Bal Thackeray dies at 86, Mumbai put on alert
The Shiv Sena chief passed away this afternoon; he was suffering from lung and pancreatic ailments
Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray passed away after prolonged illness on Saturday 17 November at 3.33 PM at his Mumbai residence Matoshree. The Sena supremo was 86 years old and was suffering lung and pancreatic ailments. As soon as Thackeray’s death was announced, the streets of Mumbai (especially around Shiv Sena offices) began to empty out, with shops and offices pulling down shutters. Huge crowds could be seen at railway stations as people began to rush home, most of them stocking up on supplies for what they assume will be a weekend spent indoors.
As the news of the political heavyweight’s demise spread, political figures, ministers across the country sent out condolences for the Thackeray family. BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said that she felt ‘pained’ to have heard of the great loss. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi also expressed his sorrow on learning about Thackeray’s death and mourned the passing away of his ‘guiding force’. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also issued a statement offering condolences to the Thackeray family.
The late Sena chief started his party in 1966 to safeguard the interests of Maharashtrians. Later on Thackeray identified with the idea of Hindutva and tied up with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Before joining politics, Thackeray was a political cartoonist with The Free Press Journal in Mumbai. He launched Saamna, the Shiv Sena mouthpiece, in 1989 where he wrote pointed and often controversial pieces targeting his political opponents. Thackeray was known for his charisma and might, and often feared and revered by locals.
Thackeray was a leader capable of bringing Mumbai to its knees if he so desired. That life in the buzzing financial capital would slow down in the event of his demise was inevitable. Bhushan Sharma, 58, a milk vendor in Bandra East spoke to Tehelka as he supervised the locking up of his store, saying that while the Shiv Sainiks had betrayed no signs of violence thus far — the crowd of over 3-5 lakhs expected by Sunday morning for Thackeray’s funeral was enough reason to worry. While the law and order situation has remained peaceful since the announcement, thanks to Mumbai Police’s stellar security arrangements as of the past week, it remains to be seen how the 60,000 strong security personnel deal with the mourning throngs that show up at Matoshree for Thackeray’s funeral procession on Sunday morning. The city has also been put on alert for the next 24 hours.