Love him or hate him, one cannot ignore the influence and power that Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray had over society. His demise on Saturday plunged the state of Maharashtra into mourning and sent ripples across the country.
As the state strives to regain normalcy following his cremation on Sunday, followers of the departed leader are still coming to terms with his death. Thackeray died, aged 86, following a cardiac arrest.
While many people condoled his death, there were several others who rejoiced the end of Thackeray's hardline right-wing political era. Though he shared endearing relationships with several personalities, his complex set of principles did not go down well with many citizens.
One of among them is Press Council of India (PCI) chairman Markandey Katju, who in his article titled, "Why I can't pay tribute to Thackeray," was less than generous in his condolences on the leader's passing.
In the article published in The Hindu, Katju pointed out Thackeray's "bhumiputra" theory that formed the basis of his principles over the years. According to him, the Sena chief went against the constitution of India when he attacked non-Maharashtrians residing in the state.
Katju reminded that India being a union has people moving across different states. He added that 92-93 percent of its population consists of descendants of migrants while the rest are original inhabitants known as Adivasis.
Bringing to attention Thackeray's abhorrence for non-Maharashtrians, the PCI head said, "It is a fundamental right of a Gujarati, south Indian, Bihari, U.P.ite, or person from any other part of India to migrate to Maharashtra and settle down there, just as it is of Maharashtrians to settle down in any part of India (though there are some restrictions in J&K, and some North-East States, due to historical reasons)."
"The bhumiputra theory states that Maharashtra essentially belongs to Marathi people, while Gujaratis, south Indians, north Indians, etc. are outsiders. This is in the teeth of Articles 1(1) and 19(1)(e) of the Constitution. India is one nation, and hence non-Maharashtrians cannot be treated as outsiders in Maharashtra."
In 2008, Thackeray lobbied against the infiltration of migrants from Bihar and UP and prevented their further entry into Maharashtra. His attacks dated back to the 1960s, when the Shiv Sena targeted South Indians for their growing influence in the state.
While there are many people who share Katju's sentiments, there are many more who despair at the loss of their leader. For a certain kind of "Marathi manoos," Thackeray was a mascot of pride and provided hope for jobs and protection in a city inundated with "outsiders."
"He was like a ray of hope and support for the ordinary Maharashtrian. The common Marathi feels orphaned," Minakshi S., a lower middle-class housewife from Borivli, told The Times of India.