Shiv Sena Chief Bal Thackeray No More
Thackeray's Final Journey
Thackeray's Final Journey: Lacs Turn up to Bid Adieu
Update: 1.50 pm
Mumbai, Nov 18 (IANS): Lacs of people, including Shiv Sena supporters, thronged the funeral procession of party chief Bal Thackeray here Sunday.
According to Mumbai Police, lacs of people, including those gathered at the Shivaji Park where the body will be kept and later cremated, had come out to to pay their last respects to Thackeray, who died at 86 Saturday afternoon due to prolonged illness.
The Shiv Sainiks were pouring into Mumbai in their thousands from Maharashtra's Thane, Raigad, Pune, Aurangabad and Konkan regions -- the bastions of the right-wing party founded by Thackeray on June 19, 1966.
Police said around two lac people were travelling with the procession and many others were joining it from connecting roads with the sea of humanity stretching for several kilometres.
People were also trying to catch a glimpse of the leader's body from rooftops, hoardings, trees, water pipes and parapets.
As the procession reached a connecting road in Mahim, many Muslim women were seen silently weeping.
At the Mahim Church, many church-going people were waiting to join the final journey of the leader whose political career spanned five decades.
Wrapped in the tricolour, Thackeray's body was brought out of his house a little after 9 a.m.
His son Uddhav broke down before the procession started. A glass box carrying the Sena patriarch's body was then loaded onto a truck decked with flowers.
Uddhav, wife Rashmi and son Aditya were on the truck with Thackeray's nephew and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj, wife Sharmila and their children.
Raj later disembarked and walked behind the truck with the funeral procession, keeping a low profile and eyes firmly on the ground.
Thackeray's cortege will first go to Sena Bhavan, the party headquarters in Dadar, and the body would later be kept at Shivaji Park for people to pay their last respects.
However, the procession was moving extremely slowly with police trying to avoid a stampede.
Over 20,000 policemen, 15 companies of State Reserve Police Force and three contingents of Rapid Action Force had been deployed on the procession route, said a police officer.
Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh even cancelled his daughter's wedding reception Sunday.
After allowing thousands of Shiv Sainiks to pay their respects to Thackeray, the body will be taken to Shivaji Park and kept for a public 'darshan'.
All major roads and public places wore a deserted look, barring some security vehicles. Restaurants, shops and other establishments remained closed. Over a lac autorickshaws and around 60,000 black and yellow taxis were also off the roads.
Shiv Sena prepares for Thackeray's final journey (09:30)
Pics by Rons Bantwal
Daijiworld Media Network
Mumbai, Nov 18 (IANS) A sea of grieving people converged since early Sunday in Bandra here as preparations were underway for the funeral of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, who passed away Saturday afternoon.
The funeral cortege, which was expected to start from Matoshri, the residence of the Thackeray clan, was delayed in its journey to the party headquarters in Shivaji Park in Dadar, barely 7 kms towards the south.
The flower bedecked truck on which a glass box carrying Thackeray's body will wend its way from Bandra east to Dadar west via the Mahim Causeway - one of the connecting links between south Mumbai and suburbs over the Mahim Creek.
After allowing several thousands of Shiv Sainiks from all over the state to pay their last respects, the body will be taken to Shivaji Park and kept for a public 'darshan' for over 200,000 people who are expected to turn up.
Mumbai police have made elaborate security arrangements by deploying 20,000 policemen, 15 companies of State Reserve Police and three companies of Rapid Action Force to deal with any situation.
Mumbai, which resembled a ghost city since Saturday evening, has remained calm and peaceful as news of Thackeray's death began to sink in.
All major roads and public places were deserted barring the odd security vehicles, some Shiv Sena activists moving around or a few delayed office-goers scampering home.
Top VVIPs from all over India are expected to arrive for Thackeray's funeral, slated at 6 p.m. Sunday evening at Shivaji Park.
Shiv Sena Chief Bal Thackeray No More
Pics: Rons Bantwal
Daijiworld Media Network - Mumbai
Mumbai, Nov 17 (IANS): Shiv Sena chief Bal Keshav Thackeray, the militant flagbearer of Hindu nationalism and regional chauvinism who did not hesitate to resort to mob tactics to have his will enforced, died here Saturday at 3.30 p.m. He was 86.
His doctor, Jaleel Parker, made the announcement at 4.55 p.m. outside Matoshree, his residence, that was as much the city's landmark as a place of pilgrimage for millions of supporters throughout the state.
Thousands of them had been standing in vigil outside his home in upscale Bandra East area of Mumbai for the last 72 hours as the news got out about Thackeray's failing health.
He is survived by his sons, political heir and Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray and filmmaker Jaidev. A widower, Thackeray's wife Meena and his eldest son Bindhumadhav passed away in 1996.
His nephew, Raj Thackeray, once considered his political heir, broke away to form his own regional party, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), which often competed with Shiv Sena in espousing extreme rightwing views that championed local Marathi pride and exclusivism at the expense of other communities that resided in India's richest and most industrialised state.
The former cartoonist, who in the later years sported a stylish beard and wore twin bead necklaces in the manner of Hindu gurus, Thackeray ran his political party Shiv Sena (the army of Lord Shiva, one of the Hindu Trinity), like a local militia. He leaves behind a legacy of anti-minority poison that has been scourge of Mumbai, the country's financial and entertainment capital.
Active till the end, Thackeray, who never hesitated to practice his particular brand of street politics, had just days ago on Nov 5 asked party activists "not to permit" the forthcoming cricket matches between India and Pakistan.
In a front-page appeal in the party mouthpiece Saamna, he had lashed out at Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde for his statement "to forget the past" and play cricket with Pakistan.
Thackeray was ailing for about two years and was under regular medical treatment at home. In the last week, his health deteriorated sharply.
According to party leaders, a virtual ICU had been recreated at Matoshri with all emergency equipment and medical and para-medical staff on duty round-the-clock.
His son Uddhav Thackeray was fielding scores of visitors, politicians and showbiz celebrities as this city remained on the edge for the last few days with heavy police deployment outside his residence and in trouble spots around the city.
Glamour world personalities like Amitabh Bachchan with his son Abhishek, Rishi Kapoor and brother Randhir, Salim Khan and son Salman Khan, Manoj Kumar, Madhur Bhandarkar and Bappi Lahiri visited Matoshri to enquire after Thackeray's health during the week.
Daijiworld Mumbai bureau chief Rons Bantwal with Bal Thackeray (file photos)
Obituary: Bal Thackeray - The Tiger Roars No More
By Quaid Najmi
You loved him, you hated him, but you never could ignore him. That was Bal Keshav Thackeray, a fierce proponent of Hindu supremacism in a secular India who built his chauvinistic politics around the emotive cause of regional pride of 112 million people of Maharashtra, the country's most industrialised state and home to its world renowned film and entertainment industry. He was 86.
Views on Bal Thackeray, known as Balasaheb, were as polarised as the politics he practiced. Known for his caustic tongue, he was idolised by his followers in the Shiv Sena and scorned in equal measure by liberal and secular Indians for his communal, divisive politics that didn't stop with radical expression of views against Muslims and violent action against those opposed to his extreme righwing ideas - including being firmly opposed to the visit of the Pakistani cricket team to India.
The cartoonist turned politician was often portrayed as a roaring tiger, the much cherished logo of his party Shiv Sena, which he formed to accord dignity to Maharashtrians but which became known as a party of restless youngsters out for trouble. He was a demogogue whose strong views polarised the polity at the state and the national level, but he never flinched from expressing himself with conviction despite opposition.
The posterboy of rightwing Hindu and Marathi chauvinism, he never plunged into electoral politics and never contested any polls. He never made it to the national stage either but remained an active, acidic voice, commenting on any and every issue through the party mouthpiece Saamna.
The party is virtually orphaned but the canny Thackeray had anointed son Uddhav as the next boss well in advance. In 2011, he even placed grandson Aditya as the next in line for the family legacy.
Born on Jan 23, 1926, in Pune, in then Bombay Presidency, Thackeray started his career as a political cartoonist with The Free Press Journal (FPJ) group in the early 1950s, a contemporary of the legendary R.K. Laxman, who too was with the FPJ at the time.
He used his cartoons to promote the Samyukta Maharashtra (United Maharashtra) movement, launched in the mid-1950s to crusade for the formation of Maharashtra. His father Prabodhankar Keshav Sitaram Thackeray was one of the five leaders who spearheaded the movement.
In 1960, he quit his FPJ job and began taking interest in politics. As a tool to cash in on the strong anti-migrant sentiments among the locals, he launched a Marathi humour weekly Marmik in August 1960, ironically released by then Congress chief minister Y.B. Chavan.
Two months later, in October of 1960, he addressed the first Dussehra Rally at Mumbai's Shivaji Park, a ritual that continued virtually uninterrupted for 46 years.
Shaping his political agenda through Marmik, Thackeray initially targeted the communists and their influential trade unions, followed by south Indians who he said got preferential treatment over locals in jobs in Mumbai and other big cities.
Guided by his father, Thackeray finally plunged into politics by launching the Shiv Sena on June 19, 1966.
As the Sainiks vigorously espoused the cause of Marathi Asmita (pride) and targeted south Indian migrants - Thackeray sarcastically called them "Yandu-Gundu lungiwallahs" - the party's support swelled amongst the poor, lower middle class and middle class Marathis.
Spurred by this, Thackeray harped on emotive issues like "Mumbai for Marathis" and "jobs for sons of soil" through the dreaded Sthanik Lokadhikar Samitis - but nobody knows how many jobs it finally translated into.
The situation was volatile. There were regular riots that led to Thackeray's arrest in February 1969 - the one and only time he ever saw the inside of a jail.
Political power came when Sena candidates won in the 1967 Thane and 1968 Bombay municipal elections - the latter being the state's cash cow and the country's financial power house.
In 1973, it controlled the BMC in alliance with other parties, including the Muslim League (!), and also bagged the mayor's post. It captured the BMC in 1985 - and continues to rule it till date.
After south Indians, the volatile Sena took up movements against Gujaratis, north Indians and Muslims.
Its anti-Muslim agitation, a perpetual one on one of its burners - either the front or the back - was among its shrillest. Thackeray's famous comment to Time magazine after the demolition of the Babri Masjid was a vituperative "Kick'em out!"
The anti-Muslim stance fuelled by the demolition led to Mumbai's worst-ever riots in December 1992-January 1993. It continued for another two months in some small pockets, followed by the retaliatory March 12, 1993, serial bomb blasts in the city.
These incidents were largely responsible for catapulting the Shiv Sena to power in Maharashtra in the 1995 assembly elections.
Thackeray, who came to be known as Sena Tiger, could have been chief minister. But he chose to be kingmaker instead, appointing schoolmaster Manohar Joshi as the state's first Brahmin chief minister.
In 1989, Thackeray and the late Pramod Mahajan of the BJP designed the winning saffron combination. For nearly a quarter century, despite hiccups, the saffron alliance has survived, rare in India's quicksand politics.
Surprisingly, all this he achieved practically sitting at his Bandra home. During his entire political career spanning over five decades, Thackeray travelled out of Maharashtra only twice -- to Lucknow to attend cases related to the Babri Mosque demolition.
Thackeray never travelled abroad either, though old timers hazily recall that he had made one or two brief foreign trips in the pre-1966 era. But, the shaper of Maharashtra politics hosted and received dignitaries and people from all over the world at Matoshri.
In Thackeray's later years, the acidic language was reserved mostly for the edit pages of Saamna, which, despite its near-character assassination of most leaders, escaped any major defamation proceedings.
During his political years, Thackeray was let down by some of his closest aides -- those like Chhagan Bhujbal, Narayan Rane and Sanjay Nirupam. But the worst blow was dealt to him by his nephew Raj Thackeray in 2005, who formed the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) in 2006.
He attempted a reconciliation between his feuding son and nephew - but it didn't happen in his lifetime. Just like he couldn't fulfil his dream of a saffron state and dying under the flutter of a saffron flag.