Balasaheb Keshav Thackeray was born on 23 January 1926 in Madhya Pradesh, to a lower middle-class Marathi family. He was the son of K. S. Thackeray, a social activist and journalist, who was also an active member of the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement (SMM, a movement for the creation of the linguistic state of Maharashtra). He started his career as a cartoonist in Bombay. In 1960, he created his own weekly cartoon, the Marathi-language Marmik, in which he denounced the growing influence of non-Marathi people in Bombay (particularly South Indians and Gujaratis). The newspapers promulgated anti-Communist and anti-migrant feelings among the Marathi lower middle-classes. Building on this large audience, Bal Thackeray created the Shiv Sena (Army of Shiva) on 19 June 1966 to defend the rights of the Marathi “sons of the soil”, and to a larger extent of the Hindu religion. To this day, he remains the charismatic leader of this controversial organization. He has a reputation as one of the most aggressive and fiendish right-wing Hindu nationalists. His inflammatory speeches and editorials (in the Sena’s newspaper Saamana) on Muslims and Bangladeshi migrants have played a significant role in stirring up hatred in many Indian communal riots (whether he was directly implicated or not). At the moment, his succession proves difficult, with a strong conflict between his son, Uddhav, and his nephew, Raj, who eventually founded his own political party, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).
HEUZÉ, Gérard, 2000. “Populism, Religion, and Nation in Contemporary India: The Evolution of the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle-East 20(1–2): 3–43.