Balasaheb Thackrey has been an integral part of the folklore of his beloved Mumbai for close to four decades now.. Anybody who had any doubts about his fan following should have seen the deserted look that the city bore yesterday, especially in the city which is fabled to be never stopping in its pace.
But as the ageing but well loved politician battles with old age & ill-health, one wonders whether it is time to prepare for the inevitable. Whatever be the outcome of his latest battles, I believe that the youth would do well to remember the man for his aggressive stand during the Mumbai riots. Many citizens of Mumbai still believe that Mr. Thackerey and his Sainiks, arguably, saved them from the worst of the communal frenzy.
I wasn’t living in Mumbai in those times, hence I must admit that much, if not all, of my knowledge is based on hearsay. Also, I staunchly believe that Communal riots are a scar & tarnish on India, and I believe that no one should be allowed to benefit or glorify actions during such crazy times.
That said, many of the older generation Mumbaikars aver that Mr. Thackeray’s role during the crazy times actually helped maintain the balance of power during the riots. Riots / mob violence etc. are war-like exceptional situations that sometimes require exceptional handling. Maybe his presence helped, maybe his actions worsened matters. I don't know. But he was a force to reckon with, then and now, and with that, I believe few would disagree.
I was a kid when I had first seen him in an interview on the popular Zee TV show, “Aap ki Adalat” in which a defiant Balasaheb defended his stand during those turbulent times. I still remember being impressed by this frank talking person. It was refreshingly different from all those (and some still as of today) pliant politicians who preach and practice differently.
More recently (and something about which I do have some firsthand experience), during the recent census survey, Mr. Thackerey was most vocal opposing the caste-based profiling of Indians.
I completely agreed with this stand, and believe that not only the Govt. agencies should not be segregating citizens on the basis of their caste but actually move towards and facilitate forging a caste-free India.