On His Birth Anniversary, Revisiting Bal Thackeray’s Cartoons

On his birth anniversary, a look at the life of Bal Thackeray – not as a politician, but as a cartoonist. 

Updated
Lifestyle
3 min read
Archival photograph from Raj Thackeray’s book on Bal Thackeray showing him sketching a cartoon for the Free Press Journal.
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(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:

(Photo Courtesy: Shiv Sena)
(Photo Courtesy: Shiv Sena)

In this illustration, Thackeray sought to urge the Marathi manoos to refrain from bending down before foreigners.

(Photo Courtesy: Shiv Sena)
(Photo Courtesy: Shiv Sena)

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.

(Photo Courtesy: Shiv Sena)
(Photo Courtesy: Shiv Sena)

This cartoon was released on the day the Sena called for a Mumbai bandh in March 1970.

(Photo Courtesy: Shiv Sena)
(Photo Courtesy: Shiv Sena)

Thackeray illustrates the nation’s misery in 1964-65 due to rising prices and poverty.

(Photo Courtesy: Shiv Sena)
(Photo Courtesy: Shiv Sena)

This cartoon highlighted the problems of corruption, food shortage and rising commodity prices that the common man faced in the country.

(Photo Courtesy: Shiv Sena)
(Photo Courtesy: Shiv Sena)

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.

(Photo Courtesy: Shiv Sena)
(Photo Courtesy: Shiv Sena)

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.

(Photo Courtesy: Shiv Sena)
(Photo Courtesy: Shiv Sena)

This cartoon was published as a part of the special feature that Marmik had brought out on Jawaharlal Nehru.

(Photo Courtesy: Shiv Sena)
(Photo Courtesy: Shiv Sena)

Thackeray believed Indira Gandhi’s ‘Garibi Hatao’ campaign was nothing more than an orchestrated election gimmick – something that he brought forth in this cartoon.

(Photo Courtesy: Shiv Sena)
(Photo Courtesy: Shiv Sena)

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?”

(Photo Courtesy: Shiv Sena)
(Photo Courtesy: Shiv Sena)

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.

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