On His Birth Anniversary, Revisiting Bal Thackeray’s Cartoons
(This article was first published on 19 June 2015. It has been reposted from The Quint’s archives to mark Bal Thackeray’s birth anniversary.)
Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray, who was also known as Tiger and Hindu Hriday Samraat (Emperor of Hindu Hearts), was an integral part of the ‘Samyukta Maharashtra’ movement, which advocated the creation of a separate linguistic state, Maharashtra.
While his political journey has been well documented, not many know that Thackeray began his career as a cartoonist in the Free Press Journal in Mumbai. His cartoons were also published in the Sunday edition of The Times of India.
In 1960, he launched the cartoon weekly Marmik with his brother. He used it to campaign against the growing numbers and influence of non-Marathi people in Mumbai – especially targeting Gujaratis and South Indians.
Here are a few of his cartoons that were published in Marmik:
In this illustration, Thackeray sought to urge the Marathi manoos to refrain from bending down before foreigners.
Thackeray sought to highlight how India was suffering at the hands of rioters and arms distributors, and how the Congress government was choosing to ignore this fact.
This cartoon was released on the day the Sena called for a Mumbai bandh in March 1970.
Thackeray illustrates the nation’s misery in 1964-65 due to rising prices and poverty.
This cartoon highlighted the problems of corruption, food shortage and rising commodity prices that the common man faced in the country.
This cartoon came in the midst of the border row between Maharashtra and Karnataka in 1982, after the Gokak Committee report recommended first language status for Kannada in schools. The recommendation was greeted with widespread protests, especially in Belgaum.
During the Madhya Pradesh elections of May 1975, Thackeray was convinced that the poor were voting for the corrupt. He voiced his protest through this powerful cartoon.
This cartoon was published as a part of the special feature that Marmik had brought out on Jawaharlal Nehru.
Thackeray believed Indira Gandhi’s ‘Garibi Hatao’ campaign was nothing more than an orchestrated election gimmick – something that he brought forth in this cartoon.
Published around the time textile mills were shutting down in Mumbai, the cartoon above sought to highlight the plight of the workers. It asked a poignant question — “Will the workers eat iron instead of rice?”
This cartoon sought to highlight how administrators paid no heed to the common man, who had literally been forced to beg in the wake of the sky-rocketing food prices.