Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bal Thackeray’s Biography and Chronology of Events in His Life

  • 1926: Bal Keshav Thackeray was born on 23 January 1926 in Pune in a lower middle class family. His father, Keshav Sitaram Thackeray, was an editor, writer, social reformer and social cum political activist. The Thackrey’s belong to the Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu (CKP) caste.
  • 1926: Bal Thackeray’s family name was “Thakre”. His father, being a fan of India born writer of “Vanity Fair”, William Thackeray, anglicized “Thakre” to “Thackeray”.
  • 1930: Birth of Bal Thackeray’s younger brother, Shrikant Thackeray.
  • 1956: Keshav Thackeray was a founding member of “Sanyukta Maharashtra Samiti” which fought for the creation of a separate Marathi speaking state. The state of Maharashtra was established on 1 May, 1960.
  • Mid 1950s: Bal Thackray started his career as a cartoonist with the Mumbai English daily “The Free Press Journal”. In the 1955 Guru Dutt movie “Mr & Mrs 55”, Bal Thackeray drew the cartoon for the Guru Dutt’s character, who is a struggling cartoonist.
  • 1960: Bal Thackeray and his brother, Srikant Thackeray, started the Marathi political weekly journal “Marmik”. In Marmik, he advocated an anti Gujarati, anti South Indian and anti Marwari sentiments.
 Balasaheb Thackeray dies:
  • Balasaheb Thackeray died at 3.30 pm on 17 November, 2012, of a cardiac arrest. This article discusses the main events from his life, his legacy, why he was famous and what he will be remembered for.
  • Large crowds of Mumbai’s residents and Shiv Sena supporters accompanied Bal Thackeray’s dead body from his residence, “Matoshri“, to Shiv Sena Bhavan. From Sena Bhavan Balasahab Thackeray’s body was taken to the statue of his wife Mina Thackeray at Shivaji Park. Shiv Sena “Shakha Pramukhs” (Branch Leaders) accompanied the special truck.
  • Bal Thackeray’s youngest son Uddhav performed the last rites as per Hindu custom. Usually, as per Hindu tradition, the eldest surviving son lights the funeral pyre. As per tradition, Balasaheb’s estranged elder son, Jaidev Thackeray, should have performed his last rites.
  • Jaidev Thackeray was standing alongside younger brother Uddhav when he lit Bal Thackeray’s funeral pyre. Bal Thackeray’s eldest son, “Bindumadhav”, had died in a road accident on 20 April 1996. Bindumadhav Thackeray’s Tata Sumo met with an accident at “Waksai Phata” on the old Bombay – Pune NH4 highway. One of the achievements for which Balasahab will be remembered is the new Mumbai – Poona Expressway.
  • Cousins Udhav and Raj Thackeray and their families came together for Bal Thackeray’s funeral. Raj Thackeray’s wife (Shalini), son (Amit), daughter (Urvashi), accompanied Uddhav, his wife (Rashmi), sons (Aditya, Tejas), on the truck that took Balasaheb’s body to Shivaji Park. Raj Thackeray walked with the crowd behind his uncle’s body.
  •  Politicians from all parties (Sushma Swaraj, Sharad Pawar, L K Adwani, S S Chouhan, DY Patil, Chhagan Bhujbal, Arun Jaitley, Praful Patel, etc), industrialist (Anil Ambani), actors (Amitabh Bachchan, Nana Patekar, Ritish Deshmukh, etc) paid their last respects at Shivaji Park.
  • This was an official state funeral. Mumbai Police gave a 21 gun salute before Thackeray’s was cremated.
  • Bal Thackeray had been suffering from respiratory and pancreatic illness. On 15 November, 2012, he was in critical shape and the doctors had given up hope. Meena Thackeray, Balasaheb’s wife too had died of an heart attack.

Shiv Sena bandh in Palghar against suspension of cops for Facebook arrests: Top 10 developments:NDTV

10 Developments

Palghar:  The Shiv Sena is enforcing a complete bandh or shutdown of Palghar today - this part of Thane in Maharashtra is where two young girls were arrested recently for their Facebook posts on Bal Thackeray's death. Mr Thackeray, who was 80, was the Shiv Sena president; he died earlier this month.
Here are the latest developments:
  • The Sena has called the bandh to protest against the suspension of two policemen who arrested the young girls.
  • Because of the Sena's bandh, schools, colleges and markets are closed. Bus services are limited. The courts are working, but not many people have turned up there.
  • There is heavy police presence all around. At least 500 police officers and the Rapid Action Force have been posted to maintain peace. "People have joined the bandh on their own. The entire talka is shut. Business establishments are closed," said Shiv Sena leader Prabhakar Raul.
  • On November 18, as Mr Thackeray was cremated, lakhs of supporters filled the streets to follow the hearse's journey to the large Shivaji Park in Mumbai. Nervous about potential violence by the Sena, the city was quiet, choosing to stay indoors.
  • Shaheen Dadha, a young girl, questioned this on Facebook. Her friend Renu Srinivasan indicated that she liked her comment.
  • The next day, they were arrested, provoking public outrage.
  • Their arrest was based on a police complaint by Sena leader Bhushan Sankhe in Palghar, a strong base of the party.
  • The charges against the two girls have still not been dropped - they have been accused of deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings, making statements promoting enmity between classes and under the Information Technology Act.
  • The girls were released on bail within a few hours of their arrest. Sena workers vandalised a hospital owned by the family of one of the girls involved.
  • The Shiv Sena says the policemen who arrested the girls are being unfairly penalised and that they were acting "as per the situation".
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Bal Thackeray: Identity Politics to the Fore

Bal Thackeray
By Ram Puniyani

The declaration of demise of Bal Thackeray (November 17, 2012) has brought the Mumbai city to a complete halt. Most of the news channels are relaying his death procession round the clock and having discussion about his tall stature most of the time. His grip on the city had been more or less complete from last three decades in particular. The methods he employed had some supporters on one side but for others it filled the people with fear, as his followers had been openly indulging in acts of vandalism time and over again. Today it is very difficult to say that city has come to a halt merely out of reverence for him alone or fear factor is also there behind this closure of the city will have to be assessed over a period of time.

As per some accounts Thackeray family had migrated from Bihar and finally settled in Maharashtra. Bal Thackeray came to prominence for voicing the need for jobs for ‘sons of the soil’ and with open threats to South Indians, Gujarathis, Biharis in that order. His initial role was that of breaking the left controlled trade unions, at the behest of the industrialists and section of the ruling party, Congress. This action of his had led to lot of violence between the leftist trade unions and Thackeray followers. The peak of this was murder of the CPI trade Unionist Krishna Desai, a blow from which the left trade unions could not recover.

He later jumped to bandwagon of Hidnutva politics, openly supporting the Bari demolition and playing an active part in the horrific Mumbai violence of 92-93. His writings in Saamna, the Shiv Sena mouth piece, were very provocative and could easily come under the clause of ‘Hate Speech’ but despite that the case filed by some Mumbai citizens fell through and Thackeray continued to spread his anti Muslim tirade through his speeches and writings. True later Election Commission disenfranchised him for six years from voting. After Babri demolition, someone suggested that the Shiv Sainiks were the one who demolished it; he cleverly lapped it up and said that if Shiv Sainiks have done it I am proud of that.

The violence which followed the demolition was probed by Shrikishna Commission. This commission’s findings indicted the Shiv Sena supremo. The celebration rallies were organized by Shiv Sena in Dharavi jurisdiction amongst others. The commission pointed out  “These Celebrations by Shiv Sena had mobs which were chanting provocative slogans: Musalman Ka Do Hi Sthan: Pakistan Ya Kabristhan (Muslims can only be in: Pakistan or Graveyard). In retaliation Muslims shout: Jo ham se takarayega: Mitti me mil Jayega (Those who attack us will be decimated).
To cite another example of Thackeray’s complicity and role in violence one recalls from Shrikrishna Commission report that ”On 1st January 1993 there was an article in Samna under the caption’ Hindunni Akramak Vhayala Have’,(Hindus should become aggressive now) openly inciting Hindus to violence.” (Volume 1 page 13)

 The more striking observation of the Commission was " From the conversation which could be heard [by Yuvraj Mohite, Mahanagar Reporter, at Thackeray house during the riots], it is clear that Thackeray was directing Shiv Sainiks, Shakha Pramukhs and other activists of Shiv Sena to attack the Muslims, to ensure that they give tit for tat and ensure that 'not a single landya (a derogatory term for Muslims) would survive to give the evidence’ [vol.ii, Page 173-174]...the communal passions of the Hindus were aroused to a feverish pitch by the inciting writings, particularly in Saamna and Navakal.” [Volume 1, page 21-22]. “...and violence in January (1993) was taken over by Shiv Sena and its leaders who continued to whip up communal frenzy by their statements and acts and writings and directives issued by Shiv Sena Pramukh Thackeray.”

This is just a small sample of what was the role of Thackeray and his Shiv Sena in The Mumbai violence. After the Mumbai violence he started being called Hindu Hriday Samrat and had a total grip on the politics of Shiv Sena. He was unfazed by the impact of his beliefs and actions. In his famous interview to the time magazine (titled: Kick them out!) during this time he poured vitriol on the Muslims with all abuses and hate. As Muslims were fleeing Mumbai he said that Muslims need to be taught a lesson. If they are fleeing Mumbai, it’s OK; else they should be kicked out.

Shops down their shutters in Bandra. Photo: Shashi Ashiwal(Courtesy:The Hindu)
He has been an opponent of Indo-Pak friendship all through. Be it the question of Indo Pak Cricket match or the concert of Pakistani Gazal singers, Mumbai witnessed the ‘direct action’ of Shiv Sainkis in the form of digging the cricket ground pitch at Kotla cricket ground or vandalizing the Gazal concert in Mumbai. Much before the coming to fore of the terror of groups related to Sadhvi Prgya Singh Thakur or Swami Aseemanand, it was Thackeray who had called for the formation of ‘suicide squads’ by Hindus. A self avowed admirer of Hitler, he conceded that he appreciates Hitler and that he himself has many traits similar to Hitler. He believed in Thokshahi (Dictatorship) not Lokshahi (democracy).

The divisive politics of Hidutva or the identity politics built around ‘sons of the soil’ does run parallel to his opposition to the affirmative action and aspirations of deprived sections of society. True to that he opposed the implementation of Mandal Commission, indicating his anti OBC politics. He was the only one who stated it openly. The other party thoroughly opposed to Mandal, BJP, which is opposed to affirmative action for any weaker section of society, dodged the issue and intensified on Ram Temple issue to bypass this affirmative action for OBCs. Similarly Thackeray has been vehement opponent of dalit aspirations in any form. When the Maharashtra Government published Babasaheb Ambedkar’s book, ‘Riddles of Rama and Krishna’, Shiv Sena stood to oppose it in a serious way and there was some violence between Shiv Sena supporters and dalits. When the issue of changing the name of Marathwada University to Ambedkar’s name came, Thackeray opposed it strongly leading to another bout of unrest. It is just a tragedy of our times that despite this clear agenda of Thackeray, some dalit parties are allying with his party at electoral level.

The massive turnout as his funeral is being read as that he was the voice of Marathi manoos. True a section of Marathi people adore him, but the larger section of poor peasants, the workers and dalits from Maharashtra know that Thackeray has been no representative of their aspirations. With so many problems nagging the poor of Maharashtra there is a need to shift the terrain of politics away from identity politics of the likes of Thackeray to the material issues related to bread, butter, shelter and employment. The politics of Hindu nation and Marathi manoos is against the values of Indian Constitution which call for the principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. How did Thackeray’s politics conform to these is a matter of introspection.

Contents of the article rest on its author.