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Hindu hardline Shiv Sena party leader Bal Thackeray, center, talks to Indian Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, left, at the release ceremony of a pictorial biography on his life, as former Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee looks on in Mumbai, India. Thackeray, the extremist leader linked to waves of mob violence against Muslims and migrant workers, has died Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, after ailing for several weeks. He was 86. - File photo by AP
Hindu hardline Shiv Sena party leader Bal Thackeray, center, talks to Indian Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, left, at the release ceremony of a pictorial biography on his life, as former Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee looks on in Mumbai, India. Thackeray, the extremist leader linked to waves of mob violence against Muslims and migrant workers, has died Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, after ailing for several weeks. He was 86. - File photo by AP

MUMBAI: Bal Thackeray, who died on Saturday aged 86, was a firebrand Indian politician whose right-wing Hindu party renamed Bombay and became synonymous with deadly ethnic violence.

His death leaves the western state of Maharashtra and its capital – now known as Mumbai – without one of its most controversial figures, who more than once expressed his admiration for the Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.

Born on January 23, 1926 to a social activist father who played a key role in the movement to establish the Marathi-speaking state of Maharashtra, “The Tiger” as he was known began life as a political cartoonist.

But he later became more involved in calling for greater rights for local Marathi-speaking people and protecting their culture and language from migrant workers.

Re-naming Bombay as Mumbai in 1995, after a local deity and city landmarks, was seen as an attempt to rid the city of its British colonial past and emphasise its Marathi roots.

Thackeray had founded the Shiv Sena or Shivaji’s Army in 1966 in honour of the legendary 17th-century Marathi figure whose battles established a Hindu kingdom in a land then run by Muslims.

The party’s ideology to protect and promote local “sons of the soil”evolved into a high-profile campaign against south Indian clerks and restaurateurs, Gujaratis, Muslims, north Indians and Bangladeshis who had come to the area for work.

A tightly-controlled network of Shiv Sena cells across the city often followed up threats and intimidation with violence.

Among the Sena’s targets were shops selling Valentine’s Day cards, cinemas showing a film with a lesbian theme and Pakistani sportsmen and entertainers.

In 2010, activists forced some Mumbai cinemas to close in protest at “unpatriotic” comments by Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan lamenting the absence of Pakistani cricketers from that year’s Indian Premier League.

Most significantly, Thackeray stoked the fires of tension after Hindu militants destroyed a mosque in 1992 said to have been built on the site of a Hindu temple in the northern town of Ayodhya.

As reprisal attacks spread throughout India, he called on Hindus to “teach (Muslims) a lesson”.

A subsequent judicial inquiry later pointed the finger at Thackeray, accusing him of directly inciting anti-Muslim violence that left more than 1,000 people dead in India’s financial and entertainment capital.

Thackeray was never brought to book by the authorities.

In 1994, the Shiv Sena came to power in Maharashtra in a coalition with the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), buoyed by anti-Muslim sentiment and a wave of bomb blasts blamed on Islamist extremists.

One of its first acts was to rename the city in a move that was widely criticised at the time, though “Mumbai” has since become its globally accepted title.

Thackeray was never a lawmaker – indeed he once said he hated politics – but his hand was seen in many of the state government’s decisions.

Some saw the measure of his power and influence in his invitation to Michael Jackson to play a concert in the city in 1996 – and donate the profits to a Shiv Sena youth charity.

The late US singer is said to have autographed a toilet he used in Thackeray’s bungalow.

The party lost power at state level in 1999 but has retained a presence ever since, with a BJP-Shiv Sena coalition in February winning a fourth consecutive term over Mumbai’s civic body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.

The ageing Thackeray’s pronouncements continued to be watched with both interest and fear as power passed to his son Uddhav and his nephew Raj set up a new, rival party.

His fiery speeches – in later years through the Marathi-language newspaper Saamna (Confrontation) – ridiculed revered Indian political figures and showed “The Tiger” still had teeth.

He appeared by videolink to his followers in October during a Hindu festival, looking frail and describing his weakened state in what sounded like a farewell speech.

“People should keep their loyalty intact (towards Shiv Sena)... You took care of me, now take care of Uddhav and Aditya,” he said, referring to his son and grandson.

Behind every pronouncement stood Thackeray’s regionalist agenda or desire to protect traditional Indian values but it stood increasingly at odds with India’s fast-growing economy that was embracing globalisation.

He may have found support among those whose jobs were threatened, but for many the communalism he espoused looked out of touch with modern India.

Comments (72) Closed

Vicky Nov 17, 2012 02:22pm
I have objection your honor the the following sentence you made "A subsequent judicial inquiry later pointed the finger at Thackeray, accusing him of directly inciting anti-Muslim violence that left more than 1,000 people dead in India
Indian2905 Nov 20, 2012 03:04am
Ok that means you never had followed your government during 1992-2005 .Ask them they will tell you about Bala Saheb .
Rashed Chughtai Nov 17, 2012 09:07pm
In today's world, there is no place for racism, terrorism and people like Thackeray. In the biggest democracy, people were not able to call 'Bombay' with the fear of Shiv Sena threatening them with violence. When Ahmedinijad talks about Hitler, whole world criticizes him; while Bal Thackeray was praised by his followers and no one in India had guts to say anything. I hope India gets rid of these kind of people as soon as possible to prosper and become a greater nation.
Amir Bangash Nov 17, 2012 06:46pm
The Indians are now free from the atrocities of one Hindu extremist.
Insight Nov 18, 2012 03:40pm
As far as I know he is a mixed bag like fighting for his language,region,religion,country etc.He wanted to protect his region that was his topmost priority and for that he may say anything for that.
Mahesh Patil Nov 18, 2012 07:32am
He was never afraid to call spade a spade.He is the only politician who never retracted his statement however controversial.Many hate to love him. You can not say he was against Muslims. He has many followers in Muslim community as well.He always appreciated nationalist Muslims not those who used to celebrate when India lost to Pakistan in cricket.
Saurabh (Seoul) Nov 19, 2012 01:15am
Bandey me tha dum.. RIP Bala Saheb.
sbb Nov 18, 2012 07:28pm
Not sure this comparison with Jinnah makes sense... so how so?
sbb Nov 18, 2012 07:30pm
There are many differences Imran. You'd have to really open your mind and think for yourself to see those differences.
Nish Nov 18, 2012 01:35pm
That's completely wrong perception and far from reality. He was against the terrorism that was coming from Pakistan. It was his theory (he gave it first) that India needs strong Pakistan to tackle terrorism. He completely understood the problem but his anger was towards the certain people in Pakistan who support terrorism against India and even world. I think you should not go by one or two statements, you must check the complete theory under which a politician is acting. I agree that his way of handling of extremism was extreme and may not be the best way but some people say that iron can be cut by iron only.
Imran Nov 18, 2012 02:43pm
Wake up mate, I think you're confusing him with someone else.
Atul Nov 19, 2012 02:24pm
Dude, Read again..I am not even Marathi....Thats why i may have some contradiction to his view point. But this does not stop me to look at bigger picture. Some one is leader, a great leader and not every one would support his ideology...But this doesn't deny his courage..His method could be wrong but atleast he had conviction..Look at ur kolkata...whom do u call leader..Mamta know well..Ok let's take Jyoti basu's case who reign over for 20 years...west bengal lost all his industries however he was a great leader and I admit to his leadership...Whole point is not everyone has to agree with some one's ideology or leadership...Everyone has his own space,...Atleast bandh in mumbai was not like kolkata where strike and bandh has been the only way ....Again, not against my brothers there, its about at different places and for different issues you need a different type of leadership quality...Hope you get it..
Vgp Nov 18, 2012 01:41pm
Both the doctors attending to him till the end were muslims
Vgp Nov 18, 2012 01:48pm
Sorry to inform you about your satement of his hatred towards muslims. Both doctors treating him till the end were muslims for your kind information
Imran Nov 18, 2012 10:47am
Heard about him for the first time here. Never knew he existed. Sorry, no disrespect intended.
abdul narayan Nov 19, 2012 03:14pm
Some comments suggest that because he did not retract his statements he was great.In my opinion never retracting a statement is to be pig headed.It means he did not have the ability and the intellect to correct any of his wrong views.If he was my son i would have been utterly disappointed.In India unfortunately the masses are like sheep and his skill was being a good sheppard.period.good riddance.
abdul narayan Nov 19, 2012 03:15pm
If he was a proud maharashtrian he would have changed his surname to a marathi surname.
Shako (@Shako46714024) Nov 18, 2012 10:59am
The problem with Indian common people is that they expect so little from a political leader that even a person like Bal Thakre can become a heroic persona. Its a tragedy of Indian democracy.Anyone with good oratory skills and rhetorical thoughts can win hearts and minds and the example is this one ! But at the end of the day who was Bal Thakre if not more than a extremist gang leader which rules Mumbai by the power of muscle and money. -Shibabrata
Bombaywala Nov 18, 2012 07:26pm
He left a legacy of money
Imran Nov 18, 2012 02:47pm
Hmmm..........his legacy, now thats a worry.
Atul Nov 18, 2012 02:56pm
Dear Janjuah, I am pursuing my MBA from a global B school..we get lot of leadership sessions from the best leaders around the globe. Further, I travel across to know different cultures. I have many friends in London from Pakistan. So I understand what is leadership all about. How many leaders you see now a days with grit, courage and sticking to their world. Further, I live in mumbai and am not marathi. I am from a state called UP, which according to many Mr. Thackrey was against.of all that, if I have respect for this person, there are reasons....We could not get our lunch today because cafeteria was not opened due to his demise, but than I saw many tears in eyes of thousands of people who loved him.... Not everyone is fool to love someone like him...... Please come across border to see how much love hindus & muslims have for mr. Thackrey...
Nikhil Nov 18, 2012 04:23pm
Balasaheb who oppose the cricket matches with Pakistan........Balasaheb who invited Javed Miadad in his home for dinner. He was a real hero for Hindu community.
kausik Nov 19, 2012 07:54am
It is truly Ironic that independent India could produce a dictatorial leader like this but for state reorganization through language lead to fragmentation of Indian politics based on regionalism as I lived through that history as Nehru agreed but opposed by Patel..
faz Nov 19, 2012 03:57pm
I even wonder why Dawn bother to mention him man was full of hate for Pakistan and Muslim .
Shako (@Shako46714024) Nov 18, 2012 11:06am
"I do not support his ideology but he was a great man for whatever he has done. " - a comment like this express perfectly how confused you are.In fact most Marathi who supports him are as confused. Bal Thakre was clever enough to use the frustration of Marathi youth and turn it into a rally of hatred. Some Siv Sena supporters might like him but people all over India ? Not sure about that .. I can still see the posters Siv Sena put up in Mumbai to protest Valentine's Day celebration in Kolkata ( LOL) a Kolkatan myself I laugh at his audacity which had no result (as we continue to celebrate it) but some hollow steam. I hope all racism and anti muslim sentiments will end slowly in Mumbai and all over India in future. Amen!
Sheikh Haroon Nov 18, 2012 01:53pm
Why do indians call india secular when you have political parties created on religious and ethnic hate! Maybe a great leader but no more. You can win hearts of many by hating someone based on their ethnicity and religious beliefs but also cursed by many you hated. Let's see where the Shiv Sena heads now.
P N Eswaran Nov 20, 2012 08:44am
You will not understand. You first need to know the meaning of secularism, democracy and at the basic level what a state means.
Satosh Nov 19, 2012 08:13am
But our constitution and people in general are aggresively secular. Mumbai even today has more than 3 million muslims who are undoubtedly the largest beneficiaries of any govt. programs or largessee.
Nikhil Nov 18, 2012 11:48am
If want know difference between threat & respect then why more than 20 lacs people are gathered in Mumbai after his death.
Bombaywala Nov 18, 2012 07:25pm
Jinnah's vision was independence, but Thakrey's vision power, money for self and family
Saad (@saad_durrani) Nov 18, 2012 08:08am
The article comes from AFP and not Dawn. So blame AFP for this content. Furthermore, Thackrey, God bless his soul, was not too much enthusiastic about Pakistan.
Janjuah Nov 18, 2012 09:15am
People were just scared of him.. it is not Dawn who is getting emotional rather people who do not know the difference between respect and threat. We have also such politicians in Pakistan who are good at getting attention from People and manipulate the emotions of innocent people. Open your eyes and look around the globe ...learn about leadership qualities.. leaders command respect but not demand respect for power.
Subhadeep Nov 18, 2012 03:13pm
I want to protect my country and my culture. I am an Indian. I am Hindu. Bal Thackeray NEVER spoke for me. He personified everything that is pulling us back into the abyss of hopelessness that was the India of the 80s and 90s. India has moved on. These fake messiahs need to be relegated to the dustbin of history.
Prem Chougule Nov 18, 2012 09:08am
Hindus Hero Balasaheb Thakare Amar Rahe
yuppyindian Nov 18, 2012 11:46am
He was game changer. A person with top of charimsa and influence on masses. Completely disagree with some of his stands and completely agree with some. RIP.
Think Nov 19, 2012 12:16pm
Because we in India have a total number of muslims that exceeds the number in Pakistan. Because we have millions of Christians. Because regardless of your religion you can go to colleges, courts and you can vote. There are small factions of discontent everywhere but as a nation we do not have a national religion. We have a secular constitution and our laws are written for everyone without consideration for religion. Becuase our army is a powerful neutral group that fights for our country and our generals do not take over our country. We have our problems but there is much to learn from us.
hitesh Nov 19, 2012 06:09am
raika ! You too !
Sanjay Nov 17, 2012 02:06pm
Sarkar power maker great leader bhagwan apki atma ko santi jarur dega great loose to indian politics
raika45 Nov 17, 2012 02:20pm
Very few in the world as common men have left such a foot print that shames all of us worldwide or nation wise.Hitler as a common sergeant in the army was responsible for the second world war.In India you have a common cartoonist for a newspaper creating havoc in India by setting up communal and regional paranoia.He became the uncrowned king of Maharashtra where even the central government could not touch him.He was in fact the dada of the region.Nothing worked without his say so.. He was king.His death is going to be a great relief to the people especially in Bombay.No country deserves people like him.
chakraborty Nov 19, 2012 05:44am
Only man in the world who without being in political power could stop a mega metro city like mumbai with 1 command. He was sarkaar. The real mard maratha. Balasaheb We Love you
chakraborty Nov 19, 2012 05:40am
Aurangzebs torture on hindus is well documented by Muslim historians. Also he killed is own brothers, jailed his father, Killed Shivajis son and shifted his capital from Delhi to Maharashtra to fight Marathas. Ultimately after 27 years of war, He lost the battle. Till the time people will idolize aurangzeb, People will follow Bal Thackeray.
follower Nov 17, 2012 03:28pm
you are just talking about negative thing.what about the development he made during his four year power when he construct 50 flyover in mumbai and india biggest highway mumbai-pune.
Cynic Nov 17, 2012 03:36pm
The world is a better place without such xenophobic megalomaniacs. A butcher of Innocent men, women and children. Maybe now everyone can breathe a sigh of relief and live in relative peace and harmony.
Sudarshan Nov 18, 2012 07:14pm
Well, I am an indian and i come from maharashtra. in my opinion, he was a fascist, comparable with narendra modi. Hindu indian middle class always appreciated him. He had justified the demolition of babari mosque.His fascist methods and his hatred towards muslims had always attracted criticism from many intellectuals. He was very very narrow minded. He never believed in democracy or constitutionalism. He never tolerated any other opinion but his own. But he was a great friend of other political leaders. He was never ever accused of any corruption or misuse of power for his own interests. He was a charismatic leader, cartoonist and he always defied any sort of authority. There is no insult intended in this comment. It just an opinion of a person who happens to be hindu but never ever supported mr. thakare. I am glad to see Dawn's coverage of his death.
Shahzad Nov 18, 2012 06:22pm
Bal Thackeray may we rest in peace as you leave
naitik009 Nov 18, 2012 06:12pm
I really never understood how quick people are at generalizing other people. "The problem with India common people" as if every common indian is born with this kind of inherant problem.
Imran Nov 17, 2012 04:14pm
Good riddance. This extremist was no different than any of the religious extremists (Taliban) here.
naitik009 Nov 18, 2012 06:09pm
I never understood how quick people are at generalizing other people behaviours. "The problem with India common people" as if every Indian common people is born with defect mentioned in above comment..
Vipin Nov 19, 2012 04:14am
As a kid traveling to Mumbai, in mid 70's, I was asked not to speak in my mother tongue, Malayalam, in public! It was known to attract the wrong kind of attention from 'Shiv Sena'. I am sure, a lot of other kids were given the same advice over the years, representing the diversity that India is. I struggle to this day, how fear and intimidation of your own diversity can be called leadership!
kausik Nov 19, 2012 07:25am
He is not a great leader represented tiny maharastrian fraction.he was equally abhorred in majority of Indians as he advocated hate and violence against non maharasrians in Bombay.India is democratic and secular in spite these regional fanatics.
Utkarsh Nov 17, 2012 05:36pm
I think more Indians hated him than loved him.
Muneeb Nov 17, 2012 02:28pm
one should never be happy on any human's demise, but correct me i am wrong, man-slaughtering thousands of innocent unarmed humans (in this case happens to be Muslims), destroying an old architectural relic (Babri Mosque), spreading hatred via fiery speeches, urging the masses to lift weapons and all this with the support the of the government machinery; if i am not forgetting, this is how 'terrorism' is defined?
kausik Nov 19, 2012 07:12am
Mr Thackeray does not represent the typical Indian whether Hindu,or any other religion.He admired Hitler and preached hatred and Paracholism in Bombay the most cosmopolitan city in India.I am a international indian and cannot approve of those who preach hatred and evoke fear through their goons and it is ironic his last name is changed by his father to a english surname.Modern India has no place for these pseudo Hitlers.
sanjay Nov 19, 2012 07:13am
You are right Sheikh. Being a person from the largest democracy in the world, I am constantly haunted by the same question. A great leader is one who unites and not divides but unfortunately what our politicians do is to divide and rule. Its a tragedy of sorts.
Abhay Nov 18, 2012 01:14pm
where are you from
Abhay Nov 18, 2012 01:16pm
one thing sure , he stopped muslim dominated violence in india
M. Iqbal Nov 18, 2012 01:26am
Please do not glorify this man in any manner. He was staunchly anti Pakistan, anti Muslim in every respect. He hate Pakistan and Pakistanis. His party workers disturb and destroy Pakistani singers and actors gathering in Bombay in particular and in Indian in general. Why you wasting your time and ink on this ignorant Hindu who hate Pakistan.
Ahtasham Nov 17, 2012 06:20pm
This man was so extremism in Hinduism against Muslims..... Must be banned his party and need to put in terrorism list...
Vishnu Sharma Nov 18, 2012 02:28am
The Jinnah Of India Dead.
MKB Nov 19, 2012 07:36am
Shako, I am also Kolkatan, living in North India. I do not also agree many issues of Bal Thakarey. but he is the only leader I found who do not retracted his views or stand. I heard once he said," there are two class , poor and rich, it does not matter which religion he posses, poor of all religions are suffer and the rich of all religions prosper" He was not against patriotic Muslims, but against Muslims who ahve different agenda, His objection against outsider mostly Bangladeshi & people from other parts of India is the genuine concern for the people of Maharastra, and all our regional leaders are doing that, may be different way.He is the person of guts, conviction and courage.
Syed Shah Nov 18, 2012 02:57am
A comment in Times of India by one Urmila: You are trying to re-construct history. All fabricated imaginary stories. Time to accept the reality. Muslims are as much Indians as you, if you are one. It is a travesty of truth to allege that Aurangzeb stopped Hindus from going to temples. In fact he gave grants for temples and helped HIndus a lot. His bureaucracy had lots of Hindus too. Then there was no communalism or racism as the one or your guru practiced. Even Shivaji was not a racist or communal. Desiring power is different from being racist. Time to give Muslims their due place in a modern India. Thank God this so called leader is gone. Hope the successors are broad minded good people not narrow minded one like Bal Thackray.
Jeevan Nov 17, 2012 08:31pm
God bless his soul. He will be hero for all those non-Muslims who are trying to protect their countries and cultures, and coming generations from Muslims. He taught muslims how to live in a secular country and be loyal to your country. He died at age of 86 but has left a legacy that many admire.
abbas Nov 18, 2012 02:18pm
He was against gaddar muslims only,he and his party must be awarded.
chakraborty Nov 19, 2012 05:22am
He was not roaming around with kalashnikovs !!!!!!!!!!!!!
manoj Nov 17, 2012 08:54pm
Good riddance! People like him who put other issues above the country are not needed!
Atul Nov 18, 2012 06:05am
I am from India and follow Dawn for its unbiased content. However this is the second article , I am seeing since yesterday about Balasaheb thackrey. The views are completely biased. I do not support his ideology but he was a great man for whatever he has done. Dawn should not get emotional and come out of pre conceived notions. Please look at indian media/newz channels to gauge the love and respect he has got from people. I was shocked to see that adding comments was disabled in other post about him. I think, you will do it here too. My belief about Dawn's unbiased journalism has shaken with their analysis of Bala Saheb's life.
Suleyman Nov 18, 2012 04:02pm
How could anyone who admired Hitler garner such support??? I don't get it
Harry Nov 18, 2012 05:18am
All I got to say is that I guess you as a journo you can't stand the fact that someone like Bal Thackrey was so powerful. I am not even a hindu and I still believe that if he fought for his culture and language and brought it to some status then he did a fantastic job. I am a north Indian but I have no grudge against him for having anti migrant tone. Anyone who loves his culture might just get possessive about it and that is what he did. So what if he restored the name of the city to Mumbai, that is his passion for his culture and also India is not ruled by the red coats anymore so if the name Bombay went away then hats off to Mr Thackrey. I guess instead of sounding like an anti bal thackrey journo you should sound like a neutral one which you do not in this article. May be you should take up some mass communication classes in a decent institute before you write another article.
urawal Nov 18, 2012 07:24am
He was not anti muslim but against "anti national Muslims". He made it clear many times. Men who speak from the heart ( unlike politicians and diplomats often face brickbats).
SRK Nov 18, 2012 03:33pm
In the same analogy we can dub the great Quaid as one of the greatest terrorist as he instigated Direct Action day which left thousands dead and subsequently lead to horrors of partition
gujjar Nov 18, 2012 09:27pm
infect thackery's type think people are barrier of indea's development we should think positively
Raj Nov 18, 2012 06:47am
Balasaheb Thakare was real Tiger.. Rest In Peace Sir...