Bal Thackeray

Bal Thackeray
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Bal Thackeray

Bal Thackeray
Preceded by
Succeeded by

Political partyShiv Sena
ResidenceMumbai, India
ReligionHindu
As of July 4, 2006


Part of a series on
Hindu politics
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Lal Krishna Advani
Bal Thackeray
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B.C. Chattopadhyay
Koenraad Elst
Francois Gautier
Sita Ram Goel
K.S. Lal
Harsh Narain
Yvette Rosser
Arun Shourie
Ram Swarup
     [ e] 
"Bal" Keshav Thackeray (Marathi: बाळ ठाकरे) (born January 23, 1924), popularly called 'Balasaheb', and also 'Sher', 'Tiger', or "Hindu Hridaysamrat," is the founder and president of the Shiv Sena, a Hindu nationalist, Marathi ethnocentric and populist party active mainly in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.

Background

Thackeray was born to Prabodhankar Thakaeray in a Chandraseniya Kayastha Prabhu family and is a Hindu revivalist and Hindu nationalist. Several nationalists within the Shiv Sena (which he helped found) and other Hindu-centric political parties brand him as Hindu Hridaysamrat (literally, "Hindu Heart-Ruler").

Career

Thackeray started his career as a cartoonist in the Free Press Journal in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in the 1950s, and was a contemporary of R. K. Laxman during his early years. His cartoons were also published in the Sunday edition of The New York Times. In 1960, he launched a cartoon weekly Marmik with his brother. He used it to campaign against the growing influence of non-Marathi people in Bombay. He has also fought trade union control battles with the Communists and the Indian National Congress.

He formed the Shiv Sena in 1966 with the intent of fighting for the rights of the natives of the state of Maharashtra (called Maharashtrians). Politically, the Shiv Sena has allied itself with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Thackeray has claimed that the party has benefited the Marathi Manus (Marathi man) in Mumbai,[1] especially in the public sector.[2] Opposition leftist parties allege 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.'[3] In addition, Thackeray played a central role in the emancipation of 500,000 slum dwellers in the Dharavi area of Mumbai, the largest slum in Asia.[4] However, the state's policy of giving free houses to slum dwellers has been subject to controversy by the opposing leftist parties ever since it was introduced by the Shiv Sena-BJP government a decade ago. [1] [5]

Thackeray has also led the Shiv Sena to an active role in trying to improve infrastructure in Maharashtra, particularly in the state capital Mumbai, which also serves as the financial capital of the country.

In addition to improvements in transportation infrastructure, Thackeray has supported initiatives against proprietary technologies such as the "Conditional Access System" for television networks, which would have led to cable companies charging more for channels.[6] He has also questioned the government’s procedure of divesting equity in oil refining and marketing majors, effectively "selling" profitable oil companies out.[7]

Controversy

Thackeray is very vocal in his opposition to people who migrate to Mumbai, to non-Hindus (especially Muslims), and to Pakistanis. In the late 1970s, as part of his "Maharashtra is for Maharashtrians" campaign, Thackeray threatened migrants from South India with harm unless they left Mumbai.

In 2002, Thackeray issued a call to form Hindu suicide squads to counter alleged Muslim terrorism:
If such suicide squads are formed only then can we take on perpetrators of mindless violence.[8]


In reaction to Thackeray’s call to form Hindu suicide squads against Muslims, Maharashtra government registered a case against him for inciting enmity between different groups. [9]

Asia Times further reported on Thackeray’s rhetoric:
Thackeray called on Hindus to form suicide squads "to take the Muslims head on". "Trouble-making Muslims should be wiped out from the country ... kick out the four crore [40 million] Bangladeshi Muslims and then the country will be secure," the Shiv Sena leader said. Urging Hindus to start calling India "Hindu rashtra" (Hindu nation), he maintained that only "our religion [Hinduism] is to be honored here" and then "we will look after other religions".[10]


At least two organizations founded and managed by the retired Indian Army officers namely Lt Col (retired) Jayant Rao Chitale and Lt Ge. P.N. Hoon (former commander-in-chief of the Western Command), answered Bal Thackeray’s call to set up the Suicide Squads in India. Lt Gen. Hoon claimed, Thackeray instructed him to set up the training camps.[11]

Thackeray continues to publish inflammatory editorials in his party's newsletter, Samna (Confrontation).

Views on Hitler

Thackeray has attracted controversy for his praise of Adolf Hitler.

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 organizer and orator, and I feel that he and I have several things in common...What India really needs is a dictator who will rule benevolently, but with an iron hand." [2]
In an interview with the Indian Express that was printed on January 29, 2007, Thackeray remarked,
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. [3]


His opponents have used these remarks against him and accused him of a fascist ideology. Thackeray's supporters, such as right-wing columnist Varsha Bhosle, have defended Thackeray's position as necessary in what they claim is an atmosphere of religious extremism against Hindus. In defense of a statement by Thackeray that "If the Muslims of India behave as the Jews in Germany did, they will deserve the same treatment," Bhosle writes:
Germany's Jews...? What ELSE is required for Hindus to shake off the stupor and consider protecting our civilisation and culture? If telling it like it is makes one a Nazi, I say: Fine, better that than the spineless, deaf, dumb, numb and blind state exalted as Nehruvian Secularism. I wouldn't even spit on it.[12]


In an article appearing in Newindpress.com on August 20, 2007, Thackeray is quoted as wanting to be a dictator and the Hitler of whole India:
He is on record as having told the Navakal: ‘‘Yes, I am a dictator. It is a Hitler that is needed in India today.’’ He was once asked in a television programme whether he wanted to be Hitler of Bombay? ‘‘Do not underestimate me,’’ he is reported to have retorted. ‘‘I am (the Hitler) of the whole of Maharashtra and want to be of whole of India.’’ The Hitler question was put to him twelve years ago in September 1996 by the Outlook magazine as well during an interview. ‘‘Once you’d expressed admiration for certain facets of Hitler.’’ ‘Comparison was inevitable,’ the interviewer prompted. Thackaray said: ‘‘I have not sent anybody to the gas chamber. If I’d been like that, you wouldn’t have dared to come and interview me.’’[13]

Views on Muslims

Thackeray's views on Muslims have typically been highly vacillatory, sometimes attacking them and sometimes sympathizing with them. His party stands accused of being anti-Muslim, though Shiv Sainiks generally deny this accusation. [4] When explaining his views on Hindutva, he has conflated Islam with terrorism and has called for Hindus to "fight terrorism and fight Islam".[14]

In the 1980's he had stated that:
"They [Muslims] were 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." [15]
Bal Thackeray criticized and challenged Indian Muslims through his party newspaper, Sāmna, around the time the 16th century Babri Masjid was demolished by members of the Shiv Sena and the BJP in the northern town of Ayodhya, on December 6 1992. The claim of many Hindus and some scholars is that the Babri Mosque was built on the demolished ruins of a Hindu temple in the 16th century, and is believed by many to be the Ram Janmabhoomi (birthplace of the Hindu God-King Rama, an avatar of Vishnu, one of the Trimurti of the Hindu Pantheon).

The Justice Srikrishna Commission of Enquiry, which investigated the ensuing communal riots in Mumbai, indicted Thackeray for sparking anti-Muslim violence, which led to more than 1,000 deaths in several ensuing riots, though the death toll during the actual act of the demolition was zero. The Srikrishna Commission found that Thackeray was personally responsible, not only for inciting the mobs through his incendiary speeches, but also directly coordinating the movement of the rioters. At the time, Thackeray made allegations that the Commission was "biased" and "anti-Hindu". His views were not supported outside of the Shiv Sena party[16].

In a deposition before the Srikrishna Commission a witness alleged Thackeray coordinated much of the January 1993 Mumbai carnage. Yuvraj Mohite claimed, “Balasaheb was sitting and he was getting calls from various places. He would ask what was happening at that particular place (from where he got the call) and then he would say, 'Kill them. Send them to Allah'”. Mohite, additionally told the commission, that, “Thackeray ordered:
  • That not one Muslim be left alive to stand in the witness box.
  • Asked his men to send the additional police commissioner, A A Khan, to his Allah.
  • Ordered his men to retaliate to the Hindu killings in Jogeshwari.”
Later, in February 1993 Thackeray said, "I am proud of what my boys have done. We had to retaliate and we did. If it was not for us, no one would have controlled the Muslims." [17]

However, in an interview in 1998, he claims to have tempered his stance on many issues that the Shiv Sena had with Muslims, particularly regarding the Babri Mosque or Ram Janmabhoomi issue [18], saying:

"We must look after the Muslims and treat them as part of us."[18]


He has since made more inflammatory statements regarding Muslims, and reiterated his desire for Hindus to unite across linguistic barriers and to see "a Hindustan for Hindus" and to "bring Islam to this country down to its knees". [19]

However, he has also expressed admiration for Muslims in Mumbai in the wake of the July 2006 Bombay train bombings perpetrated by Islamic fundamentalists. In response to threats made by the leader of the communist Samajwadi Party that accusations of terrorism directed at Indian Muslims would bring about violence from them, Thackeray said that the unity of Mumbaikars (residents of Mumbai) in the wake of the terrorist 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".[20]

Views on President Kalam

Thackeray has been a vocal critic of the former President of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam. Thackeray said Kalam was a leading scientist of the country but had "lost the dignity of the post" after he became President. He has criticized Kalam's indecisiveness regarding the conviction of the terrorist Mohammad Afzal, who has been sentenced to death following his conviction for the 2001 Indian Parliament attack. Thackeray criticizes the fact that a convicted terrorist's appeal for clemency is even being considered by Kalam.[14]
"Afzal was sentenced to death by the highest court in this country in October and yet the file has been sitting on the President's table for the past four months. I have not said anything wrong about Kalam. We all have supported him to become President. Afzal's clemency letter is still lying with the President. Give me another example where the President has not taken decision on a clemency petition for four months." [14]


His views on Kalam have been heavily criticized by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi as inappropriate and "violative of decorum".[21]

Rift in Party

An increase in intra-party rivalry between Bal Thackeray's son Uddhav Thackeray, and nephew Raj Thackeray has led to some divisions within the Shiv Sena. Senior Sena leaders, such as former Chief Minister Manohar Joshi have sided with Uddhav, while hard-line leaders such as Narayan Rane and Sanjay Nirupam have also left the party. Both these leaders were later expelled from Sena and joined the Indian National Congress.

On December 18, 2005, Raj Thackeray announced his resignation as a primary member of the Shiv Sena. On March 19, 2006, Raj announced the formation of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).

Valentine's Day protests

Boycotting shops and restaurants that allow young people to celebrate the "western" holiday of Valentine's Day, interpreted as bestial, indecent and un-Bharatiya (un-Indian) by Thackeray, is one of his recent actions. These boycotts have often culminated in violence and the destruction of said shops. On February 14, 2006, Bal Thackeray condemned and apologized for the violent attacks of Shiv Sena members upon a private Valentine's Day 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," Thackeray said, "I have always instructed Shiv Sainiks that in any situation women should not be humiliated and harassed."[5] Thackeray and the Shiv Sena remain opposed to Valentine's Day celebrations, although they may support an "Indian alternative".[6]

Cultural references

Thackery is satirized in Salman Rushdie's novel The Moor's Last Sigh as "Raman Fielding". Suketu Mehta interviews Thackeray in his critically acclaimed, Pulitzer-nominated, non-fiction 2004 book Maximum City.

References

1. ^ "On the wrong track". The Hindu. Retrieved on 2006-08-11.
2. ^ "Sena fate: From roar to meow". The Times of India. Retrieved on 2006-08-11.
3. ^ "Diversionary tactics". The Hindu Frontline Magazine. Retrieved on 2008-08-08.
4. ^ Rediff News
5. ^ Dharavi slum will be economic hub: Joshi
6. ^ Address loopholes in CAS: Shiv Sena,The Hindu Business Line
7. ^ Shiv Sena’s views,The Tribune
8. ^ "Thackeray for Hindu suicide squads", Times of India. Retrieved on 2007-08-25. 
9. ^ "Case filed against Thackeray for urging anti-terror suicide-squads", ExpressIndia.com. Retrieved on 2007-08-25. 
10. ^ "India: The politics of passion", Asia Times. Retrieved on 2007-08-25. 
11. ^ "Sena land sires suicide camps", The Telegraph. Retrieved on 2007-08-30. 
12. ^ In rod we trust, Varsha Bhosle
13. ^ "Where Hitler meets Thackeray", Newindpress.com. Retrieved on 2007-08-24. 
14. ^ Thackeray lashes out at Prez again,ibnlive
15. ^ Bal Thackeray in India Today, June 15, 1984.
16. ^ The Shiv Sena indicted,The Hindu
17. ^ "Balasaheb commanded rioters: witness", IBN Live. Retrieved on 2007-08-25. 
18. ^ The Rediff Election Interview/Bal Thackeray,Rediff.com
19. ^ [7] Hindustan of Hindus my dream: Thackeray, expressindia.com
20. ^ [8]
21. ^ [9]

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