Mumbai Comes to a Halt After Bal Thackeray's Death

Balasaheb Keshav Thackeray, founder of the Hindu right-wing Shiv Sena party, died today afternoon at the age of 86 in his Mumbai residence. His followers called him the Hindu Hriday Samraat (“Emperor of Hindu Hearts”).

Blogger and columnist Dilip D'Souza laments on Thackeray's political life:

Thackeray founded the Shiv Sena (“Army of Shivaji,” the heroic medieval warrior-king of Maharashtra) in the 1960s, on the rhetoric of “Maharashtra for Maharashtrians.” Over the years, cleaving to that rhetoric, they have attacked a number of different targets: South Indians, people from the state of Gujarat, Muslims, North Indians.

Bal Thackeray. Image by BollywoodHungama. CC BY

A couple of days ago as the news emerged that Bal Thackeray's health was turning critical, there have been reports of Thackeray's followers attacking journalists and photographers, who came to cover the news at his residence, even manhandling distinguished visitors like Amitabh Bachchan.

Dilip D'Souza asked:

So yes, what will the death of this veteran general cause his loyal men to do?

After his death in the afternoon the news spread quickly and people hurriedly went home and stayed inside. Shops and establishments, restaurants and even small stalls shut down, major public and private functions were called off or postponed. By evening streets looked empty as public transports vanished quickly. There have been reports that Shiv Sena supporters have forced shops to close down and some closed down anyway in fear. Announcements were being made on loudspeakers appealing the Shiv Sena members to remain calm. Adding to the tension the Mumbai Police advised people to stay at home after Bal Thackeray's demise.

As shops were closed without warning, there were reports that water, food and other basic items are running scarce. Taxis and autorickshaws from the domestic airport at Santacruz and international airport at Sahar in Andheri are shut down as a mark of respect for Thackeray. The cinema Theaters will remain closed on Saturday and Sunday.

Here are some Twitter reactions:

‏@NishreenIce (Nishreen Icewala): Mumbai Shut – Fear or Respect?!

@SnaZiness: Respect out of love and respect out of fear are two very different things. We all know what Thackeray commanded. So, stop the glorifying.

‏@vbubber (Varun Bubber): Apparently the lovely gentlemen of the #shivsena showed up at the CCI club with sticks and stones and made it shut. #lookhowtheymourn

‏@ams_des (ams_desae): Such a scary exp reaching home from office at 12 am auto, no taxi..walked 3 km alone ..scary #Mumbai

@Envyas: @nixxin: My Cable operator has blocked all movie & ent chnls due to the death of Bal Thackeray. Will resume post funeral tomorrow. Not a joke.

@nickkstar10: Just got this broadcast, Shiv Sena wants city shut for 3 days, please confirm so I move out & plan my holiday #ShivSena #RIP #BalThackrey

‏@winningalways (Jayapriya): Whatever be said about ShivSena's influence, Mumbai is a much safer city than Delhi, and for that we must thank them. RIP Bal Thackeray

‏@iKabirBedi (KABIR BEDI): Love him or hate him, Balasaheb ‘s funeral will be a truly historic day in Mumbai, city he renamed, and once controlled. End of an era.

Amardeep Singh writes in his blog:

Some Indians will only remember him as a “great man” who founded and led a regional political party. This is unfortunate, because he had the blood of more than a 1000 souls — mostly Muslims — on his hands. He should not be mourned, should not be honoured.

The people of Mumbai are also contemplating on what will happen to Thackeray's legacy after his death. His funeral will be held at Shivaji Park tommorrow.


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