Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bal K. Thackeray Jan. 23, 1926 - Nov. 17, 2012 Party Leader in India, Stoked Fears of Hindus

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Bal K. Thackeray Jan. 23, 1926 - Nov. 17, 2012 Party Leader in India, Stoked Fears of Hindus

Article excerpt

Bal K. Thackeray, a newspaper cartoonist who became a powerful influence in Mumbai, India, by championing and stoking the grievances of the native population and Hindus against outsiders and Muslims, died Saturday at his home in Mumbai. He was 86.

The cause of death was a heart attack, Mr. Thackeray's doctor, Jalil Parkar, said.

Mr. Thackeray, who had described himself as an admirer of Hitler, was a formidable force in Mumbai for more than four decades even as he grew increasingly frail.

In New Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh lauded Mr. Thackeray's "strong leadership and extraordinary organizational skills."

As many as 1 million people attended Mr. Thackeray's cremation Sunday, the Times of India reported.

Bal Keshav Thackeray was born on Jan. 23, 1926, in the city of Pune, about 100 miles east of Mumbai, and came of age during India's struggle for freedom from Britain. His father, Keshav Sitaram Thackeray, a journalist and activist, was said to have taken the surname because he admired the English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray. The elder Thackeray became a leader of a movement to establish the state of Maharashtra for speakers of the Marathi language, a group that would become a core constituency. Mumbai, then known as Bombay and to this day the financial hub of India, became the capital of the new state.

The younger Mr. Thackeray gained fame as a cartoonist, first at the daily Free Press Journal and later at his own weekly publication, Marmik. He used his cartoons to inveigh against communists and champion the cause of the Marathi manoos, or the average Marathi citizen, who he argued was losing out to south Indians, Muslims and other outsiders. In 1966, he established the right-wing and often-militant political party Shiv Sena, or the Army of Shiva; its mascot is a snarling tiger.

In the early years of the Shiv Sena, Mr. Thackeray battled communists and their labor unions, especially in the city's large textile industry. He was supported, scholars say, by textile mill owners and the governing Congress Party because he was taking on their opponents.

But his success came in his ability to win over Marathi-speaking working- and middle-class Hindus. …

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