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Ek Tha Tiger: Death and Bal K. Thackeray

November 20, 2012

We have reasons to be grateful that Bal K. Thackeray has died, a normal, natural death. Several of those whom he admired, didn’t. Adolf Hitler, the fellow ‘artist’ he often invoked, killed himself, his mistress and his dog. Indira Gandhi, and her son Sanjay, the mother and son firm of despots that Bal Thackeray endorsed, didn’t go gently into the night either. Sanjay Gandhi, the ‘bold young man’ whom Thackeray recognized as a fellow spirit came spiraling down in his own airplane, demonstrating that the indifferent sky does occasionally listen  to the prayers of the earth to alleviate its burden. Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv both fell to the forces that their own ruling dispensation had nurtured, Khalistani zealots and the LTTE.  Bal Thackeray was lucky to have lived as long as he did, sipping his lukewarm beer, spitting out his bile. Very lucky. As for us, we are fortunate that Thackeray did not get to go down as a Maratha martyr, just as a lapsed cartoonist, a would-be caudillo and a has-been demagogue.

Had it been otherwise, had Thackeray been stopped mid-stride by a bomb or a bullet in much the same way as he had personally authorized the culling of many other lives, the city once known as Bombay would not have been  the way it is today – relieved to be back on its feet, and reasonably at peace with itself. And no one on television, especially on Times Now, would have had the marvelous opportunity to sing paeans on the day of the state funeral  (for someone, who, had he have made his career across the western border, they would not have hesitated to condemn as a  ‘non-state actor’ of the script of state sponsored terror) to how ‘nice’, and disciplined, the Sainiks had been, generally speaking.

Arnab Goswami’s enthusiastic eulogies to Bal Thackeray  the day before (segueing so perfectly to the really dignified muzak on the soundtrack) unfortunately left him with a slightly sore throat yesterday evening when he had to (rightly) take on Rahul Nervekar of the Shiv Sena on the unfortunate party-pooping embarrassment of the matter of two young women (a ‘Facebook poster’ and her friend, ‘the liker’) who had to be arrested  and then let out on bail by the police force of Palghar in Thane, Maharashtra, for daring to suggest that “just due to one politician died a natural death, everybody goes bonkers…today, Mumbai shuts down due to fear, not due to respect”.

How terrible it must be to eulogize the master at one moment, and then upbraid the disciple the next, for following faithfully in the precepts laid down by the master. It is the flawless straddling and negotiation of profound existential dilemmas such as these that makes Arnab Goswami and people like him in our midst such intellectual giants.

As we know by now, the clinic of an uncle of one of the young women was vandalized and patients had to be evacuated to make way for the sadness of shiv sainiks. The two women have posted bail for fifteen thousand rupees each and as of now, they still have to report each Wednesday to the police station so that the Maharashtra Police can ‘investigate’ their conduct.

Otherwise, this was such a lovely funeral. As family oriented as a Yash Chopra farewell, with film stars in attendance and Lataji and Amitji and  Sushmaji and Jijajis and Salijis and Netajis of various descriptions doing what they do best, offering ‘bhavpoorn shraddhanjalis’ (‘heartfelt homage’) at regular intervals.

I say ‘otherwise’, because November funerals have a way of going wrong. Horribly wrong. Those of us who have lived through the consequences of the repeated airing of the ‘khoon ka badla khoon se lenge’ (‘blood for blood’ ) slogans on television when Indira Gandhi’s bullet riddled body lay in state in Teen Murti Bhavan in Delhi on the 1st of November (a day after she had been shot) 1984 know to what extent grieving Gandhian congressmen could go to mourn their dear leader. A great tree fell, the ground shook, and a few thousand Sikhs were dispensed with in Delhi. Nothing really happened to the loyal riotous mourners, and the ruling party got the sympathy vote. Except for the fact that H.K.L. Bhagat, mourner-in-chief, and pogrom architect, apparently went mad in his declining years, and would be spotted stark naked, followed by his security detail, ranting to himself. The curse of some Trilokpuri widow might have found it’s mark. The curse of Naroda Patiya and Best Bakery might yet some day catch up with the man who said he had only followed  his ‘marg-darshak’ Thackeray’s inspiring footsteps to get to where he is today. I sincerely hope so. I hope it delivers an appropriately naked and pathetic form of dementia when its time comes.

Imagine what price Bombay might have had to pay for the grief of angry Shiv Sainiks, had the inevitability of the demise of the Hindu Hruday Samrat  / ‘Emperor of Hindu Hearts’ (Mark 1) not been as predictable, banal and medicated as it turned out to be in the end. Those who live by the sword, have a tendency to die by the sword. Thackeray lived by the sword, but thankfully, died on the ventilator.

Death and Bal Keshav Thackeray go back a long way. I doubt if any other Indian politician has the record of publicly handing out as many death threats as Bal Thackeray did in the course of his career. He made death threats in his speeches, interviews and his editorials. He called for war, for murder, for suicide squads, for retaliatory terrorism, for hanging, day in and day out, not covertly, but overtly. And there has been not a single instance when any of his exhortations to violence (judicial or extra-judicial) has ever had any legal consequences for him.

The first political assassination in Bombay, an event that changed the course of the city, was the targeted killing of the popular and militant Communist trade union activist and sitting MLA, Krishna Desai in June 1970 by the Shiv Sena. It was this killing, and the previous incidence of arson (1967) in which the Shiv Sena burned the CPI led office of the Girni Kamgar Union that acted as symbolic markers of the Congress patronized rise of the Shiv Sena in Bombay politics. At that time, the Shiv Sena, acted as the private militia of the Maharashtra Congress chieftains Vasantrao Naik and Vasantdada Patil, who were eager to please their clients – the respectable industrialists of Bombay who were getting increasingly impatient with a restive and resistant working class. So much so that the Shiv Sena earned for itself the ill deserved sobriquet of ‘Vasant Sena’ (which brings dishonor not to the Shiv Sena, but to the memory of Vasantasena, the elegant and large-hearted courtesan of Sudraka’s Sanskrit play ‘Mricchakatikam’). The Shiv Sena did in Bombay then what the bouncers and goons of Congress ruled Gurgaon and Manesar do in Haryana now. They kept the industrial peace for greedy and rapacious managements through a reign of terror.

In a public meeting at the Robert Money High School in 1970, soon after the killing of Krishna Desai, Bal Thackeray congratulated ‘his’ boys for the deed, and said that the event should be a warning to all ‘Lal Bhais’ (Reds) for what was to follow if Bombay did not yield to the supremacy of the Shiv Sena. [ For details of this incident - see - the section titled 'Killing for a Cause : Shiv Sena's Striking Power on page 91 in Dipankar Gupta's 'Between Ethnicity and Communalism: The Significance of the Nation-State' in 'Religion, Violence and Political Mobilisation in South Asia' edited by Ravinder Kaur, Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2005]. He then went on to campaign in the by-election that occurred due to Desai’s death against his widow, the CPI candidate. And the first Shiv Sainik MLA, Vamanrao Mahadik entered the Maharashtra assembly, over the dead body of Krishna Desai, courtesy Bal K. Thackeray.

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Emboldened by the impunity he enjoyed in the wake of Krishna Desai’s killing, Thackeray embarked on a long career of calling for murder and deportation and enjoying the death or humiliation of others, be they Communists, Trade Union activists, Dalits, Muslims, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Kashmiris, North Indians (his previous ire against what he called ‘yandu-gundu’ South Indians seemed to have mellowed over time, though the first riot that the Shiv Sena organized, against Kannadigas, in February 1969, did leave fifty nine people dead in its wake). He openly advocated terrorism when he called for ‘suicide squads’ to redeem Hindu honor, and exulted in the orgy of blood letting that took place in the wake of the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

To be treated to pious eulogies and calls for decorum while dealing with the memory of the departed Thackeray on television is to understand that for our elites, one should not speak ill of the dead even when the person in question never played by that same rule. The famous Marathi pride that Bal Thackeray, according to our television pundits, was able to foster (his one ‘great’ contribution) , seems to be nothing other than the egregious arrogance of the schoolyard bully, whose only way of bolstering his own self-esteem is to enjoy abusing others. Like every schoolyard bully, Thackeray was basically a coward, cowing to the greater might of Sanjay Gandhi and Adolf Hitler whenever inspired to do so and behaving with reasonableness, courtesy and good humor towards captains of industry and finance, whenever necessary. Having broken the back of working class militancy the city, not even once in his long career did Thackeray ever call out the Shiv Sena’s famous muscle power on to the streets for the rights of Mumbai’s poor and marginalized. It was always, always against the poor, against marginalized communities, against immigrants, against workers (the Shiv Sena did not, for instance, intimidate mill owners into submission during the textile strike, though ostensibly, they lent the workers their inconsistent and token support). Or, it was for some self-declared notion of what the dignity of being Marathi and/or Hindu meant.

The idea that Thackeray and his goons ruled Bombay because of fear is somewhat misplaced. Yes, the terror that they exercised on the ground did have its chilling effect, but more importantly, they were allowed, even encouraged to exercise that power by Bombay’s political, industrial and financial elite. They had no reason to fear Thackeray, because ultimately, the Shiv Sena and Thackeray always acted in their interest. In the end, he became one of them, but it is always important to remember that he began as their reliable enforcer, the bouncer at the door to their party. No government, Congress, NCP or otherwise, ever took him on, (despite for instance the findings of the Shri Krishna Commission on his incendiary role in the Mumbai Riots of 1992) not because they were afraid of him or his capacity to rule the streets (governments in India have acted with promptness on the streets whenever they have felt the need to, and with great lethality and disproportionate force – they faced a march of more than a million people in Srinagar in 1989 with bullets, leaving hundreds dead in what has become famous as the Gawakadal Massacre, they have bombed a city like Aizawl in 1966 into submission using air power, they commandeered entire divisions of the Army to move into the Golden Temple in Amritsar when they felt the need to). The truth is, they did not take Thackeray and the Shiv Sena on, even when they were a direct threat to urban peace, not because they could not, but because they did not want to. He was way too useful, handing out threats and thugging it out in Mumbai so that they and their order prevailed.

In a widely reported bouquet of fulsome eulogies, captains of industry, finance, film and public relations, paid their respects to Thackeray. Mukesh Ambani, Chairman, Reliance Industries said ‘our country has lost a great leader’. Deepak Parekh, chairman, HDFC Bank spoke of how his eloquence (read foul language) and his charisma (read bullying) made him a legend, because he was after all, a ‘pro-industry’ visionary. Rahul Bajaj, Chairman of Bajaj Auto tellingly recalled how despite ideological differences, he had good relations with him, especially as he had ‘helped in sorting out a workers-related issue in his manufacturing facility’. Anand Mahindra,Chairman, Mahindra and Mahindra tweeted about how the citizens of this state will ‘miss their champion’. Niranjan Hiranandani and Rahul Bajaj both spoke fondly of his ‘sense of humor’. Suhel Seth said that ‘whatever his politics…his nationalism and zeal could never be questioned.’

Bollywood film stars, the ornaments of the ruling class, were not far behind their masters. Amitabh Bacchan, offered his eulogy to a man who basically ran his relationship with the film industry in the form of an elaborate protection racket. Lata Mangeshkar said he made Mumbai great. Shahrukh Khan regretted not resolving his differences with him. Riteish Deshmukh called him a hero. Tweet after nauseating tweet spoke of the coziness between filmdom and fascism.

All this, apparently, because he was, as several television commentators said, ‘a straightforward man, a man who spoke what he thought, did what he believed’. Since when was straightforwardness a virtue when it comes to the projection of evil?

In a television interview given to Rajeev Shukla, sixteen years ago (re-run recently), at the height of his powers, Thackeray assents to the description ‘I am the Hitler’ of Maharashtra, rubbishes democracy, extols the virtues of dictatorship and says that if he were prime minister he would ‘saaf karo Kashmir’ (‘clean up Kashmir’) and wipe out every Bangladeshi from India. He is not drunk, he is not mentally unsound. He is in full control of everything he is saying and thinking, and I for one am very glad that his ambition to be the ‘Hitler’ of India did not come to fruition. The schoolyard bully never got to leave his corner of the pitch.

I believe the correct term for this sensibility is not straightforwardness but arrogance, born of a sense of impunity that comes to a man who knows that those who really rule let him rule. Behind every schoolyard bully, there are way bigger bullies, watching his back. The only difference between them and their front man is a degree of fake civility. Their language is smoother.

Much has been said about the 2.5 million who came out to pay him homage. Bombay/Mumbai has a population of something close to 12.5 million, and if approximately one sixth of that population is persuaded by the Shiv Sena to shed tears, it does not indicate to me an overwhelming surge of grief. Perhaps a large number of the ten million, or five-sixths of the city, who chose not to come out on to the street were relieved that they would not have to wake up on some random morning to hear the latest fatwa from Matoshree ? Perhaps, when some people invoke the ‘Ek tha Tiger’ (‘Once there was a Tiger’) motif in response to Thackeray’s passing, parsing both the Shiv Sena’s mascot and Salman Khan’s recent hit in one swift move, it is not unreasonable to read a careful stress on the tha’ – the ‘has been’ in their utterance. The passing of a predator can bring relief to the prey.

The death of tyrants (when they die in harness) is usually followed by carefully stage managed and orchestrated scenes of public displays of grief. The deaths of Stalin, Ayatolilah Khomeini and more recently of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung in North Korea were all occasions of great public demonstrations of sorrow. Pyongyang has a population of three million and approximately one and a half million (half the city) reportedly turned up to weep at the ‘dear leader’s’ funeral. Does that mean that North Korea’s ‘dear leader’ is even more dear (by ten and one-eighth times) to the people of Pyongyang than the Hindu Hruday Samrat is to the people of Mumbai. Whatever be the arithmetic, the youtube uploads of Pyongyang citizens breaking down about the departure of their ‘dear leader’ evoke the same emotions in me as the ones I have experienced at the lachrymose excesses reported from Mumbai on our television screens.

I am not denying that an element of spontaneity may animate such occasions, but is that enough reason to consider the deceased and their actions above board, or the grief, to use an understatement, somewhat overblown? Or is it instead reason to give serious thought as to why and under what conditions can millions of people give their actual consent to their own dehumanization in the name of the fiction of an identity or the tang of mythical greatness or manifest destiny. I am not asking us to dismiss the emotions that were so visible in the farewell to Thackeray. I am asking us all to think very seriously about  the nature of the profound emptiness in  the lives of people that makes it possible for them to identify, almost filially, with a man who in his outspoken disdain for democratic values (despite how ‘directly he did or did not make eye contact with the masses’) in reality held ordinary people in the greatest contempt. The ‘Marathi Manoos’ he invoked had nothing of the extraordinary liberality, open-ness and free thinking spirit that marked Marathi culture’s tryst with modernity. Instead, it squandered the rich inheritance and greatness of Agarkar,  Ranade, Phule, Ramabai, Ambedkar, the two Kosambis, Dalwai, Vijay Tendulkar and Pu. La. Deshpande into a meaningless posture of empty macho defiance at anything remotely resembling the life of the mind in its own environment. In retrospect, Bal Thackeray, by urging Marathi men (and it was largely men) to elbow their way into being the prize fighters in Mumbai’s gladiatorial circus on the basis of muscle power alone made sure that they effectively subverted Marathi culture’s capacity to respond with intelligence to a changing world. No one has done more to harm what it means to be Marathi in recent times. Marathi pride cannot come from Marathi signboards, statues, protection rackets in employment and cosmetic nomenclatural changes. It can only come from a healthy culture of debate and open ended thinking – something that Maharasthra once led this country in, and now, like Bengal, has now lost almost entirely, due to the politics of populism.

Yesterday evening, like many other people on Facebook, I re-posted what was apparently posted by one of the two young women of Palghar, Thane, and called for others to do so as well, out of solidarity. The status update (which is not exactly what the young woman Shaheen Dhada had written – see last Kafila posting for her precise words), simply said, “People like Bal Thackeray are born and die daily and one should not observe a bandh for that”. It went viral within moments. While I endorse the sentiment that underlies this statement I have to make my disagreement with at least one of its presumptions clear. Yes, people like Bal Thackeray die daily and one should not observe a bandh for that. But no, people like Bal Thackeray, are thankfully, not born daily. (And Shaheen Dhada, we must remember, does not say so either.)

I hope that no one like Bal Thackeray, or his favourite artist, Adolf Hitler, is ever born again.

Ek tha Tiger (Once there Was A Tiger) is way preferable to Lo, Ek Aur Tiger (Lo, Once Again a Tiger.).

111 Comments leave one →
  1. D.K.RATHOD permalink
    November 20, 2012 11:56 AM

    CONGRATULATION TO SHAHEEN DHADA.I DO AGREE “People like Bal Thackeray are born and die daily and one should not observe a bandh for that”.I SUPPORT YOU.

  2. Kurtrips permalink
    November 20, 2012 12:32 PM

    Very well written. I think answer to the questions posed can be found in ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell.

  3. November 20, 2012 12:48 PM

    ‘Lo Ek Aur A**hole’ would be more like it! Befitting obituary but with many typos.

  4. November 20, 2012 12:57 PM

    Brilliant stuff, Shuddhabrata.
    The cosy relationship between the ruling elite, big business, the movie industry and fascism – all this sounds so much like the America James Ellroy describes in his books.

  5. November 20, 2012 12:58 PM

    Excellent piece. Thackeray emboddied evil chauvinistic politics and capital. Good riddance!

    • Richa Sharma permalink
      November 20, 2012 4:50 PM

      Please watch what you say.. the shivsainiks may come here to have you arrested!

      • D.K.RATHOD permalink
        November 20, 2012 6:36 PM

        Really,IT IS EXCELLENT COMMENT.WE MUST REPLY AND MUST STAND UP AGAINST FASCIST

      • Nadeem permalink
        November 20, 2012 9:06 PM

        Shiv Sainik are the tiger of Maharastra only.

  6. Navin permalink
    November 20, 2012 1:17 PM

    Shuddhabrata Sengupta; I am a fan. Is there any way in future I can follow what you write?

    • November 20, 2012 1:28 PM

      One way is to google Shuddhabrata Sengupta and kafila. You’ll see his posts here.
      Do check out his “A Modest Proposal for the Castration of Male Police Officers”.

  7. Pervez Younus permalink
    November 20, 2012 1:55 PM

    I must say that the piece. in the current scenario, shows courage of conviction but you speak behind a curtain of protection as Shiv Sainiks cannot locate and harm you or your publication. I wish some of this came on TV. Perhaps Indian lack the courage to air their contrarian views in public

    • Bhaskar permalink
      November 21, 2012 3:00 PM

      Yes, right. I have been noticing that many people have expressed their sentiments against the brand of politics, chauvinism, and violence propounded by Bal Thackeray. A large number of them called themselves ‘anonymus’. Obviously it is the ‘fear factor’.

  8. Niyaz permalink
    November 20, 2012 2:22 PM

    well-done Shaheen, I support her & I think shaheen is right. I respect balasaheb thackeray but its not fair to any city bandh on the name of any person,plz take legal action on police who arrest her

  9. jayant permalink
    November 20, 2012 2:34 PM

    Thank you for writing this. The anger and the bitterness is palpable. You have spoken for a lot of us who are angered and saddened by a lot of what goes on in India today.

  10. November 20, 2012 2:42 PM

    Brilliant stuff. Hitting nail on the head. I support you.

  11. Sohail Hashmi permalink
    November 20, 2012 3:11 PM

    One could understand the fear that compelled large parts of Bombay to shut down even as news of Thackeray counting his last breaths began to circulate, The petty shop keeper, the vegetable seller on a pushcart , restaurants, hawkers, pao bhajoi wallahs were as afraid as the owners of plush stores, it was not grief but fear, terror is probably a more appropriate expression.

    The confirmation of his death would have lead to the sainiks pouring out on to the streets and any one daring to earn a living while the lumpuns mourned would meet the fate of those that had dared to go about their daily lives when Mrs. Thakeray had gone to keep her appointment with her creator.

    It was not grief that had shut down Bombay but fear, sheer terror of the hoodlums who go in the name of the sainiks. A breathless anchor, they are always breathless, commenting on the state of Bombay two days before .BST passed on had informed the viewers that the sensitive (read populated by Muslims) Mohammad Ali Road area is totally shut as is all of Bombay,

    The Anchor was probably trying to suggest that the Mausies were as grief stricken as the rest of the Bombay population. They were not, they were terror stricken. They have not forgotten what the brave marathas did to them post Baabri masjid. and can you blame them for knowing their place and hiding in it in this most modern city in the greatest democracy in the world.

    But it was not only the mausies it was almost everyone else,the bhaiyas of UP the, the bhelpuri wallas, the Cabdrivers everyone was afraid, anyone who could be marked as the other,.except the fawning media the obsequious film fraternity including fearless motormouths like mukesh bhatt and the grateful industrail houses, grateful for protecting their interests whenever they needed protection.

    If they did it out of fear they should have at least the courage to accept that it was out of fear, but that would need courage

    • November 21, 2012 2:17 PM

      An Urdu newspaper reported how Madanpura, a Muslim area was the saviours of all those who found restaurants and grocery stores closed in their areas. Mercifully, Shiv Sena has kept away from Muslim ‘ghettos; — possibly out of fear.

  12. Jayesh Ravindranath permalink
    November 20, 2012 3:13 PM

    Superb article. Well researched and written. Thought provoking. India needs chemotherapy to rid it of the all pervasive cancer that’s afflicting it.

  13. Sanjay Rai permalink
    November 20, 2012 3:56 PM

    Wow. Brave. I liked it too much. where every people or you can say stalwart of Media, politics, Bollywood tried their best to be diplomat and SS’s sycophant, you have given us an eye opener article. Thanks a lot for saying truth.

  14. November 20, 2012 4:03 PM

    Thank you for writing… its probably one of the most well written article that summarizes Bal Thackeray’s persona. I hope “The Hindu” (only other daily new paper has expressed similar sentiments) publishes this as part of the editorial ….. it deserves to be read and remembered by more people.

  15. amrutha permalink
    November 20, 2012 4:25 PM

    i watched the video. R U SURE THIS PERSON IS NOT DRUNK AND MENTALLY SOUND. ok if he ‘was’ sound then i doubt this country is not that much.

  16. November 20, 2012 6:15 PM

    One would have expected the author to analyze why the city of Mumbai came out in support of this person everytime it voted for its municipality. Was it plain fear? I wonder how could one bring fear into the precincts of polling station. The sense of deprivation, the erosion of identity drove the cityfolk into his arms and party. Our esteemed author has missed this point in analysis, akin to his liberal counterparts for whom tradition and ethnic identity is a dirt bag. For Kafila, its meant to swept under the carpet of egalitarian preachings of Marx.

    • November 20, 2012 6:55 PM

      Ritesh, from what I understand, the Sena, BJP and MNS (the hydra that represented the constituency for urban fascism in Mumbai) put together never got more than 50% of the vote in BMC elections. And, the turnout for BMC elections has more or less plateaued around 44% of the electorate. So, that makes the figure for Thackeray’s (Bal, Raj and Uddhav) mandate cluster roughly around a figure of 22 % of the electorate. Which is my point. Roughly 78 % of the electorate of the city that the Shiv Sena thought it owned, either was against Thackeray’s politics (voted against it) or was indifferent to it (could not care enough to vote for it). This seems to me to be consistent with the demography of the turnout during the funeral (if we assume that an overwhelming majority of those who came onto the street for for funeral were from Mumbai city and not from the rest of Maharashtra). If we take the 2.5 million figure funeral turnout at face value, we get a percentage of roughly 16 % of the total population of the city, which give or take a little (given that Mumbai has a young population, many not of voting age, and many migrants, who would not be on electoral rolls) would in my estimation, be around the figure of 22 % of the electorate that the Sena-BJP-MNS combine pulls along with it. Perhaps all those who voted for the extended Sena-BJP-MNS family reached the funeral, which would not be altogether surprising in the context of a cadre based machine. That gives you, I think, a good indication of just how many people in Mumbai were persuaded by Thackeray’s politics. Thackeray knew this well. Which is why he never trusted democracy. The key to his power had nothing to do with whether or not he won elections, and by how much. It had to do with the patronage he enjoyed from the powers that be, which had nothing to do with his vote-getting prowess. He did their work, in return, they let him do what he wanted, and made sure he came to no harm. That arrangement (with its neat operation of favours and intimidation) translated into some, not all, of the votes he won. That is all there is to it. The obedient Marathi Manoos that Thackeray think he had with him may well be a demographic chimera.

      • November 20, 2012 9:20 PM

        Do you know any political party or leader who has 100% support, as few people mentioned here one can definitely question his methods or views, the article here thought good shows very one sided view, every political personality has black and white spots on their career so does Thackeray…you are determined to show only one side of him and you did a great job..I would have liked complete assessment of his political career…but that’s expecting too much from intellectuals because they like to live in their own world and beliefs and refuse to come out of it…expect more balanced article next time..

      • suresh permalink
        November 21, 2012 4:28 PM

        Shuddhabrata,

        Counting the percentage of votes is a very rough way of inferring anything if only because people are more complex. People often have opinions which cut across party positions but in our political system you have only one vote.

        Right into the 1980s, the percentage of votes going to the Jana Sangh/BJP votes was less than 10% (with the exception of 1977 and some state elections in 1980) but did that mean that support for Hindutva was insignificant? Clearly, the answer is no. That there was a conservative wing of the Congress (whose views were close to those of the RSS) was always known and it was illustrated by the Nehru-Patel split. And lest we forget, the founder of the Jan Sangh, the precursor of the BJP, was Shyama Prasad Mukherjee a Congressman at one point.

        A second reason for not rely on voting percentages is that in a polity like ours which is extremely heterogeneous it is next to impossible for any party to obtain more than 50% of the votes. To some extent, it might happen in relatively homogeneous states but not otherwise. And remember, the 50% argument can be turned against you as well. (“Secular” parties get less than 50% of the vote, hence … etc. etc.)

        Whichever way you cut it, the Shiv Sena does have significant support, enough to create a nuisance. Indeed, “nuisance” is an understatement. I once had the unpleasant experience of traveling with Suresh Prabhu (my namesake and union power minister at one point) on the Delhi-Mumbai Rajdhani Express and the behavior of his “coterie” was frightening.

        We have to deal with the Shiv Sena (and other similar groups) but it is not clear how.

      • ninad permalink
        November 22, 2012 11:42 AM

        Suddha, I appreciate this attempt at an answer, but I think this is a more serious problem for the Left to consider. I can confirm, for one, that my entire extended family (except poor old me) is a Shiv Sena supporter, but no one would (and did) go to the funeral. It is likely that the numbers of people turning up has little to do with actual ground support. Further, I think that analyzing this simply as a “cult of personality” phenomenon is ignoring the gravity of the problem.

        I think there has to be a more reasoned analysis of why 2.5 million people turned up. In any case, 2.5 million is an alarming figure in itself! We shouldn’t delude ourselves by simply stating that it is a “mere” 16% of the population.

    • November 21, 2012 2:06 PM

      I would not like to comment if people voted Shiv Sena in Municipal elections out of fear, but it is an established fact, that it is the fear that Congress organized Communal Riots for 65 years that drove Muslims to vote for Congress. Shiv Sena had shakhas in each and every locality and the Sakha were a virtual fiefdom working year round to keep voters in fear. Even in Gujarat now, Muslims the victims of 2002 genocidal riots are at some level would flock to Modi in the coming election, out of sheer fear of reprisals, if Modi wins again and takes revenge on the community for not voting for him. So fear is very much there, Only media ignores it, out of — fear again.

  17. Max permalink
    November 20, 2012 6:17 PM

    One is dead, rest will follow, Bombay will shine again, follow this i.p arrests me? Freedom is bit by bit.

  18. Bhavna permalink
    November 20, 2012 6:41 PM

    I second Raghuvamshi Thakur’s words. This article deserves a larger audience. It enabled me to understand in a large way who Thackeray was.

  19. November 20, 2012 6:43 PM

    The 2.5 million people on the streets on Sunday are not a mere statistical anomaly. They are an unfortunate reflection of our supposedly democratic society’s failure to resolve differences through dialog and understanding.

    In the pan-Indian boxing ring that our politics has become, he was their star pugilist.

  20. damitr permalink
    November 20, 2012 7:25 PM

    Though I would agree to many points in the article, but there are something about which the author has taken unfounded liberties. If 2.5 Million people can be “persuaded by the Shiv Sena to shed tears,” where is the persuasion? Please let us know how to persuade 2.5 Million people to “shed tears”. Did the Shiv-sainiks drag 2.5 Million people out of their homes, to be part of the procession, and given them glycerine? Or there are 2.5 millions Shivsainiks? One of the reason why the Sena is existent and powerful is the grassroot base, which it thrives on to do the “bullying” work. One can sure question their methodology and philosophy, which this article does well, but to question the base on which they exist, would be to deny the reality of Shivsena as a force to be reckoned with. And speaking of democracy, it is these people who were shedding tears, also elect the Sena candidates during elections.

    • November 20, 2012 7:31 PM

      Damitr, thank you for your comment, please see my response to Riteish below to get a sense of how I see numbers stacking up in this case.

      • Cdr Nagesh permalink
        November 21, 2012 7:20 PM

        I would like to add here that today’s politics is all about crowd pulling. It doesn’t matter if you bribe them, coerce them or use any other methods. I am not surprised by the numbers. If anything, and at best, one may safely assume that these one and half million are all that believed in the convoluted politics of Sena.

  21. sri permalink
    November 20, 2012 7:26 PM

    Another “sickular” nutcase who is oblivious to inconvenient facts such as Muslim -underworld terror nexus during 92 riots, etc. etc. Yawn…

    • Tanmayi permalink
      November 20, 2012 9:10 PM

      Th article above doesn’t show both sides of the coins, seems more like a “persona;” unqualified” opinion based on convenient and easy to research rants. The real deal would be understanding what went wrong, what moved 2.5 million people to tears. Did the Mumbaikars in Mumbai feel insulted by people coming over from other states. Was the warm initial reception they gave them not reciprocated, were they looked down upon in their own matra bhumi. The day you see both sides of the coin through truly human, non -rationalising and non – biased eyes, please write then again on this. Anyway what do you care !! 2.5 million is a minority and maybe you dont care to account for that minority.

    • jonny permalink
      November 20, 2012 10:53 PM

      true that boss

    • Sunny permalink
      December 1, 2012 12:47 PM

      Remember, Hitler had millions following him and attending his rallies. We all know what happened to him and Germany in 1945.
      2.5 million people attending BT’s funeral doesn’t wash away the SS’s black deeds of the past 46 years.

  22. Bulbul permalink
    November 20, 2012 7:44 PM

    Articles by Kalfila are as representative of tunnel vision and a bigoted view point as was Bal Thackeray. He probably envisioned himself as a messiah of justice and fairness, as do you. Your views would have been more appreciated if they were not so selective.

  23. November 20, 2012 7:53 PM

    जो मर गए दंगे में, वोह मेरे कुछ ना थे.. जो मर गए धमाके में वह मेरे कुछ ना थे, वोह हज़ारों जो मरे इस साल, कोई नाम नहीं उनका.
    पर वह जो कहते यह ठीक हुआ, जो कहते थे, की उन्हें तो मरना ही होगा. जो कहते थे, इंसान की जात ही उसके जीने का हक़ है..
    उनके मरने पर यह हंगामा क्या है.. इस देश के आम आदमी, तेरा कुछ नहीं हो सकता. क्यूंकि तू नहीं, तेरी सोच ही आम है..

  24. Namboodripad permalink
    November 20, 2012 7:57 PM

    True that. The turnout was not an anomaly. Nor were the big names of industry and cinema speaking out of fear alone (though that may be partially true). The sad fact is that a large number of people in the “elite” classes are invested (literally) in the regime’s operations, and a large number of ordinary citizens strongly support SS’s identity politics. Keeping BT aside for a minute, one must confront the matter of Mumbai kneeling to SS domination for decades, and India accepting the SS-BJP alliance – in fact at one point voting them to power. So the malaise is nationwide, and obviously strongest at the core of the SS’s influence. If we blame just 16% of Mumbai for a problem shared by the PM (who is not even of the same party) we are doing a great disservice to ourselves. Our worst mistake would be to assume that this is a small issue created by some fringe groups. Our nation is supporting right-wing politics in large numbers. And those who don’t, have no strategy for countering this trend.

  25. Sundar Venkataraman permalink
    November 20, 2012 8:05 PM

    Shuddhabratada,

    Well written primer on SS hooliganism right through the last 4 decades. I like the part where you speak of the missed opportunity to use culture and the rich Marathi heritage of literature, music and debate to further the cause of the “manoos” (note Marathi bai missing). Thanks to Girish for sharing.

    Regards – Sundar

    • Pankaj permalink
      November 20, 2012 10:50 PM

      I also liked the part about missed opportunity to use Marathi heritage and culture – a culture that gave us the likes of Dadasaheb Phalke.

  26. paramita permalink
    November 20, 2012 8:05 PM

    congrats. for a day it seemed as if it was the passing of saint paul.

  27. Roshan Lal permalink
    November 20, 2012 8:14 PM

    A perfect obituary.

  28. Riddhima permalink
    November 20, 2012 8:15 PM

    I agree with you completely, Shuddhabrata. Bombay shut down due to fear, not respect and every reporter knew this. But they were afraid of saying this on record because, obviously, the ‘sainiks’ would harm them. The government is indifferent because Shiv Sena’s hooliganism earns them votes and it’s disheartening because we left our fates, our lives, at the mercy of incompentent morons(read whichever profane word that comes to mind) who play with it like some unimportant toy. And we don’t seem to have the courage to do anything about it.

  29. November 20, 2012 9:18 PM

    Very well said. Thank you for writing it.

  30. Ramesh Narendrarai Desai permalink
    November 20, 2012 9:22 PM

    While I do not endorse the methods used by Bal Thakaray or his views, the fact remains that Maharashtra was prevented from going the downhill way like Poschim Bongo by the leftist juggernaut largely due to him. There are many similarities in the characteristics that people of both Maharashtra and Poschim Bongo exhibit. They are subject to one or the other juggernaut. Thakaray’s juggernaut was less harmful to maharashtra than Jyoti basu’s was to poschim bongo’s in the long run. Maharashtra continues to create a lot more jobs than Poschim Bongo. Unlike Poschim Bongo, there has been no exodus of industries from maharashtra. Now however, is the time for a reversal of the hooliganism that was allowed to have a field day. A beginning seems to have been made by arresting the vandals accused of vandalizing a clinic. This must be followed up in a determined and persistent manner to root out hooliganism. Any leaders endorsing the illegal actions of their cadre must themselves be given even more exemplary punishment than that given to their flunkies. The left, if it tries to muscle in, in the vacuum created, will only invite back the hooliganism, we all abhor. There are enough laws to take care of the interests of the working classes, like those of other sections of the society. Let the law take its own course. Let us become law abiding and protest against inequities in a lawful manner. It may take time but it does not create any toxicity.

  31. Rahat permalink
    November 20, 2012 9:25 PM

    Really good article

  32. Pankaj permalink
    November 20, 2012 10:40 PM

    The article is very well written. Consciously or unconsciously, the article is also written for an audience. An audience which can appreciate the ‘intellectual’ play of words and satire. It is very interesting irony that while you (the author) clearly value common man’s concern and hold democratic principles on a high pedestal, the logic you use to convey your values shows your disconnect the range of ‘common men/ women’ that exist. The common people whom you were imagining while writing are a different set from the set of common people who chose to associate themselves with Shiv Sena. A rather good representative sample of common people from ‘your set’ may be seen in the people who have posted comments above – people who can appreciate your article for its logic and wittiness and also the english of it. Further, all the numerical analysis breaks down when we appreciate the fact that there are uncommon set of common people. Basically, there are a set of people whose vocabulary is vast enough to fill their profound emptiness and there is another set who fill their emptiness by association to people who can give them the words and the voice.

    P.S. Sena goons vandalised my father’s office in 90′s and Gandhiji holds greatest appeal to me.

  33. November 21, 2012 12:10 AM

    I disagree, for every one schmuck that pops it, 10 others will appear to take his place. More likely than not, it will be ‘Lo, ek aur tiger.’

    • November 21, 2012 11:03 AM

      Weak attempt @ building case for continuity

      Yes Shankar, likely there’s a need (even market that younger lieutenants can and do fill). Would-be leaders too, must keep active, demonstrate viability over a socio-political domain (or lose patrons)
      Commandeering both constructions and dividends of The Brand thus becomes important. No denigration must be allowed.

      (The tiger is still likely to be with us even after its extinction_ its next issue could be stronger/weaker (drawing more/less indignation, the default effectively assuring continuity).
      We’d also have to factor in the responses/interests of patrons themselves (especially over particular contexts)

  34. Manda permalink
    November 21, 2012 12:53 AM

    a judicious post-mortem

  35. Ashok permalink
    November 21, 2012 1:34 AM

    This is a warning to all those people who might cross my path tomorrow – my mangy pet dog just died, and I am heartbroken. I promise to break the nose of anyone who as much as wishes me good morning.

  36. November 21, 2012 2:05 AM

    Reblogged this on Saira Khan and commented:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)

  37. archis permalink
    November 21, 2012 2:25 AM

    dude.. seriously??? u blv that 2.5 million people can be dragged out of home as easily?? r u nuts?? this 2.5 million if voted fr sena,they would hv won evry election…. and u r opposing threats to bngladeshis/paki s,, why mate?? do they take care of ur fooding-clothing-lodging ??? if not than what is the problem with there expulsion??? hell yeah i am not a marathi by any chnc.., i am a bengali.. and trust me bengal is downtrodden 2dy just becase of pseudo-libbies and commies like u… who were 2 afraid 2 throw them away…

  38. November 21, 2012 2:39 AM

    Yes, this is what I and perhaps numerous more might have been wanting to read, express & share. A really praiseworthy, intellectually authored article that appeals to the conscience of people like me. I too endorse the suggestion of Raghuvamshi Thakur and comments of Bhavna. One way, how it can find more audience is by publishing its Hindi and Urdu translated versions in leading newspapers of these languages and in other major languages too so that fear psychosis of the people could largely be released. kafila.org too deserves commendation and recognition for publishing it. SA

  39. November 21, 2012 2:56 AM

    The common man is a pawn in the hands of the politician, business men and media. The nexus built on money between business, media and politicians have ruined this country. I will not see a single movie of these so called fake heroes. As for the media, if you cannot have a fair reporting at least don’t pretend. Don’t watch the media let them die a natural death. It is really a sad day to be an Indian.

  40. Puneet permalink
    November 21, 2012 3:06 AM

    Finally I found some article which correctly describes BKT. I was just getting nauseated by everyone’s eulogies as if God himself died.The fact that divisive forces like him gets so much positive media coverage shows how convenient the fourth estate has become to manipulate. People are calling him a tiger, forgetting a tiger roars alone in a jungle unlike this man who roars with a security cover of 100 men and a fortress.
    In fact he was a timid man, men who are fearless and loved by people do not live in such high security arrangements.

    I believe all the eulogy singers are silently thankful deep inside that BKT is no more and hopefully the real Marathi manoos will wake up and claim back the legacy of Shivaji whose name BKT misused and abused for his own good. Shivaji was a true leader of the oppressed, not a minion of the rich class. All we got out of BKT and his clan is hatred and more hatred. Meet most Shiv sena leaders and their resume will almost always reek with violence. That is their only way for survival and solving problems. All their rallies are nightmare for the general public which explain the reason for the complete
    bandh of the city. They might be giving in to fear thinking “one last time” before sighing a breath of relief.

    Judging by their own achievements when Shiv sena came to power what it did for Maharashtra except maybe renaming existing structures, and turning MNCs away from
    their land. As if renaming VT and Sahar airport will inflate the chest of Marathi manoos. Ironically most positive contribution is to the southern states by making Hyderabad and Bangalore more appealing city for MNCs to setup shop. The fact that this party has never came back to power is the testimony to the fact that even the common man understands the con.

    I will never understand why so common people turned up for him. Popular people I understand, they were just kissing ass and avoiding their ass getting kicked
    by the goons. What misplaced pride is getting stroked and where was this pride when your fellow human beings were getting murdered by the hit men of this outfit.
    Are they coming in support of this goonda raj and will volunteer to pay extortion to the clan’s followers so that the vision of BKT continues.

    The last time someone stood against him publicly was SRK and he should be proud of that. And thankfully he was popular enough that the powers to be put the minion back in its place and we never heard much after that. Also although the next generation is just as divisive thankfully they are less charismatic so hopefully this goonda raj party will go into oblivion. That does not stop from someone else to do the same, but for now we can take solace from death which proved the great leveler.

    And hopefully all those mighty and rich should take a lesson from this, that all this pillaging the nation and looting public wealth will be futile when the time comes. Everybody will die empty handed and no one will live forever, so do something good with the position that they find themselves in. Be a little content in what you have and make some positive contribution to the world. If you cannot leave the world in a better positions that you find it in, at least do not contribute in making it worse. I am sure BKT cannot say that.

  41. Firoz Khimani permalink
    November 21, 2012 3:45 AM

    Outstanding … this was a history lesson. As someone born and raised in Maharashtra, but considered a non-maharashtrian because I happen to be Muslim, it always boggles my mind how this incendiary, hateful, violent group hijacked the Marathi ethos. And the millions of otherwise educated, sensible marathi-speaking folks totally drank this kool-aid.

  42. Rahul permalink
    November 21, 2012 5:27 AM

    Great article,Shuddha. The mathematics of voter % is important to a degree, but I think people who vote for demagogues do not deserve to be judged as harshly as the demagogues themselves. In India, people vote on provincial lines for many reasons. Most of the time, they do not see any viable alternative, and so they may vote for a Modi or a Thakre. This is a vicious cycle, in which every instrument of power is used to perpetuate it. I have heard this argument from people, that the seeds of the lowest common denominator politics are already there, and politicians just harvest it but I believe that this is a cancer that flows from top to down. A leader should not only be judged on a stricter standard than the common man, he or she should also be judged on a stricter standard than the so called common wisdom or prevailing morality of the time.

  43. rajat mitra permalink
    November 21, 2012 9:30 AM

    a brilliant a rticle

  44. Chris permalink
    November 21, 2012 9:45 AM

    Superb piece. Thank you for writing it.

  45. kay permalink
    November 21, 2012 10:19 AM

    A very well written article with so much force and just the right impact.

  46. Music wins permalink
    November 21, 2012 10:20 AM

    The Death of a fascist, who sowed prejudice, mistrust, hatred and violence shoud not be mourned by a State…unless the State supports Fascism.. Why did he deserve a State Funeral.. ? We have seen the enemy and the enemy is us.. Silence is Agreement.. We have chosen to be silent..from 1966..when the thugs of the Sena learned that they can go untouched when they loot, burn and inflict harm…we get what we deserve..unless we speak up.. But we are not completely to blame.. the nexus of capital and politics that supported this Fatwa-decreeing mobster played their role.. We were powerless , yes, indeed, when police stations became Shakhas and the Sachivalya was an extension of Sena Bhavan…were we to blame then ? and what when New Delhi chose to be silent ? who was to blame ? we are paying the price.. our children will pay the price.. and every thug in India can say…if he could get away with it, I can

  47. I do not understand permalink
    November 21, 2012 10:52 AM

    Too long for any of the shiv sainiks to read. Also, please translate it in Marathi for them to at least get the gist.

  48. Nivedita Menon permalink*
    November 21, 2012 11:22 AM

    See Rohit Chopra on Bal Thackeray’s Poisonous Legacies and his response to Barkha Dutt

  49. November 21, 2012 1:02 PM

    They took two days to announce his death. On 14th night there was some commotion on the western express high way and I got a call from an army friend (posted in Pune) to get home as BT has died and the army was on high alert. That same day, marathi friends got SMSes about the same. Lost of news agencies were giving confused accounts of his death/cricticalness etc… So please don’t “assume” the massive crowd we saw was instantaneous out pouring. Further, has any one bothered to investigate the transport facilities it would require to carry allegedly 2.6 million people! Even if every one wants to join the procession, how can 2.6 million people travel to a point in less then 12 hours… that too at night! Did any transport agency report such a massive spike in traffic? Did we see pictures of overloaded buses, trains, highways… why not? 2.6 million is 26 Lakh people… how was the basic amenities like toilet and food etc arranged overnight? If Shiv Sena has such an awesome logistical infrastructure, then surly they can demonstrate it in election victories… the fact is, they took two days to prepare. And did any one notice, how these 2.6 million people simply melted away within hours… possible? Nah. I am afraid the numbers have been massively bloated. Logistically not possible.

    • Mahesh permalink
      November 21, 2012 10:30 PM

      Dear Vikram Singh
      hats off to your logistic thinking about crowd gathering and transport arrangement. Did you stay in Mumbai or elsewhere, because in Mumbai at least 5million ppl travel daily using Local trains alone so whn half the ppl travelled you will not definitely it will not be overcrowded. BMC has arranged 10 drinking water tankers and mobile toilets. I hope you know when someone close to your heart you don’t bother about food. PPl coming from Kokan region have special train for to and fro travelling. Why the hell army will be put on alert. Next time if you get advanced intimation of war against china then please let us know in advance.

  50. col lokesh saxena permalink
    November 21, 2012 1:11 PM

    gutsy .. fully endorse the above views

  51. November 21, 2012 1:16 PM

    reblogging this one.. needs a larger audience

  52. Raghav permalink
    November 21, 2012 1:37 PM

    Awesome article….A must read for evryone !!!!

  53. manoj permalink
    November 21, 2012 2:06 PM

    these bengalis do not allow anyone to come to there state …have created language barrier ..we all know how they treated assamese , oriyas, biharis before partition ..and have gall to talk about others..bullshit

    • November 21, 2012 3:19 PM

      Dear Manoj, Yes, there are some Bengali chauvinists who have treated Assamese, Oriya and Bihari people very badly indeed, especially through displays of their arrogance. And like all chauvinists they should be roundly criticised for that. I do not live in Bengal, I live in Delhi, am born and brought up in Delhi and speak Bengali, Urdu and English as my languages. But I do keep a close eye on what happens in Bengal. However, it would be a travesty to say that Bengalis created a ‘language’ barrier and did not allow others to come into Bengal or Kolkata. Calcutta/Kolkata remains a highly cosmopolitan city, with thriving communities of Sikhs, Marwaris, Gujaratis, Biharis, Oriya, Malyali, Manipuris and Chinese, Anglo-Indians and Jews who all consider Calcutta to be their home, and no political party in Bengal (none of which I support by the way, they are all equally idiotic as far as I am concerned) can ever try and run its shop by saying that immigrants should be thrown out. No body in Bengal will take that kind of talk seriously.

  54. November 21, 2012 2:08 PM

    That is one nice resounding slap. Kudos!

  55. Mahesh permalink
    November 21, 2012 2:09 PM

    I hope some day you will write on situation in West Bengal for last 50 years which hasn’t changed in last 2-3 years also. 50 % of my fellow bengali brothers and sisters have left their home town in search of only simple peaceful life. I was there in kolkata on 21st July 2012 and know the situation arise because of TMC’s rally. There is nothing new in that in kolkata where every evening you fill find some politician organising meeting and disturbing traffic. I hope you are still living in kolkata/ west bengal so you know the situation better or you have also left bengal for better peaceful life which ppl find in Mumbai. Everybody knows that wht kind of life they are enjoying in Mumbai and they can’t have 10% of it in their home state like TN/Kerala/AP/Gujarat because these are some of the well mannered states. There is nothing to speak about the UP and Bihar and our own capital so called Dilwalonki ki Delhi.
    The same chimera of bengali choose Communist for over 34 years to rule them. Mr. Shuddhabrata Sengupta I will sincerely urge you to use you intelligent inputs in Kolkata’s welfare so that it will be at least in top 10 city in India and which lies in17th position the last one as per world bank report(Reference wikepedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Bengal_state_assembly_election,_2011 Reference no.25)

    • November 21, 2012 3:12 PM

      Dear Mahesh, I am someone born and raised in Delhi, and I share your disappointment with the state of Kolkata and West Bengal. And in my previous writing on Kafila, i have written about how the Left Front misruled West Bengal, especially in its last years. Of course, the TMC, is no better, and in fact may even be worse. But that does not take away from the fact that the Shiv Sena effectively destroyed Bombay/Mumbai’s character as a thriving, open and welcoming city and turned it into a provincial backwater.

      • Mahesh permalink
        November 21, 2012 9:38 PM

        Dear Shuddhabratada,
        are you staying in Mumbai or Delhi right now? who said that mumbai is losing its thriving, open and welcoming city culture and has turned it into a provincial backwater due to SS.. do you have any supporting facts for that.
        It’s just like, “instead of taking care of own house on fire and making mayhem of neighbours fireplace”.

  56. November 21, 2012 3:01 PM

    Well, kindly also have a look at this article:

    भीड़ का मनोविज्ञान: अन्धो के देश में काने राजा बन कर उभरते है!

    http://wp.me/pTpgO-yn

    -Arvind K.Pandey

  57. Hema S permalink
    November 21, 2012 3:09 PM

    Nice – all forms of criticism of any fundamentalism are good. There is god in details they say and this seems more eloquent than accurate.

    The figure is not confirmed at 2.6 million. Perhaps you should watch news anchors other than Arnob. While I am no fan, neither NDTV nor CNN were eulogising. They all had historically accurate reports of his life – documenting all drama and his rise. I read some amazing columns in HT which analysed the charisma (he did have that) with the venom, they separated the personal from the political – there seems to have been a lot of that in this man. When a usually respected Rahul Bajaj goes to see him, one is disappointed. I choose to dwell on how no one has indicated support for his party or policy. You chose to dwell on the condolences. Even Pawar’s column was balanced. And Sujata Anandan wrote some tongue in cheek stuff, which was insightful.

    I understand you may not like the Congress – it seems clear – but certainly tarring them with the same brush as some Hindu right winger is inaccurate – it speaks of your anger rather than the reality. In fact, you cannot even club the three together – Indira, Sanjay and Rajeev all had different karma, which doen’t fit the Thackrey mould. Sanjay perhaps would come close to it.

    Why are there no other leaders mentioned apart from these – Thackerey (with his borrowed literary spelling) is regional. Rajeev and Indira are national. Some others you have written about are international. Surely you could have found some regional leaders for the sake of balance? Even some Bengali ones perhaps?

    Counterpoints are necessary in India media which as so much jingoism at the moment. But if the counterpoint is as jingoistic then it loses some value.

  58. Hema S permalink
    November 21, 2012 3:23 PM

    Thought it may be useful to post some non-eulogistic columns that were part of the coverage. Maybe they were only in the Bombay edition. Perhaps Bombay and India would have been better off could one erase him and his influence. But he existed and was influential..

    http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/Mumbai/Sena-chief-s-uneasy-relationship-with-the-media/Article1-960836.aspx

    http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/Mumbai/Thackeray-could-have-done-so-much-more-for-Marathis/Article1-960844.aspx

    http://www.hindustantimes.com/News-Feed/sujataanandan/A-worthy-opponent/Article1-962043.aspx

    http://www.hindustantimes.com/News-Feed/ColumnsOthers/Personally-my-best-friend-politically-my-worst-enemy/Article1-960827.aspx

    I read TOI and Mirror too and they had some nuanced coverage as well, in parts.

  59. expoobedient permalink
    November 21, 2012 4:23 PM

    Kudos to you Mr Sengupta for your straight from the shoulder shoot You havent said a truer word There is no innuendo,no bias just plain speaking in perspective with fact and content to back it up Something which most journalists cared to work on and dared to use all these years When one reads such, one’s faith in the media revives

  60. Vijay permalink
    November 21, 2012 4:43 PM

    It is bad to speak ill of someone who is not here to respond to charges against him ! :-o The blog is in bad taste !

  61. Benjamin Joy permalink
    November 21, 2012 6:34 PM

    Amazing article Shuddabrata! seriously good stuff. It has great balance, sound research and through articulation. Felt as if someone has written exactly what many of us wanted said :) Keep going. :)
    Am sure to follow all your posts hereon! .

  62. akhilaseshadri permalink
    November 21, 2012 7:15 PM

    I always read the comments after any article. It gives me an insight into how people think… even when they are sputtering with anger and can’t express their opinion except by using foul words to describe the author or another comment writer or the content itself. Many people seem to be getting stuck on figures: whether for the funeral or the votes. The question to ask is: would one like to be a person who support this man’s creation, ideologies, methods and even his objectives? So, if there are a large number of mourners at the funeral, it should perturb you, specially if you do not subscribe to the creed of hate, posturing and rumour mongering that the SS stands for. If a man such as this is getting support, you need to worry. By talking about other states and their shortcomings, I see no real thinking happening. If other states have posturing politicians, we need to be disturbed, not ready to pounce on this evidence and use it. I do not regret the death of this man. And I am glad he died in his bed. I worry about his legacy. Like someone else said, we are responsible if another such takes his place. This article covers many aspects of India’s political history post independence… and we need to read between lines and LEARN… not further propagate.

  63. Naved permalink
    November 21, 2012 11:32 PM

    What tiger?! He and his entire clan .couldn’t / can’t even step out of Bombay. Any Thackery has guts to go to UP or Bihar? Tiger, my foot!

    • Mali permalink
      November 23, 2012 8:54 AM

      Cheers for this brilliant expression …………….!! And yes Naved …Rightly said – ‘Tiger, My Foot !!’

    • Mali permalink
      November 23, 2012 8:56 AM

      Cheers for this brilliant piece…and as Naved rightly said ‘Tiger, My Foot !!’ seems so accurate in to the context !!!!

  64. noname permalink
    November 22, 2012 1:04 AM

    Nice Article, you should translate it to Urdu/Hindi to get wider audience!!

  65. Tejaswi permalink
    November 22, 2012 1:27 AM

    I went hahaha reading this.. it is an utter relief for me to see someone write this.
    Yes, I was nauseated too when Big B went around talking of his friendship of three decades. And those Kannadigas that you mention, eventually became his biggest financiers (the Shetty hoteliers, especially) in later years.

    Surprisingly, I am always sorry when someone dies. Whether it is someone I liked or someone I detested. The death of that person meant an end to the hostilities and even though I would not be able to forgive the sins of that person, I’d usually stop my criticism or harsh thoughts. But in this case, I felt nothing – maybe a twinge of regret that he died so peacefully, but then I shudder to think of what has become of my humanity if such a thought did come to me openly. Modi, Thackeray, Advani.. can never be forgiven for what they did to this country. I am not likely to feel even a twinge of regret on their demise. But I guess it says a lot about me too, if I have been brought to this state.

    I wonder if I could ever get a platform to write like you do. Some day, maybe. But then I’d end up offending the rest and I am too thin-skinned to take any kind of nonsense. I see that you have dealt with the Bengali/Calcutta aspect so easily. Without retorting harshly. Nice to see your writing, as usual.

    • Mahesh permalink
      November 22, 2012 11:34 AM

      I went hahahahahahahahaha after reading your post
      It’s just jealousy that why Balasaheb is so popular in all the sectors of ppl.
      do something good social work in your life so there will be some ppl other than your family to fill regret after your demise

      • Tejaswi permalink
        November 22, 2012 4:20 PM

        Fill regret? Like Dugdh, instead of Doodh? I will fill bad for you and that is my bit of social work for the day. All sectors of the ppl is wonderful too, wonder which sectors he liked best.
        After my demise, no one need regret it. Of course, need not even fill it.
        But I am glad you gave me an opportunity to respond. In fact, I think you did
        social work today as well. After all, what could be greater than entertaining our sad, sad people with hilarious comments like yours. I am glad you found someone who will at least regret your demise, apart from your own family – ME. I would, absolutely, FILL regret, by the gallons, if you wish.

        • Mahesh permalink
          November 22, 2012 6:49 PM

          There are two ways of getting famous either you do some hard-work and earn it or just do blah blah against person of high calibre like balasaheb. Ppl like you choose the second way because it is more easier than doing hard work. It’s simply jealousy for Balasaheb and Marathi ppl that prompted someone to write such an article with abstruse English and post comments on it.

  66. Neerja permalink
    November 22, 2012 8:45 AM

    BKT is gone . His successors must read this article and introspect.

  67. November 22, 2012 9:35 AM

    Well researched and well written, however, the article falls into the same trap of existing hegemonic discourse surrounding great Communist leaders such as Stalin and Kim II Sung of North Korea. Stalin though much discussed and berated (just as Mao is) was a leader of immense stature who had immense faith in the people of the Soviet Union and led them impeccably through a war which led to the death of more than 26 million people. How much do we really know about North Korea to pass such sweeping generalizations either? Communist leaders are the favorite bashing post for many intellectuals, born and brought up on Span and Readers Digest. Those who led millions of people, demanded and fought for equal rights for women, established a progressive welfare state, had a vision for an egalitarian and humane world should not be brought into discussion with mediocre crass minds such as Thackery an his ilk. Its time we shed the Trotskyite basis for understanding socialist history and delved a little more deeper into the some of the greatest events that took place in the last century.

  68. Anuradha Singh permalink
    November 22, 2012 12:07 PM

    Last sentence is the best, Ek tha tiger is better than Lo, Ek aur tiger :)

  69. Harsh Kumar permalink
    November 22, 2012 12:22 PM

    Your comments about Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi are hugely biased..it is shameful for a writer to sit back and write with unfounded liberty without supporting facts about the actions of yesteryear leaders as to what were the ‘circumstances and reality’ of that time which made them to take bold steps…and to put them at same pedastal with BKT… please restrain your ‘flashy biasedness’ ornamented with ‘intricate english’ and try to be aware about what happened in history..but that is perhaps too much asking for writers of your ilk , they shall have their own ‘coloured vision’.

  70. Anu M permalink
    November 22, 2012 1:29 PM

    I am a writer on social issues. Wonderfully researched piece this was! Could you please share your views on why should a common shopkeeper suffer when a politician dies. Why should markets be closed? For how long, the business community (not big industrialists or MNC owners) suffer because of a politician’s death?

    You can mail me directly also :) I will use your comments in the article giving you the credit

  71. Chaitali Devlekar permalink
    November 22, 2012 4:41 PM

    Awesome read.. enjoyed every bit of it….

    SInce, i was a kid have been hearing about the terror of Shiv Sainiks and being reprimanded by parents =, friends as well as strangers (:O) for my anti Shiv Sena stance. The FB posts, several anti-thackeray blogs now finally show that the Shiv Sena’s so called “Power” and the their fake stand on the welfare of “Marathi Manoos” are now being identified for what they are – “FARCE”.

    I am a Maratha and believe me i am better of without the Sena and its fake concerns for the “Marathi Manoos”. Three Cheers!

  72. Chowdhury Zaman Haider permalink
    November 22, 2012 6:07 PM

    he preached hatred and he will be treated accordingly by the contemporary history.czh

  73. sputnik kilambi permalink
    November 22, 2012 10:27 PM

    great piece. thank you

  74. rajiv permalink
    November 22, 2012 10:29 PM

    god deliver me from my dead end desk job and bequeath me with the ability to write such prose.

  75. pris permalink
    November 22, 2012 11:12 PM

    Finally someone had the guts to come out and say this instead of being a hypocrite and singing praises of the dead man.

  76. November 23, 2012 11:15 AM

    Kudos to your guts!
    I am sharing it!

  77. November 24, 2012 3:59 AM

    Please sign the petition to support Shaheen and Renu. I’m aiming to get 10,000 signatures.

    http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Drop_all_charges_against_Shaheen_Dhada_and_Renu_Srinivasan/?fncnsbb&pv=0

  78. Mohan permalink
    November 26, 2012 2:21 AM

    Actually, I hold the left responsible for creating the conditions that allow people like Thackeray to emerge. There is an illiberal culture in India of “respecting sentiments” by imposing censorship. Basically this usually amounts to protecting popularly held fictions (aka Islam, Hinduism, Christianity) and suppressing free speech. Once you establish the political and social mechanisms to suppress speech and thought they are bound to be hijacked by the most powerful elements in society. In this case, Hindu extremists. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. The road to Shiv Sena was created jointly by the Congress and the Communist Party of India. This is a phenomenon you see in virtually every ex-Communist state. As their grip weakens, it is hijacked almost immediately by ultra-nationalists or ethnic supremacists. There is now an ethic in India of not saying what any large mass of people find unpleasant. Look at what happened with Salman Rushdie in Jaipur recently. That and Thackeray are two sides of the same coin. Speech that no one finds objectionable and no one finds repulsive doesn’t really need to be protected at all. By definition, protecting free speech is at its core the protection of speech that a large group of people who can intimidate and suppress physically find objectionable. Like burning the flag or immersing Christ in urine (remember Piss Christ?) or questioning the existence itself of Rama.

  79. November 30, 2012 11:12 AM

    This is really superb.

  80. Karthick RM permalink
    December 10, 2012 1:25 PM

    Ineresting piece. But Rajiv Gandhi nurtured the LTTE?? That’s news really!

    • Tejaswi permalink
      December 11, 2012 12:45 AM

      Yup, the Indian army trained them in the initial stages, even armed them. From your query, it is evident that you were too young to know then. But it is true.

  81. TruIndian permalink
    June 27, 2013 2:15 AM

    Finally someone has the balls in India to depict this so clearly and fearlessly…Kafila, I’m going to be a regular here so please keep writing ; )

Trackbacks

  1. Bal Thackeray– A Politics of Violence « kracktivist
  2. The Saffron Swastika – Fascism’s India moment « urban bourbon

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