Original guest post by Saif Ahmad Khan
Delhi–The Hindu Hriday Samrat (“Emperor of Hindu Hearts”) 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 for years 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.
Itâ€™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 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 mastered.
Bal Thackeray was one of the finest examples of the fascist brigade of the right wing in India. His politics was intrinsically drenched in supremacism, jingoism, xenophobia, regionalism and Islamophobia.
In the 80â€™s, he appealed to the police to assist the Hindu Maha Sangh in saving the country from the Muslims whom he described as â€˜cancerous.â€™ During the 90â€™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 Muslims. He appealed for the formation of Hindu suicide bomb 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 figures like Sachin Tendulkar and Abul Kalam Azad.
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 also led a very long campaign for changing the name of the city which he ruled through terror and intimidation. For him, the name Bombay was inappropriate as it was of Portuguese origin.
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. Publicly, he staunchly criticized the dynasty politics of the Gandhiâ€™s but his hypocrisy was clearly brought forth when his evident nepotism towards his son Uddhav led to Raj Thackerayâ€™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.
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 an endorsement of their racialist ideology.
(The writer is presently a student of journalism at the University of Delhi)