Bal Thackeray was the Hitler of Maharashtra. He not only admired the ‘Great Dictator’ but also tried to emulate him by fighting the non-Marathis with all resources available to him. The number of people in various parts of India who must have celebrated the death of Bal Thackeray at least in the privacy of their hearts may not be minuscule.
Just as Hitler wanted a Germany of pure Aryans, Thackeray wanted an India of pure Hindus. His blinkered vision rankled with inveterate hatred for Muslims and Christians, a hatred which went to the extent of getting even cricket matches and pitches dashed to wrack and ruin if the Pakistani team was in the vicinity. His men, mostly antisocial elements, went around assaulting people who celebrated the Valentine’s Day. He hated people for loving people. He did not hesitate to wield his cudgel against Sachin Tendulkar merely for stating that he was a Marathi but also an Indian.
This very same Thackeray had, however, no compunction about forming a political alliance with the Muslim League during the Bombay Corporation elections in the 1970s. Many of his friends till the end of his life were Muslims who had political or financial clout. One of the physicians whom he trusted most was a Christian, Dr Samuel Mathew. He was overjoyed to have Michael Jackson perform for his Shiv Sena. When Michael Jackson condescended to use his toilet, Thackeray’s bowels moved with ebullience.
Was he a bundle of contradictions?
I think he was a blatant anachronism: a Hitler born a century late.
Thackeray lived in a time when nations opened up their borders not only for trade but also for migration. But he chose to live in a small world guarded ferociously by his puny-minded Cossacks. When the whole world opened up gates, Thackeray chose to close gates. He asserted that the land should belong to the sons of the soil. Who had built up that land as an economic fortress, however? How many Marathis were responsible for the emergence of Bombay as the economic capital of India? Of course, such questions do not matter of dictators.
Like every dictator, Thackeray loved to impose his views on others. He justified his perverse inclination by projecting Shivaji as his patron saint and inspiration. Hitler was the second most important idol in his pantheon. He admired Indira Gandhi when she imposed her dictatorship on the country in a foolhardy venture called the Emergency. This admiration also won him the support of many Congressmen in his state.
It may be a mere stint of irony that Thackeray lost his voting rights from 1995-2001. After all, he didn’t believe in democracy. Yet that punishment, for rousing communal passion during electioneering, must have hurt him much since he thought his vote was more valuable than a million others’.
Speak no ill of the dead, says the adage. Let me conclude by saying that Bal Thackeray was a brave man. Like Hitler. Like Narendra Modi. Even like Joseph Stalin whom Thackeray didn’t like because he was Leftist and not Rightist.
Let me conclude this obituary with Modi baai’s words in honour of the dead: “Balasaheb Thackeray was an epitome of courage and valour. He was full of life. He fought like a warrior. I’ve lost someone who always guided me.”
Alas, leaders like Modi, Thackeray, Hitler, Stalin… don’t need any guiding light. Aren’t they their own lights? Like William Blake’s Tiger that burns bright in the forests of the night…?!