Shiv Sena Supremo Bal Thackeray dead, received state funeral

India News Bulletin Desk

Shiv Sena "tiger" and Hindu right-wing politician Balasaheb Thackeray has died on Saturday, November 17 at 3.30pm [IST] at his Mumbai residence Matoshree. The 86-year-old firebrand leader suffered a cardiac arrest on Saturday after being critically ill since earlier this week.

Shiv Sena Bal Thackeray health improves as all visit Matoshree
Image: YouTube Still (ibnlive)

The news came just two days after Sena party members announced that the Supremo's health "stabilised" on Thursday. Thackeray was put on life-support on Wednesday at Lilavati hospital and Mumbai’s top politicians, industrialists and Bollywood bigwigs wished him well.

Thackeray received a state funeral and was cremated at Mumbai's Shivaji Park as more than two million Mumbaikars thronged the streets to pay tribute to the politician. 

Thackeray founded “sons of soil” party Shiv Sena in 1966 to fight for the rights of “Marathi manoos” amid a growing number of immigrants from northern and southern India to Mumbai, a financial hub. Since then his party has been representing native Mahashtrians. Prior to becoming a politician, Thackeray was a prolific cartoonist.

He was also the founder of the Marathi-language newspaper - Saamana - which acts as the Sena party's mouthpiece. The newspaper's Sunday edition sported a black cover to mourn its leader's death. The headline read: "Aaple Saheb Gele" and "Jai Maharashtra".

Bal Thackeray's party came to power in Maharashtra in 1995 by forming a coalition with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Under his "remote control" leadership of that time, Bombay city was renamed - Mumbai - based on Maharashtrian fisherman community Koli's goddess Mumbadevi.

In his political life, Bal Thackeray has attracted controversies for his strong ideologies, his xenophobic views in newspaper Saamana, for praising Adolf Hitler and for even urging people to form a "Hindu bomb squad" in response to "Islamist terrorists." Thackeray's supporters have also caused violence in Mumbai fighting western influence such as celebration of Valentine's Day and women wearing "western" clothes.    

Thackeray is survived by his two sons Jaidev and Uddhav Thackeray. Uddhav took over as the executive president of Shiv Sena party in 2004 from his father.

Bal Thackeray’s nephew Raj Thackeray, who has been hugely influenced by his uncle but estranged from Shiv Sena in 2006 to form his own right-wing party Maharashtra Navnirman Sena also rushed to Matoshree to pay his respects.

Tributes for the leader have been pouring in since the news spread on social media sites from Shiv Sena party supporters, Mumbai's top politicians, Bollywood bigwigs and industrialists.

Tension on Mumbai streets

Mumbai came to a standstill with with most of the public transport staying off the road following the Sena leader's death.

Previously,  when he took severely ill, there was tension spread across Mumbai. Shiv Sena members are forcing closures of several shops because of Balasaheb’s health despite the festive season of Diwali.

There were several groups of “rowdy” people just outside Matoshree, according to actor Amitabh Bachchan who visited Matoshree on Thursday to check on the leader's health. Security at the residence was also beefed up as the Central government mobilised more policemen to Mumbai city.

According to reports, the Bachchans suffered minor injuries while negotiating through the crowd to visit Matoshree.

"Yes, both Abhishek and me were injured with cuts, but are fine and back home," Bachchan wrote on Twitter earlier.

Politicians and Mumbai's Who's Who thronged Matoshree as Thackeray's health stabilised earlier

Earlier this week, politicians including BJP chief Nitin Gadkari, former Maharashtra chief minister Sharad pawar, and Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh visited Matoshree to wish the leader well.

Bollywood’s top brass including actor Salman Khan, father-son duo Amitabh Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan and Madhur Bhandarkar also visited Thackeray.

Meanwhile, Shah Rukh Khan said on Twitter: “My prayers & wishes for Bala sahibji...may he recover soon & healthy from this battle.”

Actress Preity Zinta also wished the leader on Twitter: “Today my Prayers are for Balasaheb Thackeray's health and for his speedy recovery. May he get well soon.”

Among industrialists, Rahul Bajaj was among the first to visit Matoshree to check on Bal Thackeray’s health.

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