On Bal Thackraey’s death, people, who suffered, due to him or his poisonous ideology, have every right to celebrate
Two incidents after the natural death of fascist and don of Mumbai, Balasaheb Thackeray, personally moved me to write on this issue. This is innocuous because writing about his life and deeds means giving recognition to his deeds.
The news which attracted national attention in India is a comment on facebook by Mumbai-based twenty one years old Shaheen who termed Bal Thackraey as an ordinary individual. This comment has landed her and one of her friends who liked the comment in all sort of legal trouble. Both of them were arrested and detained till midnight by the Mumbai Police. Next day they got bail granted by the local court. This maligned act by the Mumbai Police had been criticised by many public intellectuals and leaders from political parties. They expressed their support to Shaheen’s freedom of expression. But Shaheen was not alone.
A small shopkeeper and a few students from Bihar, staying and struggling in Delhi, I met, were in upswing mood after hearing the news that Bal Thackraey was dead.
Both Shaheen and poor Biharis have valid reasons to feel the way they felt. Bal Thackraey was a villain to them. They did not find any reason to mourn his death. Overtly or covertly they had suffered due to him or his politics of hatred. Shaheen, being a Muslim girl from Mumbai, must have either experienced or have been familiar about his views on minority communities, especially Muslims. Biharis too have reasonable reasons to not express grief on his death. The wounds, of verbal and physical attack by Thackreay’s men on Biharis, during BJP-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra, are yet to heal.
Throughout his life Balasaheb Thackrey preached hatred, incited riots and tensions in the name of religion and region. He spread reign of terror in Mumbai and Maharashtra. The first victims of his poisonous ideology were the South Indians who came to work in Mumbai. They were attacked by Thackraey’s men. In his nefarious acts he was supported by the industrialists who wanted to weaken the strength of trade-unions, which had substantive numbers of south Indians. This gave him popularity in and around Mumbai.
The incident that provided him and his party national popularity was the demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992. He led the Hindu communal brigade in Mumbai and Maharshtra. His men participated in demolition process and afterwards engaged in communal riots in Mumbai. Since then he had been actively engaged in spreading venom against the minorities through writings in his party’s mouthpiece Samna and public speeches and statements. He unequivocally used abusive language against the minorities. He also went to an extent calling them traitors or agents of Pakistani intelligence agency - ISI. He led the campaign to stop Pakistani cricket team from playing cricket matches in India. Even from his death bed he issued a public statement calling on “patriotic” Hindus to create all sort of hurdles during upcoming India-Pakistan cricket series.
His next victims were the poor economic migrants from Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh to Mumbai and Maharashtra. On his call the Shiv Sena cadres publicly thrashed those helpless migrants, attacked their properties, ransacked homes and a few even died in this violence. Many of them were forced to return to their native places, leaving behind their jobs and all their precious belongings. For his brutalities he gained support from the locals through his slogans like “Jai Maharashtra”, “Marathi Manus”, and “Mumbai for Maharashtrians”.
These are not new revelation. Everyone in India knows about his politics; still, some paid rich tribute and called him “great man”, “loss of an inspiration” etc. I guess, these people must have done so out of fear from Thackrey’s men. If not then, they must espouse same feelings for Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin, and August Pinochet et al. Almost all news channels covered live his funeral procession, making him such an important man in India. A few channels, after counting the number of people gathered, during his last rites, compared him with Mahatma Gandhi. Of course, the number of people gathered at Shivaji Park, where he was cremated, was more than the people attended Mahatma Gandhi’s last rite but in case of the latter, people came out of respect; while in the case of Bal Thackeray, it was mostly due to fear. Even Mumbai was closed for a day out of fear from the Shiv Sainiks and not as a mark of respect for the departed soul.
To conclude, some are born great, some achieve greatness and on some greatness is imposed upon. Balasaheb Thackraey belongs to the last category of people. After his death, people, who suffered, due to him or his poisonous ideology, have every right to celebrate. They have right to heave a sigh of relief. There is a caveat; leader is dead not the poisonous ideology, which he indoctrinated into the minds of many.