17 November: Remembering Bal Thackeray on his Punya Tithi
Bal Thackeray (23 January 1926 – 17 November 2012) was an Indian politician who founded the Shiv Sena.
Early Life and Career
Bal Thackeray was born on 23 January 1926 in Pune, India.
He started out as a cartoonist for the Free Press Journal in Mumbai (Bombay) in the early 1950s. His cartoons also appeared in The New York Times Sunday edition and Asahi Shimbun.
He got more involved in politics in the 1960s. During his time as a journalist for the Marathi-language journal Marmik, which he and his brother published, he developed a strong following because he polemicized against outsiders.
He founded the Shiv Sena in 1966. Initially, he said it was not a political party, but an army of Shivaji Maharaj. Shiv Sena’s goal was to ensure their job security against South Indians and Gujaratis. He mostly blamed South Indians in his 1966 party manifesto.
Thackeray was the most powerful man in Maharashtra for years even though he never held an official job or ran for office. He was known as the “godfather of Maharashtra” or as Hindu Hridaysamrat (“Emperor of the Hindu Heart”) by his legion of followers. He wanted India to end its secular constitution and adopt Hinduism as its official religion. In the 1990s, Thackeray had Bombay renamed Mumbai in honor of the goddess Mumbadevi.
When Salman Rushdie satirized Thackeray in The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995), the book was immediately banned in Maharashtra.
Thackeray has been accused of inciting Hindu-Muslim conflicts over the years. One of the most notorious incidents happened in 1992–93 when almost 1,000 Muslims were killed during anti-Muslim riots in Mumbai.
Even though Thackeray’s party was accused of using illegal and violent tactics, it grew into a major force. In 1995, the Shiv Sena won 138 out of 288 seats in the state’s assembly, enough to form a coalition government with the BJP. When Thackeray was in power, he was a lightning rod for controversy.
He was arrested in 2000 for inciting the deadly 1992–93 riots in Mumbai and for destroying the 16th-century Babri Masjid in 1992. Thackeray didn’t deny the charges, but the case was thrown out because the statute of limitations had run out.
He died on 17 November 2012, in Mumbai, India.