The Hindu Hriday Samrat of the Shiva Sena has surely perished but the divisive politics of regional and religious chauvinism which he bred and propounded for decades will undoubtedly be carried forth by the Shiv Sainiks in the times to come. My conscience and my commitment to secularism, equality and non discrimination as well as the allegiance which I have towards the Indian Constitution do not allow me to praise the now-dead tyrant.
It’s true that Bal Thackeray was a mass leader and his fierce oratorical skills were something which no leader in Maharashtra could compete with but the fact of the matter is that all radical leaders be it Adolf Hitler or Ayatollah Khomeini have always had the ability to pump in a kind of madness within the hearts and minds of their followers through an intensely provocative and controversial propaganda paradigm and this was the very art which Bal Thackeray had mastered. Bal Thackeray was one of the finest examples of the fascist brigade of the right wing in India. His politics was intrinsically drenched into supremacism, jingoism, xenophobia, regionalism and Islamophobia. In the 80’s, he appealed to the police to assist the Hindu Maha Sangh in saving the country from the Muslims whom he described as ‘cancerous’, during the 90’s his party was involved in the demolition of Babri Mosque and later on he was himself accused of inciting communal riots in Mumbai. In the same decade the Election Commission barred him from contesting elections but this did not deter Thackeray from spewing venomous propaganda and unleashing a massive hate campaign against Muslims and Non Maharashtrians.
Thackeray went to the extent of promoting Hindu terrorism and said that it was the only way to counter Muslim terrorism. He appealed for the formation of Hindu suicide bombing squads to save India and Hindus. His jingoism was displayed best when one of his party members dug up the pitch at Wankhede Stadium to prevent the Pakistani Cricket team from playing against India on Marathi soil. Through his party mouthpiece Saamna, he often attacked national jewels like Sachin Tendulkar and Abul Kalam. It was due to his stubborn leadership that Shiv Sainiks were regularly in the news for vandalizing and torching public property and the party cadre incessantly attacked youngsters on occasions like V-Day, media persons as well as migrants from states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh whom the Shiv Sainiks saw as a burden on Mumbai and Maharashtra. Thackeray even led a very long campaign for changing the name of the city which he ruled through terror and intimidation. For him, the word Bombay was inappropriate as it was a Portuguese invention. Bal Thackeray maintained a love-hate relationship with the Indian Film industry. As he was a propagandist, he used film stars to his benefit by attacking them when necessary and praising them when required. Publically, he staunchly criticized the dynasty politics of the Gandhi’s but his hypocrisy was clearly brought forth when his evident nepotism towards his son Uddhav led to Raj Thackeray’s parting of ways from the Shiv Sena. I consider myself an agnostic theist but as a whole I am a believer and I strongly feel that if there is a God then Bal Thackeray would have to do a lot of explaining to him if he is to attain heaven. I am firm in my belief that such tainted leaders should not be granted the grand honour of a state funeral because in such circumstances, people like Thackeray end up as heroes and are lionized and immortalized in popular folklore which serves as a sort of endorsement of their racialistic ideology. People might consider this write-up of mine to be a bit uncharitable to the now deceased soul but I can only say that there can be no objectivity between secularism and fascism.