Bal Thackeray, 1926-2012


Bal Thackeray, head of the Shiv Sena, is dead. Rajesh Shah in the Huffington Post:

Throughout his political career Thackeray was a powerful, rabble-rousing orator who routinely sanctioned the use of violence to propagate his political views. He was arrested at least twice for his for inflammatory speeches and writing.

His extreme regional and religious parochialism led him to advocate Hindu suicide bombers and planting bombs in Muslim neighborhoods to “protect the nation and all Hindus.”

His followers often attacked and rampaged through the offices of media houses that he claimed were anti-Maharashtrian and anti-Hindu and threatened to dig up cricket pitches ahead of matches between largely Hindu India and its Muslim-majority neighbor Pakistan.

Even though the Shiv Sena's political grip over Mumbai – its longtime power base – has been waning over the last decade, it still commands tens of thousands of violent followers.

The slight, bespectacled leader often appeared in front of his supporters seated on a silver throne-like chair, a gift from party workers.

In the early 1990s he led a successful campaign to drop what he called the colonially tainted name Bombay – a Portuguese derivation of “beautiful bay” – and replace it with Mumbai, after the local Marathi language name for a Hindu goddess. The city is the capital of Maharashtra state.

His supporters continued to sporadically threaten violence against places and institutions that held on to the old name like the Bombay Stock Exchange, the Bombay High Court, the elite Bombay Scottish School and countless restaurants, shops and offices.

Here is an article on Thackeray's role in the 1992-1993 Bombay riots.