Thackeray: As In Life, So In Death.

Many a politicians in India have harvested rich dividends from espousing identity politics. Bal Thackeray, founder and sole head of Shivsena until his death last Saturday, epitomised this strand of politics. When his vision had India in sight, he was for Hindus. He was then held हिंदु हृदयसम्राट [uncrowned emperor of Hindus]. But if it came to dispute between Kannada Hindus and Marathi Hindus, then he was for मराठी माणूस [Hindus of Maharashtra]. In such circumstances, he became मराठी ढाण्यावाघ [Royal tiger of Maharashtra]. He was also among those who believed, advocated, and attempted to enforce Son of the Soil theory. Manohar Joshi, a Shivsainik- former Chief Minister of Maharashtra- and even speaker of Loksabha (lower house of Indian Parliament), cited *uprooting of casteism from Maharashtra* as Thackeray’s signal contribution. This is indeed at best a doubtful claim. Shivsena spoke for Hindu identity, and refused to recognise and ignored many divisions within it. Divisions that are often antagonistic, and even turn virulently violent on occasions. Organizations and Movements that stood up and fought for Dalit [scheduled castes and tribes] causes and rights fell foul of and were regularly targeted by Shivsena. Thackeray considered himself as the true inheritor of the legacy of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. But his Shivaji was from the mould of गो ब्राह्मण प्रतिपालक [the protector of sacred cow and brahmins, i.e. upholder of Sanatan Dharma] and therefore by definition Anti-Muslim, an image originally fashioned by another Bal [Bal Gangadhar Tilak]. An image that is not acceptable to Dalits and other backward classes, who prefer foremost social reformer, Jyotiba Phule’s description of Shivaji as तेल्या तांबोळयांचा राजा [Common Man’s King]. Such is the clash over legacy of Shivaji that led to controversy over the projection of Dadoji Kondev, a brahmin, as the Guru of Shivaji, who forged latter into a great king. The true legacy of Thackeray would always be contentious and fraught with volatile emotions as was his politics.
Thackeray’s politics ignited passions. A section of Marathi Hindu populace was madly passionate about him. He created a very loyal following of  exuberant Shivsainiks, who would galvanise into action, coercive and intimidating, at a mere nod from him. His popularity among his followers was on full display at his funeral procession on Sunday.
Mumbai came to a standstill on that day. In his life time, Thackeray brought Mumbai to standstill on number of occasions to force his political agenda upfront. Such *Mumbai Bandhs* were often marked by rampant hooliganism and targeted violence. In his death, Mumbai shut down voluntarily in great awe and anxiety. A tiger is a tiger even when he passes away. His cremation was held at a public place -first for Mumbai in independent India at Shivaji Park, which was also the birthplace of his outfit Shivsena some 46 years ago. During these years Thackeray evoked fierce loyalty as well as dreadful fear. He may have been liked or disliked, but could never be ignored.
Indian Express article,  Tiger By Design And Ferocity, had this to say about him: ^^Bal Thackeray chose a growling tiger as a mascot for the party he floated on October 31, 1966. Many believe it was apt, going by the violent streak in the Shiv Sena. The launch itself was marked by clashes. A large number of youths returning from Thackeray’s rally announcing the new party, incited by his fiery speech, had targeted South Indians. Their establishments in the Dadar area were attacked and the Dadar railway station vandalised^^. Shivsena did spread to other parts of Maharashtra, especially Kokan- or coastal Maharashtra, but its sway in multi-ethnic Mumbai with large migrant population remained undisputed.
Shivsena was an aggressive outfit, but its aggression was often seen as directed against weak, vulnerable sections or individuals. Many would recall that tiger had stopped roaring during the emergency promulgated by Indira Gandhi in 1975. Taking on an opponent, who can’t retaliate, created a formidable image of invincible Shivsena. This legacy of his was followed by Maharashtra Police when they arrested two girls, Shaheen Dhada and her friend Renu Shrinivas. Their crime? Shasheen had queried on her Facebook page, why shutdown Mumbai if Bal Thackeray Died?, and further added that people should remember martyrs like Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev. Renu agreed with her friend. Police confronted two hapless girls, arrested them, and charged them with sections of IPC & IT act. Police acted with alacrity when Shivsainiks demanded it of Maharashtra police. Same Shivsainiks later showed their bravery by vandalising an orthopaedic clinic run by Shaheen’s uncle, Dr. Abdul Dhada. Dr. Dhada’s crime was that he was uncle of Shaheen. Police took no action against Shivsainiks for this vandalism yesterday. Luckily, these absurd and cowardly acts of Maharashtra Police did not go unnoticed and several notable people protested. Someone has started a new Facebook account called Shaheen Dhada official to aggregate the news on this issue and provide forum for sharing views; and the following snippets have been taken from there.
Her hyperbole in *people like Thackeray….die daily* must have raised the hackles of Shivsainiks. But though she is factually wrong- because fortunately people like Thackeray don’t die daily, it is hardly a criminal act. Its just an opinion like many other opinions about Thackeray held by others.
Retired Justice Katju in fact sent two emails to chief minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan, asking him to take action against the police for making wrongful arrests. In face of this heat, police have finally acted today against the Shivsainiks, who vandalised the clinic. This episode in its entirety is an inadvertent but ironical commentary on the politics of Thackeray.
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