He has had the last laugh

Namita Bhandare on Bal Thackeray in Hindustan Times:

The life-size effigies strung up on lamp-posts were terrifying – at least to a child. In the late sixties/early seventies, they symbolised the South Indians who the Shiv Sena was determined to drive out of Bombay, as the city was then called. It was a sight designed to intimidate.

Forty-odd years later, intimidation remains the party’s chief weapon. Over the years, the ‘enemy’ has changed, from South Indians to Muslims to Biharis, but the tactics remain the same.

With the ashes of their party supremo, Bal Thackeray yet to be immersed in the Godavari, it was business as usual: strike against those who oppose the party, even if that opposition comes from a 21-year-old girl. Shaheen Dhada’s Facebook post questioning why the city had shut down to mark the death of a politician prompted Bhushan Sankhe, the Palghar head of the Shiv Sena, to file a complaint on the absurd charge of ‘hurting religious sentiment’. The police, responding with rare alacrity, arrested Dhada as well as a friend who had ‘liked’ her post.

The arrest was the one sour, though not out-of-place, moment in an otherwise grand send-off to a man who had dominated the city’s politics for over four decades. Few could explain the presence of 20 lakh people, including film stars and industrialists with obsequious tributes, who turned up to bid farewell at Shivaji Park. Few could explain the contradiction of how a man whose politics was founded on fear could have summoned such crowds in death. More:


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