Bal Thackeray’s Poisonous Legacies

The Indian elite’s reaction to Bal Thackeray’s death raises profoundly disturbing question, argues Rohit Chopra.

With news breaking earlier this evening of Bal Thackeray’s death, the movers and shakers of Indian society have been in overdrive as have been their lesser-known followers, minions, and acolytes on Twitter. The event is being milked for all it is worth by news organizations, corporate sponsors, assorted media personalities engaging in “me-too” memories, and political organizations trying either to generate political capital from it or, at the very least, seeking not to alienate some imagined Hindu/ Maharashtrian/ Mumbaikar voter sentiment by appearing too critical of Thackeray.

The world of Indian mediapersons, the political establishment, and the charmed circle of Indian celebrities have been expressing their shock and grief even as they have been marveling at Thackeray’s greatness. In perfect concert with one another, these three incestuously interconnected sectors of Indian society–which feed off and sustain each other–are colluding in a massive act of amnesia. The holy trinity of Indian elites is refusing to address Bal Thackeray’s culpability in the deaths of Hindus and Muslims in the 1992-1993 riots in Bombay, the lengthy record of Shiv Sena violence and threats against Tamilians, Gujaratis, and UPites, the Sena’s collusion with industrialists to break the backs of mill workers and unions in Bombay in the 1970s, the degradation of the political culture of Maharashtra and Mumbai, and the general destruction of the city’s cosmopolitan culture.

When these fundamental, defining aspects of Bal Thackeray’s life and career are acknowledged by commentators, they are immediately balanced–according to some spurious notion of journalistic objectivity, I suspect–by paeans to his personal charisma, political acumen, ability to gauge the pulse of the people, and so on. Or they are subsumed within larger narratives that efface or mitigate the violence. (He was good and bad / He was an enigma / He was sweet to me / He was a bundle of contradictions or a complex figure).

Rajdeep Sardesai’s tweets say it all:

Gave me an interview in 1988 as a cub reporter. Was generous with his time and thoughts. Offered me beer too! RIP #Balasahed [sic]

Tiger, Godfather, Mumbai icon, hero for many, villain for others. Balasaheb Thackeray RIP.

Most bizarrely from Sardesai, the suggestion that Mumbai might be shut today because of “respect” for Thackeray.

When Delhi netas die, a city doesn’t shut down out of either fear/respect. Mumbai does. What does that say? Gnight.

Anyone who has experienced any bandh in any Indian city knows that the cause is usually not some spontaneous expression of independently-felt love for a political leader or party that expresses itself in an act of collective intelligence or emotion like a flash mob performing “Gangam Style.”

The Indian media prides itself on its independence, its critical eye, its ability to speak truth to power. Indian celebrities fancy themselves socially responsible intellectuals. Indian politicians routinely remind the world of the glorious vibrancy and dynamism of the “world’s largest democracy.” But neither the conventions of in-house obituary boilerplate nor the pithy wisdom of the tweets emanating from the finest minds in Indian media, celebrityhood, and politics have spoken today in any honest way about Thackeray’s role in one of most disgraceful episodes in the history of independent India–the pogrom against Bombay’s Muslim communities in 1992 and 1993. When they have pointed to Thackeray’s involvement, they have refused to ask the difficult but obvious questions that follow; questions about justice, rights, accountability, and rule of law, but also about tolerance, coexistence, and our responsibility to our fellow citizens.

The list of those participating in what can only be called a soft-pedaling of Bal Thackeray’s legacy, through this Fox News style “Fair and Balanced” approach, is a veritable who’s who of contemporary Indian political, social, and cultural life. The President and Prime Minister of India; politicians across parties; Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh and other cricketers; any number of Bollywood actors, directors, and producers who queued up to meet him as he lay on his deathbed; and reputed journalists like Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt, and Vir Sanghvi. Dutt, on leave at the time, did not cover Thackeray’s funeral on television.  Yet her brief comments on Twitter (here and here) in response to arguably the biggest Indian news story of the day broadly conformed to the same pattern, in my view. They did not transcend nor were critical enough of the dominant elite discourse about Thackeray, a mixture of equivocation, amnesia, and silence.

This is the real legacy of Bal Thackeray. To make political violence so routine that it ceases to outrage. To make the strategy of scapegoating and targeting particular ethnic, religious, or political groups part of the calculus of everyday politics. To make fear and intimidation a legitimate, accepted part of political leadership. And to constantly remind any potential critic, in media or otherwise, of the threat of violent reprisal for saying something that Thackeray and his thugs might not appreciate.

No less part of Thackeray’s legacy is the fact that the political establishment, world of Bombay celebrities, and mediapersons who fawned over him when he was alive as much as they are doing now appear to have quiescently accepted all of this. The curious insistence on journalists addressing Bal Thackeray as ‘saheb’ — imagine, for instance, an article beginning with the words, “Herr Hitler, responsible for the death of millions of German citizens”–merely reflects this legacy.

In recent years, observers on the political situation in Maharashtra have sometimes described the Shiv Sena as a spent force, one that was condemned to lose its long-term political battles because there was no coherent object that it was fighting for. But in all these other poisonous and alarmingly permanent ways there is no doubt that Bal Thackeray won.

The free pass given to Bal Thackeray today also tells us something about the pathologies of Indian life that produced and made Bal Thackeray possible: pathologies shared across those who identify as secular and those who rant against pseudo-secularists; pathologies that unite the South Bombay whisky-drinking, rugby-playing, Bombay-Gym types with Dadar Hindu colony sons-of-the-soil; pathologies that allow diasporic Hindu nationalists in Silicon Valley and Shiv Sena footsoldiers alike to believe that they are the victims of a secret cabal of Muslims, Marxists, and Macaulayites. Thackeray did not, then, come out of nowhere. He was not the creation simply of disaffected subaltern Maharashtrian communities or of middle-class Maharashtrian communities who felt outsiders had snatched what was their due. He represented something central in Indian political society–not an essentialist, ahistorical tendency but a historically produced capacity for using violence as a form of political reason, the absence of a coherent vision of solidarity that could respect similarity and difference, and the many deep failures of the postcolonial Indian state that our exceptionalist pieties about Indian tolerance, coexistence, and secularism often obscure.

And no, we do not need to be silent on any of this just because Bal Thackeray died earlier today. I doubt any Shiv Sainiks or Thackeray himself spent a minute thinking in silence about any Muslim killed in the 1992-1993 riots in which the Shiv Sena played a key role. As Vir Sanghvi’s article on Thackeray, posthumously anointing him the “uncrowned king of Mumbai” reminds us, Thackeray’s chief objection to Mani Ratnam’s representation of him in the film Bombay was that his cinematic alter-ego expressed regret at the riots.

It is a disgrace that Bombay is shut today. It is a disgrace that Thackeray is being wrapped in the national tricolor. It is a disgrace that he is being given state honors in his death. And it is a disgrace that none of our political leaders, celebrities, or media personalities seem to think any of this is a disgrace. And that if they do they are terrified of saying so.

164 Replies to “Bal Thackeray’s Poisonous Legacies”

  1. Dear Vijayababu,
    In response to what Bala Saheb said on sachin tendulkar i request you to kindly read this
    If you read this then you will see that no where has Bala Saheb said anything against him. And it may seem that he his ridiculing him but please note that the statment was given in true Bala Saheb style which always has been of satire since he was a political cartoonist in his early years. This style of his has always been in attack because it seems like he his ridiculing or insulting the other person. But the fact is that sachin tendulkar and Bala Saheb had great fondness for each other which is demonstrated by the fact that sachin rushed to pay his last respects as soon as the first test against england got over. You can read it here:
    Secondly i agree that maharashtra has produced great saints who were people of god and peace. But when the time came maharshtra also produced fighters like Chatrapati Shivaji, Lokmanya Tilak, Tatya Tope, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, etc. Just the way you cant call these great men violent you cant call Bala Saheb violent too because like them he also stood up for the cause of his men.

  2. Dear Hitesh,
    Tks for your courteous comments and for admitting few things frankly.

    Regarding Sachin Tendulkar I quote his comments:

    “Mumbai belongs to India. That is how I look at it. And I am a Maharashtrian and I am extremely proud of that but I am an Indian first,”

    Sachin, like a true patriot spoke from his heart. Any body will fail to understand what is the political element in this!

    Well, on a personal note I may add that for Spiritualism and Bhakti tradition, Maharashtra tops and sets an example for people of other states. No where else was there a congregation of Saints like Gnandev, Namdev, Eknath, Tukaram, Gora, Raka, Kanhopatra … the list is endless.Leading the Vittal Bhakti movement, all of them made Maharashtra spritually vibrant and prosperous in materialistic terms. All those Saints and the varkaris stand for peace and tolerance. There shouldn’t be a place for violence, bloodshed or narrow minded politics on this sacred soil of Maharashtra. Hope, sanity will prevail and peace will flourish in Mumbai.

  3. Very well written piece. All our sundry politicians, bollywood personalities and other ragtag celebrities conveniently forget or ignore Thackeray’s years of raving, ranting, threats and violence, as well as the ‘turn a blind eye’ attitude of successive Congress Chief Ministers who allowed Bal to do all this under their noses and did nothing to curb or stop it. In many ways we the ‘mango people’ are also responsible for allowing the Thackeray family to rule Bombay, by not protesting enough and being cowed down by the goons of the Sena. Even now, how many of us are bold enough to write our honest opinions on social media like FB or TW ? The more we are scared and sit quiet, the stronger the goons become. We are equally responsible.

  4. Mr. Vijayakumar Babu, I read all your comments so I will try my best to answer all of them.
    Let’s start with your comment on my comment. If you take the time and pain to read all the above comments by various bigots(yes, I still they are bigots) then you will notice that none of them have condoned the violence or atrocities by other religions meted out on Hindus. Some have even tried to call that fair. So it won’t surprise me if they are pained by kasabs death and I have said exactly that. My comment wasn’t uncharitable, it was the plain truth.
    Then you called Bala Saheb an extortionist who used Hinduism, regionalism and violence to gain popularity. If that was the case then Bala Saheb wouldn’t have shunned political power and asked somebody else to become the CM of the state or even a minister in the Central govt. He was only interested in the welfare of people of his state that’s why he worked tirelessly to achieve that. I agree he used violence against north indians, tamilians, etc but was he left with any choice. His demand for reservation of jobs for the local public continuously fell on deaf ears. So what was he supposed to do. Ignore his own people ?? If you see worldwide there is a percentage of jobs reserved in public and private sector for the local public. So how was his demand unfair. Then it is alleged that he used violence against muslims. Again he wasn’t the one who started it. He simply retaliated. The people of his state, his city, his country were being hacked by muslims. You think any self respecting Hindu leader will not respond to that ? So yes I agree with Cho Cho that he should be honoured with a Bharat Ratna. He should have gotten it long ago but its better late than never.
    And by the way he never ridiculed sachin tendulkar, he only told him to not talk about politics which he doesn’t know or is even aware of.

  5. Mr Hitesh, your made uncharitable remarks. A person speaking against Thackery doesn’t automatically support another community or a terrorist. For your information Thackeray and Kasab are of the same mould….

  6. Mr Akash, you said Mr Thackeray is a man of principles. What are those and are they acceptable and worth emulating by any one? For me he is only an extortionist and used Regionalism, Hinduism and violence etc to gain popularity and wealth. He is such a petty minded fellow who went to the extent of ridiculing Sachin Tendulkar, the most loveable person in this country.

  7. Dear Indranil, You have described Mr Thakeray as hard core Nationalist. How can you call a person nationalist, when he hates people of his own Nation , Tamils, Biharis, Upites and attacks them with his goons?

  8. Hey Sanyasi and all the bigots supporting him here’s a suggestion for you people. Now since kasab is hanged why don’t you write about how great a person he was and what yeoman service he did. That should definitely get you some more cheap publicity. Or have you gone into mourning for your “brother”.

  9. Everyone who thinks the SS is awesome, can we clarify if you mean the Shiv Sena or the Schutzstaffel? I guess it doesn’t make that much of a difference.

  10. @Akshata, I bet you’ll have no trouble rejoicing over someone’s death today and speaking every imaginable ill thing about him. Kasab was hanged. Let’s all start a discussion about how he did this for the love of his people and religion and hence it was completely justified.

  11. Thank you so much. I could not agree more with each sentence. This is the first brave piece of journalism that I have seen on Bal Thackeray’s death. And the sadness is that one has to be “brave” to write the truth–the emperor has no clothes…and yet all of Bollywood, Media and Political-dom pretend that he was a savior dressed in the finest robes.

  12. Well said sunny…
    But there are some people for whom only their suffering is important, they will never try to understand the suffering of others. Anjie if u ask about BT illtreating the people of other states, the very foundation of shiv sena was because in the very own state of maharashtrians in their city of Mumbai they were not given jobs inspite of proper qualification because all the higher posts in the city were occupied by non Maharashtrians and whenever there was a vacancy these non Maharashtrians would call and give this post to someone from their native place.
    And what do you mean by ignoring who started it?
    And taking course to non violence? If BT would have not taken that step in riots of 1993 today Mumbai would have been ridden of all Hindus. Its very easy to say that when you have not seen the terror in the eyes of someone who had experienced the attack by the Muslims at that moment. How can you tell whether the step of S.S. was right or wrong, when you dint have any one running with a sword towards you?? S.S. was the only hope for these people!!
    And whoever has written this post where were your guts when BT was alive? Why do you ask questions and criticize the deeds of a man after he is dead?
    There might be many who are against him but no one has the right to hurt the emotions of the people who look up to him.
    For God’s sake, He has just died and many have still not got over his death. You all are speaking of humanity and what kind of humanity is it to speak ill of a person who has died!!
    For many he is their father and how do you explain your action of disgracing someone’s father on his death??
    How would anyone of you feel if someone comments like that on your relatives death and please dont tell me that you all have relatives which have never committed any sin…
    To complain against inhuman behaviour first you should know what humanity is.

  13. Sheer brilliance. Wonderful words. Great style of writing. A world-wise attitude. Dude, you are the man. You certainly know how to keep the chattering classes use their Like and Dislike buttons with ease. Great, Fair enough.

    Bal Thackeray did the same. He had the felicity of words. He had gift of the gab. He has the ability to speak his mind, at least be seen as one who spoke. And you got 144 responses (perhaps more after wards too). Thackeray got more than 20 lakhs likes. But the point being he spoke, and people responded. He espoused things, people responded. He lead, lakhs followed. So blame it on the people who followed him, for 40 long years mind you.

    That of course you can’t do. It is easier to use someone as the poster boy than make a collage of lakhs of faces. Or use Thackeray as the analogy of hate and divisive politics.

    You forget a thing- Mumbai was dear to Thackeray. And to the lakhs who were disgusted by a lack of direction, drift, marginalisation happening among Mahrashtrians in Mumbai. So what do you do? You (like the desire to seek a strong Lokpal or good administrator) seek out someone who can get people togther. Thackeray did that. And in a city that was getting Hindi-ised, moving towards a cosmopolitanism that did not have the local culture as its base. True, Maharashtrians in Mumbai are to be blamed for not being energetic enough to create the strong sub-cultural bases that would take this forward. And so not utterly visible them, the character of Mumabi was changing. And unacceptable to them.

    Meanwhile the migrant sought to create a city its own image. Fine. But do it not at the cost of a city where lakhs have lived in a certain style and manner. Dont trample on the natives to get the sheer of having arrived that migrants feel safer in.

    So does this mean BT was anti-cosmo, ani-outsiders, anti-this and anti-that. Naah. But when you have a city grow, and where its underclass continues to be marginalied, its a recipe for disaster. Marathis are not native Indians that Whites just swished away and set up NYC. Any community would fight back. And in Thackeray they found a man who could leave out th fafff and speak plainly- yes, this is our city, and we have as much a rightful share of being here.

    Why does North India need or want a city its its spitting image. Why does the English educated class need a city that they think is what an urban Indian city should look like. I agree it was hard for the North Indians to accept and take up a culture whose members were dominated. Why

    Mind you most of his supporters are from the Konkan region. For them Mumbai is an extension of their homes, their lifestyles back, an place to nurture a culture (not some idea of a pan national cosmopolitanism that is non-native Hindi in its idea and English in its origin and inspiration/mode of behaviour). In that sense Thackeray was a regional cultural force.

    But mind you, Thackeray beyond Mumbai was never a political force as he was in Mumbai. The issues were different. And the cultural origin of the people slightly more.

    Divisive politics>>Hmm. You have a point here. Bt Indians at heart are racist, regional, parochial. Period. Thackeray just used too much plain speak.

    As for Muslim baiting, much as it does pain me and others to see Indian society rendered asunder, there are N number of reasons why lakhs accepted his vitrolic hook line and sinker.

    Ultimately there is so much wrong in the way India is treating its sub cultures, its deprived classes, its upper class attitude of designing the cultural mores based on imported and not properly digested Western ideas, that a honest and decent underclass will revolt. And you see it in the way Thackeray grew, and the way SS behaves as it does.

    So Sanyasi, embrace all, and then you will realise that the embrace and non-divisiveness that you think is your legacy, are nothing but a ruse to always assume you are the Right Way.

    BTW Mumbai, or central Mumbai is no place for a middle class to raise his family in. And Dombivli is too far away. For those who have never seen Mumbai, please take it in for a fews days, and come back to Like.

  14. Mr.Chopra hope your courage & objectivity helps in opening a new era in the field of journalism that has long lost its independent views.

  15. A brilliant piece that rises above communal invective and articulates the poisonous environment that gave so much power to such a divisive man. The lack of objective, pointed criticism in the main stream dailies show us that Bala “saheb’s” legacy lives on

  16. BT is dead, he was not a man of peace. He thrive at hatred
    He will answer for his deed. So forget about him, worry about
    many thousands small bts in India, which will tear apart this un natural
    union. Perhaps, when that happens then the neighbors of India will in Peace.

  17. Its possible that all those celebs who paid their ‘respects’ to BST did not do so out of fear .. BST’s clout helped many film folks…maybe they were expressing their gratitude and respect for that man.. every single person who attended or praised BST should not be seen as communal or agreeing with his policies.

  18. Article is far from reality .. its been written as if writer has witnessed so called crimes committed by Balasaheb …we have always failed to distunguish between hardcore nationalism and fundamentalism …to my opinion thackerey was a hardcore nationalist .if things written in article were true muslim doctor would not have taken care of him .. nepali would not have stayed in his home as a caretaker.. muslim would nt have driven his rath during funeral procession …and so on …. and when crowd of arnd 2 million gathers to pay respect … it cant be the case that somoe intellectual pseudo siculars are correct and all these 2 million ppl are fools ..

  19. Rosh,
    You may not remember Hitler and his Nuremberg Nazi Party rallies – attended by lakhs, perhaps crores of people.
    Remember Hitler as the “Fuhrer” of Germany. The German people too “had such sentiments” and Hitler “was their voice”. We all know what happened to Germany and Hitler in 1945.
    BT’s popularity is only in Bombay and a few surrounding areas of Maharashtra.
    You could easily find out how “popular” he was in other parts of India.
    By the way, BT was an admirer of Hitler.

  20. Read quite a few of the comments, did not have the patience to read all of them, Is it not amusing, that most of this discussion would never have happened if BT was alive, There are always pros and cons, There is nothing perfect. I agree with the ideology of Shiv Sena and the MNS to some extent, and disagree with some of it, They all crib about Migrants ,Who gives the migrants bogus ration cards, bogus driving licenses, bogus address proof, which are not verified, because everyone gets paid, Who collects hafta from these so called migrants and let them conduct their business in Mumbai. All of them are Politicians, it is nothing but Vote Bank politics, Just means to appease the stupid voter, who does get influenced.We are not ignorant, but act ignorant. A man who could control the entire city and some parts of the state single handedly does deserve to be honoured. But would certainly like to say, if these guys really wanted to solve the Bangladeshi Problem, They could have ,Why they did not, I leave it to you to decide.

  21. Any party / person associated with violence is looked down upon, by the very community they aggravated. Hence, the “others” would never respect (or) would cow down in fear of this entity.

    Regarding the 92-93 riots- Bala “Saheb” had the clout to do what Mahatma Gandhi did during the Partition riots at Naokhali – which was a far worse situation than what Bombay’s was that time – that of calling people to order, that an eye-for-an-eye blinds a person.
    But no, the chap merrily ordered his goons to fan the flame – and when it got too late to control, he THEN stepped in and put a word. As a result, many people from both communities had already lost their lives.

    Bala “Saheb” inspired the same loathing that I have for Jinnah – for creating divisions and yet hypocritically as a person, believe in the opposite. I have friends who tell me to leave Mumbai, if I did not understand the “sentiment” he evoked.

    I am sorry, if he had not made me feel like an “outsider” in my own country, I would have joined the mourning. He just divided me from my fellow Indians.

    And for that he surely does NOT deserve STATE honors or any memorial.

  22. @Neha – Do you really think that 2 million people including those who dont live in Maharashtra, Rajnikant, Hema Malini & even maharashtrian Sharad pawar was scared?

  23. This article is nothing but an attempt to be famous or wellknown as “dared to speak”.
    One sided biased article.
    The people present in Shivaji Park is the proof of his popularity and the respect he had.
    And if he is accused for playing into people’s sentiments, then the fact is “People had such sentiments” and he was their voice. Whatever his beliefs or ideologies, he belived in them from his heart and stood by it till the last. Not like other politicians, who change parties and ideologies as it suits them.
    And this shutdown was neither enforced nor out of fear, but as a mark of respect.
    R.I.P Balasaheb.

  24. It’s unbelievable distressing, scary and tragic to see so many people (including so many in the comment section here) defending Thackeray and condoning violence as means to achieve political ends. No violence, by majority or minority, is ever justified, not even in retaliation. Once you accept that violence, and not the legal system, is the way to achieve political ends or for retaliation, you further undermine the already fragile political and legal system of your country and are unpatriotic in the truest sense.

  25. @Akash – Perhaps he was honest and principled and perhaps he spoke his mind boldly. I don’t wish to question these claims. But it’s those principles he stood so honestly for that need to be questioned, analyzed and dissected.
    There are several people in the world that I can describe with the words you chose. This includes most of the greatest dictators the world has seen. I hate having to bring in world politics to India because people often argue that it is a gross and misdirected generalization. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it. I wouldn’t wish another Bal Thackeray on India even if it meant he was the most honest damn mass murdered we have yet seen.

    I read somewhere that many industrialists and shop owners would often welcome Mr. Thackeray’s involvement in the shop floor because it meant total silence with one phone call and that people celebrated him for ruling with an iron fist. But it wasn’t one phone call that did the trick, did it? Think about it. People’s lives were put at stake with that one phone call.

    This discussion shouldn’t be about Bal Thackeray. This discussion should be about the people who lost their lives. Maharashtrians, Hindus, Muslims, Tamilians, Parsis, Christians, Assamese, whoever. And about what we need to do as a country to never ever let that happen. Maybe glossing over someone’s cruel and brutal deeds and appreciating his inconsequential personal traits is step one. But we need to come up with a hell lot of a better step 2 in that case!

  26. couldn’t have put it in a better way! I just hope you’re not thrown behind bars and slapped for violating some or the other section of the indian penal code or the IT act :-/

  27. I completely agree with the views of the writer. As a Bihari myself, I’m deeply pained to see this growing intolerance wherever I go. I hate politicians for that reason. They can do anything for votes. I know I can never live safely & in peace in Mumbai because I’ll be the undesired, out cast there! I can’t stay in a place where bigotism & harassment prevail. I can’t do that at all. Very pained to see the Indian media praising him just because they fear Shiv Sainiks!!! They think the public is a fool. I was so disgusted to see the drama on many news channels. I know there are a lot of Shiv sena supporters out here. I can see that most of the people including Mr Sardesai & Mr Bacchhan are prasing Bal Thackeray because they are scared. I’m an aspiring journalist. But, with such things going on in the media, I don’t know what to make of it!

  28. @Anjie – I am not a supporter of violence and certainly agree that Sena did excesses. However you can not dispute that Balasaheb was an honest man, he was a man of principles. You knew where he stood, there was no double speak. It is this quality, however divisive it was that touched the hearts of millions of marathis. He did not get their vote but these qualities created a soft corner in the hearts of people.

  29. What a cracker of an article…beautifully written…our godforsaken mass media should learn a thing or two.

  30. @Akash, Yep, it’s easy for me to say that this should not have happened because I respect humanity as a virtue and not people who hide behind a facade that mocks it. Once again, people really need to start paying attention to what I said rather than get overly sentimental. But who am I kidding? We are an emotional country. We think none of our actions should have any consequences as long as we did it out of sentiment. Akash, I am in complete agreement with you that people had no other go and perhaps the Sena did protect them. But the people who got hurt in the process were the ones without any power on both sides of this issue. The Sena might have risen intending to speak for the suppressed, but in turn, it suppressed other people who did not have the voice to fight against it. I think that was what was wrong. Maybe they didn’t have a choice, I don’t know, I wasn’t there. But neither were you. Not in the homes of the ones the Sena tried to protect and not in the homes of the ones the Sena destroyed. I only say that what is required now is for the average educated Indian to understand that this WAS WRONG. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Life is not all black or white, I know. But condoning this sort of violence for any reason whatsoever is not a trend I would ever want to expect out of my country. I expect my country to be outraged for every person in my country equally without trying to figure out if they deserved my respect on the basis of their caste, religion or sexual orientation. I expect this from my country because I expect greatness from it; a greatness I know every Indian is capable of if only they would take a step back and take the time to see what is really wrong. I respect the Sena’s intentions if they were as they claimed, but I can never support any part of their actions, the means they used to accomplish them, or the leader who turned a very-not-blind-eye to all the atrocities Indians suffered in the process.

    I can only hope that you understood what I said here and do not retaliate with a “it’s easy for you to say this and that”. It SHOULD be easy for me to say it. That’s the freedom struggle we fought. I dream of the day when keeping it remains certain.

  31. 20 lakh people showed for Balasaheb’s funeral – that’s not out of fear. Millions more watched on TV and shed tears. The guy helped Marathi people live in their own land with pride. His party protected the common Hindus from barbaric attacks of rioting Muslims (although most Muslims, like Hindus, are peace loving), enhanced Maharashtra’s infrastructure, and put up a credible challenge to the Congress monopoly. The author does not understand any of this, or chooses to ignore due his hatred. Also, the author forgets the basic rule of civility that we don’t talk ill of the dead, especially of someone who is so near and dear to millions. Pathetic!

  32. @Anjie : Read about the model citizens Varadrajan Mudaliar, Chhota rajan, Chhota shakeel, Abu Salem & Down Ibrahim. Borrowing a dialogue from Amitabh Bacchan, partially, if one of these men are at your house with a gun demanding extortion money in 1965, let me know how comfortable are you relying on help from Indian police and courts or would you rather take some from Shiv Sena if its available? Anybody can sit on a chair and say this should not have happened that should not have happened etc.

  33. I am a biologist and believe in the theory of evolution which states ‘extinction of the obsolete’ as one of the way nature balances itself. Thackeray was not fit for this 21st century as were not Maummar Gaddafi, Hosni Mubarak,Ali Abdullah Saleh and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. But the difference lies in the fact that all those named dictators of middle east were overthrown by their own people where as everyone under Thakeray’s dictatorship were too scared to protest and so mother nature took her own step. RIP Thakeray. Democracy, Peace and harmony shall now prevail in Maharashtra too.

  34. Two days later, I’m still reeling from the manner in which the city was shut down. Eminent journos like Vir Sanghvi (who I mistook for being an intelligent man) are lapping about how they knew the deceased, how they had a beer with him, how he was the uncrowned king, etc. I wonder how many of them would say this had their car or house being vandalised by the shiv sena thugs in the name of ‘direct action’ or some hokey like that. Today it is frightening how Maharashtra has developed a bunch of goons who literally run riot each time someone says something that isn’t to their liking. No other state in the country is as dangerous in this regard. Sometimes I think even unsafe Delhi is a better option (at least i’m on my guard there at all times). A time has come when I carefully think of what to post online lest it result in a few bones of mine being cracked. This article is very well written and kudos to the author for calling it out like it is. Bal Thackeray fostered a culture of fear, violence and oppression. Those who ‘admire’, ‘venerate’ or ‘respect’ him must ask themselves whether they would do that had they been at the receiving end of his ire.

  35. @Akshata, you have demonstrated exactly what I meant when I said that ignorance is the root of all conflict and evil. You have no personal experience and hence the only way for you to have an opinion is by identifying yourself as a Hindu. I am a Hindu too but I really don’t see myself as someone who needs to be identified by who I whine to when I’m in trouble. But that’s another discussion altogether. The point is, that we all need to stop saying that we only killed a whole bunch of innocent people because THEY killed a whole bunch of people who worship the same deity I do. I’m also a Tamilian. And let’s face it, if I had to look at it the way you do I would hate all Maharashtrians for the crap that my community was subjected to. But I don’t. My closest friends are Maharashtrians; my best friend is a Muslim.
    All I’m trying to say is, since everyone is going on and on about “calling a spade, a spade”, we need to realize that a lot of people are at fault including you and me for all the stuff that has happened in this country. But as long as we realize that IT WAS WRONG and that violence is not the answer in a supposedly civilized society, we can hope to see some development in our country.
    Bal Thackeray may have stood up for a few because he felt their pain of suppression. But by saying that he was right in responding to that by causing more pain and suppression directed towards other communities is encouraging the kind of childishness that the majority of this country loves to foster and glorify in the name of “respect” or “awe”. That’s why I said we all need to GROW THE FUCK UP and stop saying “They started it!”. Just be rational about all his wrong doings and don’t go on and on about his lovely oratory skills. I hate to propagate this Reductio Ad Hitlerum trend, but this time it is applicable.

  36. People do not understand what made a Bal Thackrey. Similarly people do not understand why Narendra Modi is so popular. People like Thackrey and Modi emerge in a vacuum. A vacuum where the majority community is not given or perceived to be not given their rightful place. Check the right wing anger on the net.These are not unemployed uneducated lumps but highly educated youth with good incomes. What is the cause for this rage maybe the leftist seculars who dominated the country for 4 decades need to look inwards on why this is so.
    As for 92-93 riots, Balasaheb only retaliated.The muslims started the riots.They should not have.

  37. Look at the broad spectrum politicians for his funeral & also non political dignitaries. Not all of them attended out of fear. I did not support Thackrey or his methods when he was alive but his death certainly brought me some tears. He conquered hearts of Marathis and its quite difficult for non Marathis to understand it without knowing history of Maharashtra that dates to the age of Shivaji

  38. @anjie True BT took violent measures but they were not his action but reaction to the situation. If it was not for BT today Hindus would have been history in Mumbai. And about sainiks being on the other side experiencing the terror, please read properly as to who these sainiks really were. They were the suppressed people who had suffered so much injustice that they finally decided to react and BT was one whom they approached. Do you mean that if the Hindus or for that matter Maharashtrians were oppressed they should have suffered quietly and that they have no right to react??

  39. Excellent piece as others have said. Just like Hitler or Stalin, He may be respected by many today ( out of fear or otherwise ) and hated by many more, but 20 years later, none will respect him

  40. Wonderful article and a real sight for sore eyes.

    Ignorance is the true cause for all conflict and evil. The shiv sainiks will never understand what it means to be on the other side till they are. And they will argue the same about everyone who is against them. I think as a country we all need to grow the fuck up and stop defending atrocities by the way of “They started it!”.

    Robert Huber, “an organism who fights itself is doomed”. Perfect way to put it.

  41. My Post was rejected by the moderator(s) even though it was without a slang.. It just stated a few Chilling facts, which exist on record about the History of India, Marathas, RSS, Shiv Sena, and their reality, their credible work in Maharashtra and Beyond, whether in Power or not.

  42. @Pranav. If ‘achieveing glory’ is your definition of single-handedly bringing the so called business capital to its knees, is causing riots over defamed statues, is having the blood of (insert figure here, depending on which website you refer ) Muslims on your head, thanks but no thanks. I don’t think anyone here wants to achieve that kind of “glory.”
    I believe the word you’re looking for is ‘notoriety’.

  43. Zilika,
    According to you if muslims damaged public/government property, its okay. But if Shivsena does it, its vandalism. Isn’t that hypocrisy ?? And by the way it wasn’t just vandalising of govt properties. There was killing of innocent hindus too. So no, the killing wasn’t started by Bala Saheb and certainly not by hindus. And if you are interested then please read a book(will try to get you the name as I don’t recollect it) by Sabah Mansuri (a muslim, by the way) for a birds eye view(for the lack of a better term). This one book has so brutally shed light on the events that not only it was banned but the writer was killed after being raped by 13 muslim men coz it gave their religion a bad name. The sainiks were not sent out to kill(the then police commissioner said it too) but what were they supposed to do when innocent hindus were being killed. The sainiks and Bala Saheb responded in the same way as others. How is that wrong ? And why should he have calmed his people when the other side was insistent on killing. The police then had grossly under staffed to handle the situation. Also that time it was the congress in power and they saw it as the perfect opportunity to undermine Bala Sahebs growing power and hence the situation was allowed to get out of hands. These are some facts that can be easily verified if you take time to read any credible author/journalists impartial view on the riots. It will only highlight that Bala Saheb reacted to the violence and not instigated it.
    Now as for bandh of saturday, the police of mumbai did not “ask” people to shut their establishments. They “ordered” them shut. This is not politics. This is common sense. You realise that Bala Saheb was-is a god for many people. And he was no more. Anything could have happened. And yeah I did read that a few buses were pelted with stones but no where does it mention that it was the sainiks who did that. Who can surely say that it wasn’t the congress workers pelting stones and blaming it on shivsena ?? Surely they aren’t above such despicable acts. I for one don’t believe anything that was written about rioting because I experienced a different thing altogether. I came across atleast a dozen sainiks on their way to Bala Sahebs house and all they did was ask me to take a different route on my way home so that I a complete stranger wouldn’t be inconvenienced in any way due to the massive crowd gathered to pay their respects. A dignified send off to a dignified leader.

  44. Agree with zilika that Muslims are Godly-beings. They avoid any form of violence or hatred. This is so much like every Congress leader who is honest, accountable & corruption-free.

  45. Unfortunately, BT was not a person–he was a historic response to a (not-necessarily-true) perception. Unless the root problem is addressed, there will always be BTs.

    The responses above point to a deep schism within the community of the once-vibrant city of Bombay. The majority (Maharashtrian-Hindu) seem to have very strong feelings against Muslims, and to a lesser extent against other minorities (such as South Indians or Biharis). These are the feelings that produced a BT, and in turn, BT further stoked and built on these resentment.

    It is these wounds that we have to heal. Merely attacking the BT ‘avatar’ wil not solve the problem.

    Here’s to rejuvenation and healing of one of the greatest cities in India…

  46. Thanks for such a wonderful piece! I salute you for demystifying BST and seeing him in a historical perspective.

  47. hitesh,
    he himself declared that if my people demolished babri masjid i’m proud of it! How can a human even think of doing that and saying that? How and who gives you the right of disrespecting any religion and their sentiments? That too without any law and proper reasoning?! If someone would just demolish your temple and dance on its dome wouldn’t you be hurt? Even they were. Even you would be deeply hurt and abuse and do what they did. So stop getting regional! I’m not a muslim but i’m a human atleast! They retaliated cause they had a point ! A darn big point ! They din’t start it right ! They so din’t wanna fight or kill !
    And about the riots he surely was the one who didn’t save it! Go get your facts right and ask the common people and the people who went through not his followers who blindly follow him! he was the one to send shiv sainiks on the road. He sent them to a muslim houses and burnt them! The muslims had a reason to do it cause it hurt them! What was his reason to ransomly burn people who did nothing and weren’t a part of the mob who was attacking! And for your information the muslims initially did nothing to the people they only damaged public/government vehicles without killing anyone literally to depict their sorrow and rage for the government! But then people gathered and it got worse. The police had handled it the situation was getting under control but bal thackerey sent his men and killed muslims. You think its right to comment that kill whichever muslim you see? Is it humanity in any way? sending your men to localities and seeing who are muslims so that you can bur their home who have done no harm to you that’s right? When you stop a riot you don’t go again killing people. you rather try to make them calm cause they just din’t get out of their houses for no reason. The police did it and time did it. Him SO SO NOT! if u do think he did give me one instance where he did!
    And the bandh wasn’t called by the sainiks agreed but on saturday my brother, my friends, my friend’s dad, were all out eating and they were told to just stop and go home! That’s not forcing? They declare no bandh but when its open you force to shut it! Perfect politics! And his followers might have closed it in his respect but majority did just and just out of total fear!! Ask the common man and you will know it! They din’t want to hit handicapped by sainiks so decided to stay home. The police mentined stay home and go out only if its urgent!-that’s respect? Open your eyes!
    And please read your daily paper it quotes saying best buses were stone pelted cause they were working. My uncle was returning home. Even he was. Know before you speak. No offense to you but all what i know and have heard and read is really not good and doesn’t impress me! Atleast not that he mus be honoured !

  48. quit crying….mumbai is not delhi…people r meek out thr in the city of insects…true story!!! and then they complain Delhi/north india is aggressive, its not aggressive, its the average Joe not putting up with shit like Thackeray or any sort of “authority”

  49. Excellent article and wonderful responses; thank god at least there are these forums to express our fears!!! The media will not publish or air such views. Maybe only the HINDU had the courage to call a spade in its editorial today AND also publish a neat expose from the CORRECT Justice Katju. All questions and sidetracks are cleared once for all.
    Yes, I join those who have said it is a national shame to have given BT a state honours funeral. And I fervently hope there won’t be a memorial erected anywhere, leave alone Shivaji Park.

  50. I grew up in the Soviet Union…. Stalin was the “father figure” to many, MANY people at the time. He was charismatic, he was the “protector”. Right now, he would have been brought to justice in the international court in the Hague for the crimes against humanity. Mind you – humanity means ALL people, including Muslims, Pakistanis, Papa-New-Guinea, Chinese, Japanese, American, whatever and so on! ANY human deserve the right to live on this earth. I am deeply disturbed at seeing Mumbai react as it did… That tells me that India is FAR from being a democratic country.. I talk from experience, mind you. I know people who died because they dared to speak. That was in last century…. but here… it seems alive now. Good luck to you India, you surely will need it as you seem to have no strength to fight for yourself

  51. Right or wrong is a relative term. Every person with a free will, does what he does, thinking it is right, within his own frame of knowledge, context and logic. For others it may be wrong or right depending upon which frame they relate to. There are equal haters & lovers for 2 distinct personalities like ‘Thakrey’ or ‘Gandhiji’. What matters is both of them left a legacy and achieved glory. Not possible for cynics like us who can’t do more than commenting on what others are or do.
    Respect to the man for drawing a million+ crowd for his last rituals and creating A legacy. Whether out of fear, respect or mere curiosity, its a feat unachievable for a common man like me :)

  52. It’s not just the sheer brilliance of language and content that makes this candid piece an absolutely joyful reading but the fact that there’s still hope for journalism.

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