Bal Thackeray was an aberrant caricature. He died few days ago. It is said he was a cross between Pat Buchanan and Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. Thackeray began his career as a cartoonist with The Free Press Journal but it was in 1960 when he started his own political magazine, Marmik, where he really started to display his ultra-nationalistic tendencies. Marmik quickly became a platform for Thackeray to advance the interests of the Marathi-speaking locals in the Maharashtra state capital of Mumbai. He went on to become the founder of the Shiv Sena — a political organisation that demanded preferential treatment of local Maharashtrians over migrants. His organisation used a network of street thugs to enforce the interests of the Marathi-speaking locals. Thackeray was also instrumental in having Bombay, the city’s English name, changed to Mumbai.
I once nearly met Thackeray. Ten years ago, I was invited to a gallery opening in India to view a collection of Thackeray’s cartoons. We missed each other at the opening by a few hours. It is well known that Thackeray admired both Walt Disney and Adolf Hitler and his cartoons, from his time spent working at Marmik, reflect an admiration for both these men. This was clearly evident in Thackeray’s drawing style, reminiscent of Disney’s pencil sketches from the 1920s and 1930s. However, I found Thackeray’s obsession with nationalism very disturbing. Thackeray’s cartoons were prescient of his future hatred that would stoke communal rioting between Hindus and Muslims. He would form an alliance with the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — both parties actively participating in the Mumbai riots of 1993 that left over 900 people dead. Thackeray incited hatred, calling on his followers to form suicide squads to target Muslims.
As a cartoonist, Thackeray carried himself very simply: short-cropped hair, white collared shirt with tapered dress pants — the perfect foil for his outrageous cartoons. Thackeray, the fundamentalist leader, cut an outrageous physical presence. Wearing a saffron-coloured kurta with an assortment of beaded necklaces, he was never seen without his darkly tinted eyeglasses and meticulously maintained white beard with slicked-back grey hair. People, like Thackeray’s followers, respond more strongly to exaggerated versions of stimuli.
A rat can be trained by scientists to discriminate between a square and a rectangle — only being rewarded for recognising the rectangle. Surprisingly, the rat will respond more strongly to a rectangle that is longer and more narrow with a higher frequency than the original with which it was trained. Cartoonists, like their scientist counterparts, also attempt to capture and exaggerate the essence of their subjects in order to evoke a more physical and emotional response. Thackeray’s cartoons, however flawed, did this. Yet, Thackeray was the cartoonist who became a cartoon. He became a man held hostage to an image — an image that burned with xenophobic hatred.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2012.
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@mss - "Provincial local language papers survive on handouts from the sympathisers of bigger political or communal forces. Their papers tend to be read mostly by the less informed or those who cannot read English"
Sorry.. you are mis-informed.. .Implying non-English readers are less informed is arrogance.. In fact the English journalists are the ones who have no connect to the man on the street and they simply sit in their ivory towers lording around...
The vernacular press has a pulse on the people's though process. The vernacular press may be entirely incorrect, if the the people's thought process is corrupted. The vernacular Marathi press attacked him whenever they disagreed with him and they had their tu-tu-mai-mai... However both his sides were brought out in this process. The English press simply thrived on demonising him. Else why would you have North-Marathi bloggers (presumably from Mumbai) above going soft on him...
@Sultan Someone like you who claim to be follower of MA Jinnah cannot be harsh on Bal Thackrey. Both had similar ideology, Bal thackrey was more tolerant (He at least didn't claim that marathi and non-marathi cannot live together in same country)
@Sultan, I suggest you write more often Sir! More you write, more you stand exposed! LOL
I have reasoned my argument with example of world's most Global city - London - insisting on knowledge of local language.
However, I am impressed with your profound knowledge of Taxis in 1000 cities of world, from Alaska to Australia! How come? What is the source of of profound knowledge? Pls enlighten us.
PS: Pls do write more often. You make my day! :-) :-)
Those looking for proof of Balasaheb's contributions to Marathi welfare, should look beyond the mainstream English press.
It would serve you better, if you look in the vernacular press.. The reason Marathi manoos exists in Mumbai is due to Balasaheb and Shiv Sena..
Agreed he may be anti-immigrant... but how many were killed by his campaign... All he sought was control, jobs for the locals and he stopped his tirade once that was achieved.
He re-started the anti-North Indian rhetoric to respond to the politics of Laloo, Mulayam and the other jokers who have rampaged and laid their states waste...
Thanks for pointing to Rajesh Kuman's post. It was excellent in every way. Once we begin to see things as they truly are, we are less likely to hate others.
As a north-Indian and a fairly secular-minded person, I am fully aware of Bal Thakre's many limitations. But to demonize the man as some sort of Kasab equivalent, or Hitler incarnate is deeply offensive, unfair, and just plain wrong.
That is also a terrible, unfair accusation to make against anyone. One must never do so unless one is also also equally willing to make the same sort of extreme judgements against other opportunistic politicians - nearer to oneself - who are not shy of issuing threats, running goonda raj, and occasionally beating up their opponents who take up violence of their own.
At least Indians ought to have better sense than to fall in the trap. We must be mature enough to accept that not all leaders will or are obligated to satisfy each one of us on every one of our pet issues, and that our ready willing to believe and bandy about every wild allegation by their political enemies might betray our own deep-seated bigotries.
If I were a Pakistani, I would advise them against indulging in such demonization of their own leaders - that would weaken your polity. But as independent people, Pakistanis are free to choose their own paths.
@Rajesh Kumar: Thanks for giving us unbiased and real information on his politics.Unfortunately there are many of his class roaming free in Pakistan spiting hatred.I agree with yoiu.
@Indi_Pop: Just because I disagree with the man's politics does not mean I would be Okay with unfair allegations. I have 3 Observations: 1. In your own url it says "Mr Thackeray was tried and acquitted in several cases but only for hate speech". IF he made a statement as provocative as asking for a suicide squad against all Muslims, how could he be acquitted? When it comes to the choice of trusting these journalists attributing a statement to him and our courts, I would trust our courts. What about you? 2. Balasaheb's intimidatory tactics are one of the reasons I disagreed with his politics. Are you saying that all Shiv Sainiks defied his call for suicide squads for 10 years (because clearly there is no evidence of a single suicide attack by a Shiv Sainik on any Muslim)? If no-one was afraid of him (because how else could they defy him for 10 years) then would you agree that all the actors who paraded themselves (Shah Rukh and Salman included) did so not out of intimidation but affection? They must be masochists to have affection for someone who apparently called for suicide squads against Muslims. The fact is that everyone in Mumbai is aware of Shiv Sena's street ppower in Mumbai whether they think it is a good thing or a bad thing. IF he had asked for suicide squads, they would have occurred. You may recall that there was NO anti-Muslim violence in the wake of 26/11 when he supposedly reiterated his suicide squad call. 3. One may disagree with his politics but no-one can accuse him of trying to be politically correct. Despite all of Sachin Tendulkar's popularity, he never denied his opposition to Sachin's words and continued to ridicule him for his 'Mumbai belongs to whole India stance' (Again an area where I agree with Sachin and not Balasaheb). He openly says he is anti-Pakistani (not a stance I agree with) but he does not say he is anti-Muslim. HE however said he is against those Muslims who are anti-India. GIven his record of being upfront about his stance, if he says something, I tend to believe him - regardless of whether I agree with him.
@Indi_Pop: I am no supporter of Thackeray necause his anti-migrant policies were clearly against the constitution. But in your own url, there is also this statement "Mr Thackeray was tried and acquitted in several cases but only for hate speech and never for conspiracy and the mass killings." If he actually DID call for suicide squads against Muslims would he have been acquitted for hate speech? Someone claiming that he said that does not prove that he said it - especially when he clearly denies it and the court acquits him.
@gp65 In 2002 and again in 2008, Thackeray called on Hindus to form suicide squads to attack Muslims. Sources http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-20376653, http://www.ndtv.com/article/people/the-legacy-of-bal-thackeray-293608,
ET You allow someone to accuse me of racism and then do not print my response. That is unfair. @Sultan: As someone born and raised in Mumbai, I have never supported Thackeray's politics. However the statement being attributed to him by @Pakistani was just false. IF Thackeray made such a statement, @Pakistani should have no trouble whatsoever in providing a link that substantiates his claim.
Now let's come to the second point. You assert I am a racist and ask me to disprove it. In doing so, you are guilty of a logical fallacy called negative proof. Please read up on it.
Separately, you may perhaps think you have Arab lineage but the reality is that you and I are the same race. So EVEN IF I was someone who hated all Pakistanis (which is clearly not the case) , it would not be an example of racism.
What kind of logic is that?
"Madam, let me turn the questions around: please provide proof that you are not a racist!"
I am not a Marathi Manoos. But I have lived in Mumbai and seen how an old Marathi lady can’t get a Rickshaw driver who would speak in her language. Even in London you have to pass the test before becoming Taxi Driver and knowledge of English is a re-requisite
What rank stupidity to defend a bigot! Next time you want to hail a rikshaw in Bombay, just wave it and give the driver the name of the place you want to got to--it works in 1000 plus cities in the world from Alaska to Australia. No need to know any local language!
Only followers of hatemongers and bigots can produce "intellectual" masterpiece arguments like this!
@Sultan: Your post is a classic example of a "Negative Proof Fallacy". Look it up to understand what it means. Just as you, an anonymous poster cannot prove that you are not a racist, neither can other anonymous posters prove that they are not racists. In any case, you need to get your facts right: a religion is not a race.
I will address it to my Indian friends here, since so many of us do visit ET to see how the liberal Pakistan is shaping itself up.
Many of us find Pakistanis have extreme and in our view absurd caricatures of many Indian figures. Yet, it is very hard to blame them. They believe what they genuinely consider to be true.
So we need to focus on how this 'truth' gets created in India.
This 'truth' is created by some Indians (I am assuming that people who claim to be Indians online are all Indians) who make the sort of equations that I highlighted Sanjay Kuman's board:
(1) That Thakre was not like Altaf Hussain, but like Kasab. Not clear to me whether these people consider Altaf Hussain and Kasab to be the same.
(2) Attack on India in Mumbai which we all remember too well was the same as some Marathis celebrating Shraddhanjali Days.
If such comparisons are valid, then certainly, our Pakistani friends are most rational in holding the opinions they do. And no one can blame them for believing people who draw up such equations.
So our challenge is: Why do some 'Indians' make such comparisons? They don't do so just rhetorically, they actually fight bitterly to promote these views. What do they get from drawing up such extreme (which some would find extremely hateful) caricatures?
@ Farid, Thank you and I support your stand. ET has surprised me with such writing for a man who just passed away.
Let me surprise you even more with the English translation of an old Persian proverb that fits the situation well: Lesser the dirt, cleaner the earth.
Short, sweet and simple. How did you like it?
@Sultan: "@gp65: @Pakistani: “How can you indians support someone who has publicly asked for SUICIDE attacks on Muslims?” Please provide reference. Madam, let me turn the questions around: please provide proof that you are not a racist!"
You clearly are not familiar with the basic fundamentals of logic. If something exists, one should be able to provide an example. If Thackeray said something then there must be an available reference. That is what I asked for. I did not support Thackeray's politics ever but the sentence attributed to him is simply not one that he has made.
On the other hand, in making a statement that I am racist and asking me to disprove it, you are guilty of a logical fallacy called 'negative proof'. Please do read up on it.
There is not a single comment which analyzes the popularity of Thakarey nor does the author elaborate on this. Thakarey was a product of extreme regionalism who used to change colors to gain political advantage. The people of Maharashtra, Tamilnadu and Bengal are supremacists and very biased towards the culture of their region. Outside Maharashtra, Thakarey never had any fan following and few people know about him except for his tantrum. Mumbai is the most cosmopolitan city of India where you find people from every part of the country. The success of migrants in the city has contributed to hostility towards them by the locals. Thakarey exploited the vote bank of locals by addressing their insecurity in a city which has over the years become a cosmopolitan city. His first ire in the 60s were South Indians. In the 80s, it was Muslims and then Pakistan in the 90s and early 2k. In recent years, he and his nephew changed colors to show ire on North Indians especially those from Bihar. He used goons muscle power wherever required for that political mileage. However, his fans are mostly Maharastrians who cannot tolerate any criticism of him. The riots were initiated by the Muslims after Babri Masjid demolition where some Hindus were killed. This has been conveniently ignored by the author. The backlash by Shiv Sena led to killing of Muslims as mentioned above. There was a retaliation to the riot by Dawood Ibrahim which killed over 250 people. Considering that Mumbai has witnessed quite a few bomb blasts since then committed by the Muslims, it is not difficult to understand why he was popular. However, apart from his banter and a few attacks by his goons on newspaper offices, dictation to not celebrate valentines day, dictation for closure of dance bars, etc, he was limited to making inflammatory remarks which few people paid heed to. He didn't encourage terrorism as such unlike what is mentioned above. His remarks were inflammatory and were confined to be heard and forgotten and this is exactly what most people did because they were used to his tantrum. He was at the end a successful politician or rather dictatorial politician and his politics did give his party a political mileage. Every action does have an equal and opposite reaction. He was a product of regionalism and that of Communalism as a tit for tat for Communalism in Pakistan. As Javed Akhtar said in one of his interview that "hate breeds hate and Communalism leads to Communalism from the other side". I am not sure why people in Pakistan are so critical about him when Hafiz Saeed, Zaid Hamid and Hamid Gul roam around freely, invited to TV talk show and spew hatred in wholesale. Thackarey in the end behaved a lot better than these guys. But then people are not used to looking into the mirror.
@Pakistani: “How can you indians support someone who has publicly asked for SUICIDE attacks on Muslims?” Please provide reference.
Madam, let me turn the questions around: please provide proof that you are not a racist!
Really? In the same space, you patriotic Pakistanis denigrate our own dead leaders, Jinnah and Iqbal included, on a daily basis. Should they not be accorded the same respect you reserve for a rabid Mulsim hater?
In death, there is justice!
Thackeray: the cartoonist who became a cartoon Its more like he made cartoons out of Pakistanis... More so their cricketers...
Love it ... A very nice and insightful article ... about a tragically misguided guy ...
@farid ataullah: Agreed sn article in bad taste considering the subject has passed away, and may be dear to others, clearly no one has a monopoly on trolls
@ Farid, Thank you and I support your stand.
ET has surprised me with such writing for a man who just passed away.
I am trying to control a deep belly laugh building up inside me reading comments from all our indian comrades poo pooing the writer and trying so desperately (but without much success) to spin massive amounts of Malarkey to create a picture of a cuddly bear, instead of the rabid monster that Thackery was.
The funniest thing about these little indians in the forum is that they are so damn predictable! If Hitler was born amongst them, they would have twisted and turn a thousand historical facts, legends, lores, rumours and whatever else they could find to show that: a) he was secular and b) he was not violent and c) he was a democrat.
Haaaaaaa haaaaa haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Sorry, could not hold it any longer....
That article says nothing of what thackeray did for the marathi manoos. Put it in your own words and explain. Why good did he do for the aam aadmi in Maharashtra?
The column is obnoxious and leaves abad taste in the mouth. One does write such things about a person no longer alive. Real bad.
@ Mi Kon and others who would like to know more about what Balasaheb Thakrey did for Maharashtrians here is the link - http://www.rediff.com/news/column/why-mumbai-needs-a-bal-thackeray/20121119.htm
Pls note that Balasaheb may have said Hindus should have suicide bombers against Muslims - but did he say the same for Parsis or Christians? Why not? Think for yourself pls.
I am not a Marathi Manoos. But I have lived in Mumbai and seen how an old Marathi lady can't get a Rickshaw driver who would speak in her language. Even in London you have to pass the test before becoming Taxi Driver and knowledge of English is a re-requisite. When Thakreys asked same for Mumbai - they were called to be anti-immigrants. Let us face it - at least this man had guts to speak for Marathis.
Repeat - I am not a Marathi Manoos.
Yes, the writer hasn't done his homework and neither have I. Pls explain to me the good that Thackeray did for Maharshtrians. I'm so curious to know of this 'mysterious' good that everyone keeps harping on.
so ET is playing good cop and bad cop. Published an article which criticizes baal thackery but also approving personal attacks on author by indians. while in past whenever I tried to criticize author of any article or even baal thackery my comment didn't get any approval.
@Pakistani: "How can you indians support someone who has publicly asked for SUICIDE attacks on Muslims?"
Please provide reference.
How can you indians support someone who has publicly asked for SUICIDE attacks on Muslims? Does this not prove your terrorist mindset and hatred for muslims at the core?
Thousand likes for the title of the article, says it all without having to read the article!
The comments from sensible Indians also signals hope that India is not merely a land of trolls.
I know not much about Thakry's ideology but from news coming out in press as of extremist mindeset with hatred for other communities.If that is the case such people should be forgoten and rejected.Looking at his party share in indian politics it seems majority of indians has rejected his ideology.Such mindeset should be discouraged if harmoney among different communities is to prevail.Comments coming in favour of thakry seem more of outrage than with some argument in Thakray favour.Extremists also there in India perhaps to match their Pakistani counter parts. Not good.
Balasaaheb was not a cartoon. He did a lot for us Maharashtrians. I think you did not do your home work!
@Desi: Please explain what good he has done for the people? He was anti-immigrants and anti-muslim. So he must have done for the ordinary marathi manoos, right? During his time the entire mill lands from Dadar to Byculla were sold to the rich (with aid from Shiv Sena which controlled the local trade unions) in which most of the middle class marathi population worked. Please explain what good did he do to anybody but the rich classes? He was nothing but a 'fixer' who got jobs done for the rich at whatever cost to life or property.
I have renewed respect for Bal Thackeray given the amount of press he commands in Pakistan.
Biased article. Bala Sahaeb has done lot of good to lot of people.
worst article of the day..............whole article is absurd........factually incorrect...
he never became a cartoon................like many pakistanis the author is illiterate.................
keep it up pakistanis. As an atheist i can only laugh!!
U people dont even know about bal thakeray and the power he commands!!
Sitting in canada and preaching about cartoons is not good for your brains.
Article without substance