Bal Keshav Thackeray (also known as Balasaheb Thackeray; Marathi pronunciation: [ʈʰaːkəɾeː]; 23 January 1926 – 17 November 2012) was an Indian politician who founded the Shiv Sena, a right-wing pro-Marathi and Hindu nationalist party active mainly in the state of Maharashtra.
|Founder of the organization Shiv Sena |
19 June 1966 - 17 November 2012
|Preceded by||Position created|
|Succeeded by||Uddhav Thackeray|
Bal Keshav Thackeray
23 January 1926
Pune, Bombay Presidency, British India
(present-day Maharashtra, India)
|Died||17 November 2012 (aged 86)|
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
|Political party||Shiv Sena|
|Spouse(s)||Mina Thackeray (née Sarla Vaidya)|
|Parents||Keshav Sitaram Thackeray (father)|
Rama-bai Thackeray (mother)
|Relatives||Sanjeevani Karandikar (Sister)|
Srikant Thackeray (Brother)
Raj Thackeray (Nephew)
Smita, Rashmi and Sharmila Thackeray(Daughters-in-laws)
Thackeray began his professional career as a cartoonist with the English-language daily The Free Press Journal in Mumbai, but he left the paper 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 for Marathi speakers. Through Marmik, Bal Thackeray 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, and against certain segments of Mumbai's Muslim population.
He had a large political influence in the state, especially in Mumbai; the Shiv Sena frequently used violent means against its detractors. A government inquiry found that Thackeray and Chief Minister Manohar Joshi incited members of the Shiv Sena to commit violence against Muslims during the 1992–1993 Bombay riots.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Thackeray built the Shiv Sena by forming temporary alliances with nearly all of state's political parties. Thackeray was also the founder of the Marathi-language newspaper Saamana. After the riots of 1992-93, he and his party took a Hindutva stance. In 1999, Thackeray was banned from voting and contesting in any election for six years on the recommendations of the Election Commission for indulging in seeking votes in the name of religion. Thackeray was arrested multiple times and spent a brief stint in prison, but he never faced any major legal repercussions for his actions. Upon his death, he was accorded a state funeral, at which a large number of mourners were present. Thackeray did not hold any official positions, and he was never formally elected as the leader of his party.
Thackeray was born in Pune on 23 January 1926 to Ramabai and Keshav Sitaram Thackeray (also known as 'Prabodhankar'). He was the eldest of nine siblings, and his family belonged to the Marathi Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu or CKP community. Keshav Thackeray was a social activist and writer who was involved in the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement of the 1950s, which argued for the creation of a unified state called Maharashtra for Marathi-speaking areas with Mumbai as its capital. Bal Thackeray was inspired by his father's political philosophy.
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 Srikant. He used it to campaign against the growing numbers and influence of non-Marathi people in Mumbai, targeting the South Indian population. After Thackeray's differences with the Free Press Journal, he and four or five people, including politician George Fernandes, left the paper and started their own daily, News Day. The paper survived for one or two months.
The success of Marmik prompted Thackeray to form the Shiv Sena on 19 June 1966. The name "Shiv Sena" (Shivaji's Army) was after the 17th century Maratha king. Initially, Thackeray said it was not a political party but an army of Shivaji Maharaj, inclined to fight for the Marathi manoos (person). It demanded that native speakers of the state's local language Marathi (the "sons of the soil" movement) be given preferential treatment in private and public sector jobs. The early objective of the Shiv Sena was to ensure their job security competing against South Indians and Gujaratis. In its 1966 party manifesto, Thackeray primarily blamed south Indians. In Marmik, Thackeray published a list of corporate officials from a local directory, many being south Indians, citing it as proof that Maharashtrians were being discriminated against.
His party grew in the next ten years. Senior leaders such as Babasaheb Purandare, chief attorney for Trade Union of Maharashtra Madhav Mehere joined the party and chartered architect Madhav Gajanan Deshpande backed various aspects of the party operations. In 1969, Thackeray and Manohar Joshi were jailed after participating in a protest demanding the merger of Karwar, Belgaum and Nipani regions in Maharashtra. During the 1970s, it did not succeed in the local elections and it was active mainly in Bombay, compared to the rest of the state. The party set up local branch offices and settled disputes, complaints against the government. It later started violent tactics with attacks against rival parties, migrants and the media; the party agitated by destroying public and private property. Thackeray publicly supported Indira Gandhi during the 1975 Emergency to avoid getting arrested; Thackeray supported the Congress party numerous times.
Dr. Hemchandra Gupte, Mayor of Bombay and the former family physician and confidante of Thackeray, left Shivsena in 1976 citing importance given to money, violence committed by the Shiv Sena members and Thackeray's support for Mrs.Gandhi and the 1975 emergency.
Politically, the Shiv Sena was anti-communist, and wrested control of trade unions in Mumbai from the Communist Party of India (CPI). Local unemployed youth from the declining textile industry joined the party and it further expanded because of Marathi migrants from the Konkan region. By the 1980s, it became a threat to the ruling Congress party which initially encouraged it because of it rivalling the CPI. In 1989, the Sena's newspaper Saamna was launched by Thackeray. Because of Thackeray being against the Mandal Commission report, his close aide Chhagan Bhujbal left the party in 1991. Following the 1992 Bombay riots, Thackeray took stances viewed as anti-Muslim and based on Hindutva. Shiv Sena later allied itself with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance won the 1995 Maharashtra State Assembly elections and were in power from 1995 to 1999. Thackeray declared himself to be the "remote control" chief minister.
Thackeray and the Chief Minister Manohar Joshi were explicitly named for inciting the Shivsainiks for violence against Muslims during the 1992–1993 riots in an inquiry ordered by the government of India, the Srikrishna Commission Report.
He had influence in the film industry. His party workers agitated against films he found controversial and would disrupt film screenings, causing losses. Bombay, a 1995 film on the riots was opposed by them.
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. In 2000, he was arrested for his role in the riots but was released because the statute of limitations expired. 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. After the six-year voting ban on Thackeray was lifted in 2005, he voted for the first time in the 2007 BMC elections. Eight or nine cases against Thackeray and Saamna for inflammatory writings were not investigated by the government.
Thackeray said that the Shiv Sena had helped the Marathi people in Mumbai, especially in the public sector. Thackeray believed that Hindus must be organised to struggle against those who oppose their identity and religion. Opposition leftist parties alleged 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) during Thackeray's retirement and appointment of his son, Uddhav rather than Raj as the leader of Shiv Sena. Narayan Rane also quit around that time.
The Sena acted as a "moral police" and opposed Valentine's Day celebrations. On 14 February 2006, Thackeray condemned and apologised for the violent attacks by its Shiv Sainiks on a private 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 it, although they indicated support for an "Indian alternative."
In 2007, he was briefly arrested and let out on bail after referring to Muslims as "green poison" during a Shiv Sena rally.
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."
Thackeray was criticised for his praise of Adolf Hitler which he later neither admitted nor denied. 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." In a 1993 interview, Thackeray stated, "There is nothing wrong" if "Muslims are treated as Jews were in Nazi Germany." In another 1992 interview, Thackeray stated, "If you take Mein Kampf and if you remove the word 'Jew' and put in the word 'Muslim', that is what I believe in". Indian Express published an interview on 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."
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 sena members 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 on six days of the Hindu month of Kartik. 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.'"
Opposition to Caste Based ReservationsEdit
Thackeray firmly opposed caste based reservation and said - "There are only two castes in the world, the rich are rich and the poor is poor, make the poor rich but don't make the rich poor. Besides these two castes I don't believe in any other casteism." The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) supported caste based reservations based on the Mandal commission. Thackarey, despite being warned that opposition to the reservations would be politically suicidal for the Shiv Sena party, opposed the BJP over this issue and said he would initiate "divorce proceedings against the BJP" if the BJP supported caste based reservations. This also let to his conflict with Chagan Bhujbal, an OBC, who later left the Shiv Sena.
Views on Veer SavarkarEdit
Thackeray defended Savarkar against criticism and praised him as a great leader. In 2002, when President A. P. J. Abdul Kalam unveiled a portrait of Savarkar in the presence of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Congress Party opposed the unveiling of the portrait and boycotted the function. Thackarey criticized the opposition and said "Who is [Congress president and Leader of the Opposition] Sonia Gandhi to object to the portrait? What relation does she have with the country? How much does she know about the history and culture of India?". Years later, when Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh made a statement that Savarkar was the first to suggest the two-nation theory that led to the partition, Thackeray defended Savarkar and accused Singh of distorting history.
Support for Kashmiri PanditsEdit
In 1990, an Islamic militant organization, through the columns of an Urdu daily, warned Kashmiri Pandits to leave the valley within 36 hours. Bal Thackeray got seats reserved in engineering colleges for the children of these Kashmiri Pandits in Maharashtra. He was one of the first persons to help them after which Punjab also followed suit. At a meeting with them he supported the idea that the Kashmiri Pandits could be armed for their self-defence against the violent Jihadis. 
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 shutting down. 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. It was reported that Shiv Sena workers forced shops to close down in some areas. The then 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 then-Gujarat Chief Minister (later The Prime Minister of India) Narendra Modi and the BJP leader and MP (Former Deputy Prime Minister of India), 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.
The Hindu, in an editorial, said regarding the shutdown that "Thackeray’s legion of followers raised him to the status of a demigod who could force an entire State to shut down with the mere threat of violence". Following his death, police arrested a 21-year-old woman who posted a Facebook comment against him, as well as her friend who "liked" the comment. Shiv Sena members also vandalised the clinic owned by the woman's relative.
Thackeray was called 'Balasaheb' and Hindu Hruday Samrat ("Emperor of Hindu Hearts") by his supporters. His yearly address at Shivaji Park was popular among his followers. In 2012, he instead gave a video-taped speech and urged his followers "to give the same love and affection to his son and political heir Uddhav as they had given him". Thackeray was known to convert popular sentiment into votes, getting into controversies and making no apologies for it though his son has tried to tone down the party's stance after his death. He was known for his inflammatory writings, was seen as a good orator who used cruel humour to engage his audience. He had a large political influence throughout the state, especially in Mumbai. His party never had any formal internal elections nor was he ever formally elected as its chief at any point. Gyan Prakash said, "Of course, the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement had mobilized Marathi speakers as a political entity, but it was Thackeray who successfully deployed it as an anti-immigrant, populist force." He inspired Baliram Kashyap the leader of Bastar who often regarded as the Thackeray of Bastar.
A memorial for him was proposed at Shivaji Park but legal issues and opposition from local residents continue to delay it.
Thackeray is satirised in Salman Rushdie's 1995 novel The Moor's Last Sigh as 'Raman Fielding'. The book was banned by the Maharashtra state government. Suketu Mehta interviewed Thackeray in his critically acclaimed, Pulitzer-nominated, non-fiction 2004 book Maximum City. Thackeray previewed director Ram Gopal Verma's film Sarkar, which is loosely based on him, released in 2005. 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.
Thackeray was married to Meena Thackeray (née Sarla Vaidya) on 13 June 1948 and had three sons, Bindumadhav, Jaidev and Uddhav. Meena died in 1995 and Bindumadhav died the following year in a car accident. Uddhav succeeded his father as the leader of Shiv Sena.Uddhav's son, Aditya wants to continue the family dynasty by getting active in the youth wing of the party
Raj is his brother Srikant's son. Despite Raj's breakaway from the main party, Raj continues to maintain that Thackeray was his ideologue and relations between them improved during Thackeray's final years. Raj broke away from Shiv sena to form his own political party called the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.
Sanjeevani Karandikar is Bal Thackeray's sister.
In popular cultureEdit
In the Sarkar film series, the title character is loosely based on Thackeray.
- Vaibhav Purandare (2013). Bal Thackeray and the rise of Shiv Sena. Roli Books. p. 62.
One more aspect of his personality, largely unknown, has been his love for the number 13,considered inauspicious by many. Thackeray said it is his lucky number. He married Sarla Vaidya, who became Meena Thackeray after marriage on 13 June 1948 and he launched Marmik weekly on 13 August 1960.
- Vaibhav Purandare (2012). Bal Thackeray and the rise of Shiv Sena. p. 26.
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The reports findings were presented to the government of Maharashtra on February 16, 1998, more than five years after the riots took place. The report determined that the riots were the result of a deliberate and systematic effort to incite violence against Muslims and singled out Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray and Chief Minister Manohar Joshi as responsible. The Shiv Sena-BJP government, however, refused to adopt the commission's recommendations and instead labeled the report anti-Hindu.
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The Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party Government in Maharashtra has rejected the core of the report, which was presented before the two Houses of the legislature on August 6 along with a memorandum of action to be taken thereon. The Action Taken Report (ATR), seeks to establish that the report is one-sided. Going further, Chief Minister Manohar Joshi termed the report "anti-Hindu, pro-Muslim and biased."
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18: According to Hemchandra Gupte, a former confidante of Thackeray, his major reason for leaving the party for his growing disgust with the prominence of money and the "goonda'ization" of the party(interview , 5th october 1992). 21.Interview, 3 october 1992, with Hemchandra Gupte, physician, formerly Bal Thackeray's family doctor, and Shiv Sena's mayor of Bombay from 1971 to 1972. Dr. Gupte left Shiv Sena in 1976 because of Thackerey's support for Mrs.Gandhi and the emergency.
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