshree were filled with thousands of supporters. Bal Thackeray’s body was finally brought out of his house a little after 9 am. His son, Uddhav, broke down just before the body was loaded onto the truck.

The flower bedecked truck on which a glass box carrying Thackeray’s body will wend its way from Bandra east to Dadar west via the Mahim Causeway - one of the connecting links between south Mumbai and suburbs over the Mahim Creek.

Along the procession route alone, nearly 20,000 policemen, 15 companies of State Reserve Police Force and three contingents of the Rapid Action Force have been deployed. The Police Commissioner said he had cancelled his daughter’s wedding reception party on Sunday since he would be busy.

Several Bollywood stars, important politicians and industrialists are expected to travel across the city today; they visited Thackeray in great numbers over Wednesday and Thursday this week signalling that despite his divisive politics, Mr Thackeray commanded the attention of virtually every camp in the city.

After allowing several thousands of Shiv Sainiks from all over the state to pay their last respects, the body will be taken to Shivaji Park and kept for a public ’darshan’ for over 200,000 people who are expected to turn up.

Mumbai police have made elaborate security arrangements by deploying 20,000 policemen, 15 companies of State Reserve Police and three companies of Rapid Action Force to deal with any situation.

Mumbai, which resembled a ghost city since Saturday evening, has remained calm and peaceful as news of Thackeray’s death began to sink in.

All major roads and public places were deserted barring the odd security vehicles, some Shiv Sena activists moving around or a few delayed office-goers scampering home.

Top VVIPs from all over India are expected to arrive for Thackeray’s funeral, slated at 6 pm. Sunday evening at Shivaji Park. (Inputs from agencies)

Updated: November 17, 2012 11:00PM IST

Bal Thackeray’s funeral today: Stay home, say police; autos and taxis off roads.

Mumbai: Security has been beefed up across Maharashtra, particularly in Mumbai, where 48,000 policemen have been deployed to keep ahead of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s funeral today. No autorickshaws and taxis will ply in Mumbai today; the Mumbai transport service has arranged for extra buses.

Mr Thackeray died on Saturday afternoon after a prolonged illness. He was 86.

The funeral procession would leave Mr Thackeray’s Bandra home, ’Matoshree’, at 8 am. A truck will carry Bal Thackeray’s body and there will be a three-tier security around it - the Mumbai Police will make up the first layer, the Rapid Action Force (RAF) will be the second tier and Shiv Sena volunteers will make up the third. The body will be taken to Mahim Causeway, then to Sena Bhavan, the Shiv Sena headquarters in Dadar where Mr Thackeray’s A-list fans and friends, prominent leaders as also Sena workers are expected to gather, to the Mina Tai statue in Dadar and finally to Shivaji Park, where, at a massive Dussehra rally in 1966, Mr Thackeray had launched the Shiv Sena. Mr Thackeray’s body will be kept at Shivaji Park till 5 pm for people to pay their respects. Where Bal Thackeray’s last rites will be performed is yet to be finalised the police said.

 

At Matoshree, where Mr Thackeray’s immediate family, including nephew and MNS chief Raj Thackeray, has gathered, security is very tight. As news of Bal Thackeray’s death spread, thousands of Shiv Sena workers gathered within minutes outside the Thackeray home. Till late in the night, there was a crowd of about 6,000 people there. About 2,000 cops have been posted there. The police has made an appeal to motorists to avoid the Western Express Highway as roads connecting the Kalanagar area, where Mr Thackeray’s residence is located, have been cordoned off. (Read: Traffic restrictions in Mumbai)

Tomorrow, at every 100 metres along the route of the funeral procession, 25 policemen will be deployed. The police has issued a traffic advisory and suggested that people stay home, unless absolutely necessary. "I appeal to people to remain calm and maintain law and order," Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh said.



A senior policeman at the Maharashtra Police Headquarters here, said, "The entire police force is on alert in Maharashtra. Lakhs of people are expected to visit Mumbai to get a last glimpse of Thackeray."

Along the procession route alone, around 20,000 cops, 15 companies of State Reserve Police Force and three contingents of the Rapid Action Force have been deployed. The Police Commissioner said he had cancelled his daughter’s wedding reception party on Sunday since he would be busy. Many Bollywood stars, important politicians and industrialists are expected to travel across the city today; they visited Mr Thackeray in great numbers over Wednesday and Thursday this week signalling that despite his divisive politics, Mr Thackeray commanded the attention of virtually every camp in the city.

Taxis and autorickshaws will remain off the roads today, their associations said here. There will be no cab and autorickshaw services from the city airports - domestic and international - either. BEST has decided to operate extra buses to facilitate travel for the last rites of the Sena leader. The Central Railway has also cancelled the megablocks on Central and Harbour line services tomorrow for the same purpose.

Mumbai has been calm today, although most shops and other establishments - especially in the Sena stronghold of Dadar - began to close down as news of Mr Thackeray’s death came in. There were reports of shop being closed in Colaba and other Mumbai suburbs too and auto-rickshaw and cab drivers in many places reportedly refused to travel across the city for fear of violence or possible vandalism by Shiv Sena workers.

So much of the city wore a deserted look on Saturday evening with shops, hotels, restaurants and other commercial establishments were closed and there was sparse traffic on the streets. "We did not ask anybody to keep their shops shut. People are doing it voluntarily," the police commissioner said.

No more activity at Matoshree & Dadar Pictures:

Bal Thackeray dies, life comes to a halt in Maharashtra

 

MUMBAI: Life virtually came to a halt in several parts of Maharashtra following the death of Shiv Sena supremoBal Thackeray today.

Shopkeepers and hoteliers downed shutters immediately after the news of his death.

There were some stray incidents of stone pelting in some areas in Mumbai and Thane. Taxis and autos were off the roads while local trains and BEST buses were plying in Mumbai though BEST authorities suspended operations in select areas where incidents of stone pelting were reported.

Officegoers tried to rush back to their homes as the news of Thackeray’s death spread.

The central railway has cancelled the mega block on both Central and Harbour lines in Mumbai on Sunday to help the people to attend the last rites of the departed leader.

Cabs and autos which remained off the roads today at the airport would also not operate tomorrow as a mark of respect for the departed leader, authorities said.

Reports coming from many cities including Pune, Nashik, Aurangabad and parts of Konkan said that shops and restaurants remained closed there and autos were off the roads after the news of Thackeray’s death was received.

There were stray incidents of pelting of stones on BEST buses at Pantnagar in suburban Ghatkopar, Naupada (Thane), Prateeksha Nagar, Kamothe (Navi Mumbai). The BEST suspended its operations in Mulund, Bhandup, Kandivali, Sion, Shivaji Nagar, Jogeshwari (E) and Kalanagar in Bandra. However, the transport undertaking said that it would operate its bus services tomorrow for the convenience of people who would come to pay last respects to Thackeray.

20,000 police personnel deployed

Security was beefed up across Maharashtra, particularly in Mumbai where 20,000 police personnel were deployed, to keep a tight vigil following the death of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray here today.

"The entire police force is on an alert in Maharashtra. Lakhs of people are expected to visit Mumbai to take a last glimpse of Thackeray," a senior police official at Maharashtra Police Headquarters said.

In Mumbai alone, over 20,000 city police, 15 companies of State Reserve Police Force and three contingents of Rapid Action Force have been deployed.

"The funeral procession will begin tomorrow at 7 AM. We have deployed enough number of police force at Sena Bhavan in Dadar, Matoshree in Bandra and at Shivaji Park where the last respects would be paid," 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. There would be traffic restrictions, particularly in Bandra and Dadar areas," Singh added.

Police have made an appeal to motorists to avoid Western Express Highway as roads connecting Kalanagar area, where Thackeray’s residence is located, have been cordoned off.

The entire city wore a deserted look as shops, hotels, restaurants and other commercial establishments were closed and there was sparse traffic on the streets.

"We did not ask anybody to keep their shops shut. People are doing it voluntarily," Singh said.

Appropriate arrangements have been made at the Shivaji Park where VIPs are also expected to reach to pay homage tomorrow, Singh added.

Tributes

Personalities across the political spectrum and social sphere today condoled the death of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray.

"Maharashtra has lost a veteran, experienced leader....He was a politician, cartoonist, editor, organiser as well as art-lover and orator," chief minister Prithviraj Chavan said.

Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde said that Thackeray, as cartoonist, arrived on the scene like a storm after the collapse of communists in Mumbai, and took forward the legacy of his reformist father, ’Prabodhankar’ Thackeray.

Shinde said he knew Thackeray for over four decades, and always felt he will survive the current bout of illness.

"He considered King Shivaji his idol. He worked for the people all his life. We took inspiration from him while governing in Maharashtra," said BJP chief Nitin Gadkari, who served as a PWD minister in the saffron alliance government in the state between 1995-1999.

State PWD minister Chhangan Bhujbal, a former Sena leader who later switched loyalties to the Congress and then NCP, said Thackeray created history by founding Shiv Sena and taking it to great heights politically.

"He was fearless while speaking...word ’compromise’ never existed in his dictionary," Bhujbal said.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s daughter and MP Supriya Sule said the Pawar family had very close relations with the Thackerays, though in the political arena the two rivals never spared each other.

"There were political differences for sure. But Pawar and Thackeray were the best of friends in the personal sphere. Thackeray helped a lot ahead of my marriage," she reminisced.

Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi said Thackeray was a strong patriot and a good cartoonist who carved an identity of his own in Maharashtra. "He had great affection towards me and was a guide for me," Modi said, offering his condolences.

Singer Asha Bhosale said she had lots of memories and it was a "sad day" for her. Lata Mangeshkar said Maharashtra has been "orphaned" today.

Tamil superstar Rajnikant described Thackeray as a great personality, and said he has lost a "father figure".

The 86-year-old cartoonist-turned-politician breathed his last at 3.30pm today at his residence Matoshree in suburban Bandra.

Mumbai: Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray died in Mumbai at 3:33pm today. He was 86.

The death was announced in a brief statement by doctors from Lilavati Hospital who had been treating him. His immediate family, including son Uddhav, who is the executive president of the Shiv Sena as well as nephew Raj Thackeray was present along with the top leadership of the party were with him at his Bandra residence, Matoshree, in his last moments

Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray dies at 86


Massive crowds of Shiv Sena supporters have gathered outside Matoshree within minutes of the announcement. A large contingent of police, State Reserve Police and Rapid Action Force personnel have been deployed to keep the crowds under control. Thousands of personnel from the Mumbai Police have also been deployed across the city, since there is apprehension of some violence. Sena leader Rahul Narvekar has appealed for calm to all party supporters. Earlier too, Uddhav Thackeray had told Shiv Sainiks that "no damage should come to the name of Matoshree".

He is survived by his wife Mina and sons Jaidev and Uddhav, who is the executive president of the Shiv Sena, which Mr Thackeray founded in 1966.Mr Thackeray’s health had reportedly deteriorated on Wednesday evening. At 2 am on Thursday, Udhav Thackeray emerged from the family home ’Matoshree’ to tell party workers, "Since yesterday (Wednesday), Shiv Sena chief’s condition is stable. I had said yesterday and I will say again today (Thursday), I have not given up hope. You too must not give up hope because we all are fighting soldiers of a fighting leader. You all are praying for his recovery and I have full faith in your prayers."

Security was tightened at Matoshree from Wednesday night, with the police putting up barricades to restrict movement around the area. Party workers began gathering at the Thackeray residence as news of the Sena chief spread. But by Thursday morning, Shiv Sena leaders said Bal Thackeray was better and was responding to medication.

Many VIPs visited Mr Thackeray home over the last two days. Actors Amitabh Bachchan, along with son Abhishek, and Sanjay Dutt had paid a visit late to Matoshree on Wednesday night.

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, BJP chief Nitin Gadkari and other politicians visited on Thursday. As did actors Salman Khan and Arbaaz Khan.

Born in 1926 to Keshav Thackeray, a social reformer, Bal Thackeray began his career as a cartoonist with the English daily, The Free Press Journal. He worked there for six years before starting his own journal Marmik - which means poignant - in 1960. The journal became a launch pad for his entry into politics in 1966, when on Dussehra, Mr Thackeray announced his party, the Shiv Sena, at a huge rally held at the Shivaji Park in Dadar in central Mumbai.

The primary political agenda of Mr Thackeray’s party was to attack what they called "outsiders" - then, Gujaratis and South Indians in Mumbai who Mr Thackeray accused of snatching jobs he claimed were meant for local Marathi-speaking people. The Sena countered widespread condemnation by calling it their fight for the sons-of the-soil or Marathi Manoos. Mr Thackeray would later similarly target north Indians.

Bal Thackeray soon built himself up to cult status. Unlike other khaki-clad leaders, he openly smoked pipes, wore sun-glasses and even drank beer - a sophisticated image that was in stark contrast to the growing hooliganism of his workers. Even his fiercest critics will not deny that Bal Thackeray was perhaps the most charismatic mass leader Maharashtra has ever seen. A master orator, his followers grew in numbers as he made vitriolic speeches pulling no punches when it came to attacking his political rivals. His supporters would wait all year long for the Sena’s annual Dussehra rally to hear "Balasaheb" speak. He cultivated a larger-than-life persona without once holding any public office.

In 1984, the Shiv Sena and the BJP joined hands in Mumbai and Maharashtra to ride the Hindutva wave. Mr Thackeray had a sartorial makeover. Dressed in white or saffron robes, with a blazing tika on his forehead, Thackeray would sit on a massive silver throne. Two or three necklaces made of rudraaksh beads would add to the image.

The fallout of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement had caused tension across the country. Mr Thackeray used his party newspaper and mouth piece, Saamna, in which, on the eve of the Babri Masjid demolition on December 6, 1992, he wrote an incendiary editorial, "Towards Ayodhya". He is quoted as saying, "Now, no one can stop the construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya. An ocean of millions of Ram devotees is surging to Lord Ram’s Ayodhya. Our brave Shiv Sainiks are also joining in." It is still contested if Shiv Sainiks actually took part in the demolition. The CBI, however, named Mr Thackeray as one of the accused in the Babri demolition; it accused him of conspiracy.

Only months later, in 1993, communal riots tore Mumbai apart - some say forever. Over 1,000 Muslims were killed and the Sena was accused of playing an active role. Mr Thackeray was tried and acquitted in several cases but only for making hate speeches. His party claimed that had it not been for the Shiv Sena, Mumbai would have burnt even longer.

The Mumbai riots led to a deep polarization and the Sena-BJP alliance swept to power in 1995. Though Maharashtra was officially governed from its Secretariat - Mantralaya - in South Mumbai, Matoshree, the Thackeray residence in Bandra became the new power centre. Politicians, industrialists and actors were seen at the "Tiger’s" beck and call; the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, had to meet and pose with Mr Thackeray to get clearance for his sole concert in India. It was this dominating influence over the city, without officially holding any position, that earned Mr Thackeray the nickname "remote-control."

Mr Thackeray was quoted around that time by the Asia Week as saying, "I am a great admirer of (Adolf) 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 organizer 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."

But the honeymoon was short-lived. In 1999, the Sena-BJP government was voted out. Thackeray could not even vote - the Election Commission banned him from voting and contesting elections for six years as he had been found guilty of electoral malpractices. More electoral humiliation followed in 2004. The edifice had begun to crack. In 2006, Mr Thackeray’s charismatic nephew Raj, broke away from the party over his uncle’s succession plans. Son Uddhav was anointed the successor and his grandson too joined the party.

As his party’s political fortunes declined - losing even the 2009 state elections - so did Mr Thackeray’s health. In his last Dussehra rally speech this year, Mr Thackeray addressed a huge rally at Shivaji Park - from where at a similar rally he had launched his party in 1966 - by a taped video message. A frail Mr Thackeray, with folded hands shaking, asked his followers to support his son, Uddhav.

If there was any solace in his final days, it was the Sena’s splendid victory in the 2012 Mumbai civic polls and also in the first signs of a patch-up between his son and estranged nephew.

There were flashes of the "Tiger" of yore till the very end. He warned recently that his Shiv Sena would disrupt the cricket tour that Pakistan will play in India in December this year. From his sickbed he wrote in the Saamna, "Even though I am lying indisposed on my bed, my blood does not allow me to sit silent when it comes to national interest. Hence, I am publishing this statement for my Hindu brothers with such intensity."

His admirers see him as the man who fought for the son of the soil, the Marathi manoos. And his critics, the man who sundered the city of dreams with his acidic politics. Either way, it will be very difficult to ignore the legacy of a man who started off as a cartoonist and was either caricatured by his opponents or revered by his supporters.
The legacy of Bal Thackeray:
Mumbai: Controversial. Communal. Demagogue. And the only man who could bring Mumbai to a halt. At the same time: a talented cartoonist, a master orator, a shrewd politician and a hero who fought for the rights of Marathis.
The legacy of Bal Thackeray
 
Depending on which side of the divide one is, these are the many perceptions of Shiv Sena President Bal Thackeray, a figure who will go down in Indian history as one of the most divisive and controversial personalities.
Born in 1926 to Keshav Thackeray - popularly known as Prabhodhankar after his magazine Prabhodhan - ironically, Bal Thackeray came from a legacy of tolerance. His father was a social reformer who worked to eradicate the evils of the caste system. In the 1950s, he was one of the leading voices of the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement that was launched to create a state for Maharashtrians on linguistic grounds. But the young Thackeray would take from that movement, not too much of its progressive and forward-thinking aspects, but its violent nature.
Is Matoshree still Mumbai’s power centre?

Along with RK Laxman, Mr Thackeray started his career in Bombay - as it was then known - as a cartoonist for the prestigious Free Press Journal. The talented Mr Thackeray was acclaimed for his clean strokes, his flair for wit and his keen observation. In 1960, he started his own journal Marmik - meaning poignant - which turned into a launch pad for his entry into the political arena. It was then that the ’insider-outsider’ debate sparked off in Mumbai as he began targeting Gujaratis and South Indians, accusing them of snatching jobs he claimed were meant for local Marathi-speaking Maharashtrians. Marmik, in fact, even published names of people from these two communities. Each list would end with a provocative call: read and stay silent.
It was with this objective that in 1966, on Dussehra, Mr Thackeray launched his party, the Shiv Sena at a mammoth rally held at the Shivaji Park in Dadar in central Mumbai. As the rally broke up, the crowds spread out to attack the "outsiders" and the city got its first brush of Sena’s politics of violence. Though there was widespread condemnation, the Sena justified it calling this their fight for the sons-of the-soil. In 1970, the Sena launched a campaign against them and Mr Thackeray’s workers were accused of murdering Krishna Desai, a stalwart communist leader. The Left also accused the Congress of supporting the Sena so as to end its hold on the city’s working class and trade unions.
Mr Thackeray had by now been able to successfully build a massive personality cult. Unlike other khaki-clad leaders, he openly smoked pipes, wore sun-glasses and even drank beer - an image that was in stark contrast to the growing hooliganism of his workers. Even his fiercest critics won’t deny that Mr Thackeray was perhaps the most charismatic mass leader Maharashtra has ever seen. A master orator, Mr Thackeray’s followers grew in numbers as he would continue to rouse the crowds with his fiery and often vitriolic speeches which would invariably always be punctuated with pot-shots and under-the-belt remarks taking on his political rivals. His supporters loved him and would wait for the Sena’s annual Dussehra rally to hear their ’Balasaheb’ speak. This mass hysteria gave him a larger-than-life appeal, all without once holding any public office.
In 1984, the new credo of Hindutva got the Shiv Sena and the BJP to join hands in Mumbai and Maharashtra. To propagate his cult-hood, Mr Thackeray too went for a makeover. Dressed in white or saffron robes, with a blazing tika on his forehead, Mr Thackeray would sit on a massive silver throne. Two to three necklaces made of rudraaksh beads would add to the image of his new avatar - that of a Godman.
The most serious allegation Mr Thackeray faced was of being communal and anti-minorities. From South Indians and Gujaratis, the Sena had a new target: Muslims. The fallout of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement had caused tension across the country. Thackeray used his party newspaper and mouth piece, Saamna, in which, just on the eve of the Babri Masjid demolition, he wrote an incendiary editorial, "Towards Ayodhya". He is quoted as saying, "Now, no one can stop the construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya. An ocean of millions of Ram devotees is surging to Lord Ram’s Ayodhya. Our brave Shiv Sainiks are also joining in."
 
It is still contested if Shiv Sainiks actually took part in the demolition. But Thackeray is believed to have said that if that was true, then he was proud of them. The CBI, however, named him as one of the accused in the Babri demolition and accused him of conspiracy.
The ’anti-Muslim’ tag, earned greater currency post the demolition as the terrible communal riots in 1993 tore Mumbai apart - some say forever. Over 1,000 Muslims were killed and once again, the Sena was accused of playing an active role. Perhaps, the strongest evidence to support Mr Thackeray’s alleged hatred for Muslims is found in the report compiled by the Justice BN Srikrishna Commission which looked into the riots and indicted Thackeray and Sena leaders.
In a searing comment, Justice Srikrishna said, "There is no doubt that the Shiv Sena and Shiv Sainiks took the lead in organising attacks on Muslims and their properties under the guidance of several leaders of the Shiv Sena from the level of Shakha Pramukh to the Shiv Sena pramukh, Bal Thackeray who, like a veteran General, commanded his loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate by organised attacks against Muslims."
Mr Thackeray was tried and acquitted in several cases but only for hate speech and never for conspiracy and the mass killings. His party too denied the accusation claiming had it not been for the Shiv Sena, Mumbai would have burnt even longer. Much later, Mr Thackeray had issued a call to form Hindu suicide squads to counter Islamic fundamentalism and terror in India. But he would also soften his stance stating he was not against all Muslims but only those who acted against the country’s interests.
The riots led to a deep polarization and the Sena-BJP alliance swept to power in 1995. Though Maharashtra was officially governed from its Secretariat - Mantralaya - in South Mumbai, Matoshree, the Thackeray residence in Bandra became the new power centre. Respected by a few, but feared by all, politicians, industrialists and actors would be at the ’Tiger’s’ beck and call, including the King of Pop, Michael Jackson who posed with Thackeray and got clearance for his sole concert in India. It was also an open secret that Congress leader and Bollywood actor Sunil Dutt had to plead before Mr Thackeray, whose government had arrested his son Sanjay, accusing him of being involved in the 1993 Bombay blasts that followed the riots. It was this dominating influence over the city, without officially holding any position that earned Mr Thackeray the nickname ’remote-control.’
Through fear and intimidation, Bal Thackeray ruled Mumbai.
Accused of being dictatorial and a demagogue, Mr Thackeray was quoted by the Asia Week saying, "I am a great admirer of (Adolf) 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."
But the honeymoon was short-lived. In 1999, his government was voted out. Mr Thackeray could not even vote as the Election Commission had banned him from voting and contesting elections for 6 years as he had been found guilty of electoral malpractices. Out of power, the Sena remained confined to only ruling Mumbai’s civic body. The diatribe though continued and the party turned into becoming the moral police and cultural arbiter of the state. Mr Thackeray lampooned those who celebrated Valentine’s Day, his Sainiks vandalising shops that sold related merchandise. His tirade against Pakistan grew fiercer and took an ugly turn when Shiv Sainiks dug up the cricket pitch at the Ferozshah Kotla Stadium in Delhi.
 
Yet, Mr Thackeray remained above the law. In 2000, he was arrested for his inflammatory speeches by his former acolyte Chhagan Bhujbal. Mumbai came to a standstill. But the arrest was seen only as tokenism and Thackeray was let off.
The rhetoric of intimidation and violence was finding fewer and fewer takers. In 2004, the alliance faced a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Congress-NCP combine, never tasting power again. Then, two years after the ignominy, the Thackeray family was split right in between, with his charismatic nephew Raj Thackeray exiting the party, angry that Thackeray’s son Uddhav was being projected as the heir to his father’s throne.
Mr Thackeray faced further embarrassment, as right under his nose, Raj’s new outfit - the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena - sharply cut into the Sena’s Marathi vote-bank. To counter this loss, the Sena found a new target to ’appease’ the Marathi Manoos: the city’s North Indian population. To create a fear psychosis, a few taxi and auto rickshaw drivers, vegetable vendors, milkmen - all migrants from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were attacked, forcing many to leave the city. Again, in a provocative editorial, "Ek Bihari, Sau Bimari" (One Bihar, Hundred problems), he slammed them as an unwanted lot.
The party that had rechristened Bombay as Mumbai also targeted local boy and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar for his statement that "Mumbai belonged to India." Actor Shah Rukh Khan was also not spared when he spoke in favour of Pakistanis playing in the Indian Premier League.
As his party’s political fortunes declined - losing even the 2009 state elections - so did Mr Thackeray’s health. In his last Dussehra rally speech in 2012, the ailing leader couldn’t make it in person and the Sena played out a pre-recorded video message. Frail, his hands shaking, Mr Thackeray knew he was sinking. Unseen ever before, with folded hands Mr Thackeray pleaded to his followers to support his son Uddhav.
 
If there was any solace in his final days, it was the Sena’s splendid victory in 2012 Mumbai civic polls and also in the first glimmerings of a patch up between his son and estranged nephew.
However, it still remains uncertain what they will make of the Thackeray legacy. His admirers see it as asserting the rights of the Marathi manoos. But his critics see as one of great paradox: of a man who injected a culture of intolerance into the veins of India’s most tolerant city.

File photographs by Rons Bantwal as below:

17:02 (IST) Bal Thackeray’s funeral procession reaches Shivaji Park where it will be kept for sometime before it is cremated. Lakhs of people from across the state have congregated at the grounds.

Comments on this Article
Jossey Saldanha, Mangalore/Mapusa/Mumabi Tue, November-20-2012, 1:44
What is this "Hind Foundation" banner outside St. Micheal’s Church, Mahim, Mumbai. I guess our catholic intellectuals are still sleeping....
Agree[0]
SURESH KOTIAN, KEMMANNU/ DUBAI Sun, November-18-2012, 11:11
May his soul rest in peace. He was a great Leader of Maharashtra and MUMBAI
Agree[0]
Oswin, Dubai Sat, November-17-2012, 8:16
Very True Jossey, good calculations, any way may his soul rest in eternal peace.
Agree[0]
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