November 19, 2012
Bal Thackeray, 1926-2012
Balasaheb Keshav "Bal" Thackeray, the politically active cartoonist turned founder and long-time head of the right-wing, Hindu nationalist party Shiv Shena, died on Saturday in Mumbai
. Thackeray had been sick for several weeks and was hospitalized and under constant medical care when he passed away. He was 86 years old.
Thackeray was born in the city of Pune, about 100 miles from Bombay/Mumbai. He was the son of Samyukta Maharashtra movement leader Keshav Sitaram Thackeray, who instilled a strong belief in the values embodied by the creation of a separate linguistic state called Maharashtra, with Mumbai as its central population center.
Thackeray's first prominent professional cartooning gig was with Bombay's English-language Free Press Journal
. He also published in the Times Of India
's Sunday edition. He left the Free Press Journal
in 1960 to form the political cartooning publication Marmik
with his brother. That publication became an advocacy tool against non-Marathi people in the region. He also founded the quickly canceled newspaper News Day
In 1966, Thackeray formed the Shiv Shena party, using the issue of access to jobs for people more native to the Mumbai area as an initial spur in order to build an unlikely, eventual coalition government drawn from an arguably broader range of Indian politics. It was nationalism, however, that allowed the party its period of greatest influence in the mid-1990s, where Thackeray was acknowledged as a leading figure of power and influence over a coalition government featuring Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Thackeray would later found the Marathi-language Saamana
newspaper (1989) and Dophaar ka saamana
, which was published in Hindi.
The powerful politican was banned from participating in elections from 1999 to 2005, and the 2000s in general were filled with political controversy after political controversy, many of which revolved around accusations of xenophobia and resulting expressions of and support for significantly intolerant political views. The party has been accused of severe anti-Muslim leanings several times in the last decade and a half, with wildly divergent rhetoric from Thackeray himself helping shape that general impression. He once expressed open admiration for Adolf Hitler
. A more recent political attack against Thackeray and his party has focused on the party becoming disconnected from the working class and poor people despite its populist leanings. The party has also seen arguably diminished influence due to the rise of competing factions and movements, such as the political party founded in 2006 by Thackeray's nephew Raj, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, and a major splintering of Shiv Sena itself in 2008.
He was admitted to the hospital in July, and stopped eating three days before his passing.
The public procession for Thackeray's state funeral earlier today was attended by massive crowds
, reported as over two million mourners.
Bal Thackeray is survived by two sons, Jaidev and Uddhav. He was preceded in death by wife Meena and son Bindumadhav, both of whom passed away in 1996.
The official cause of death was cardiac arrest. He is remembered as a cartoonist here
posted 5:10 pm PST
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