Bal Thackeray: The tiger of the jungle raj
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A worried state government finally decided to release Thackeray from prison and asked him to request the people to refrain from rioting. Thackeray's call had the desired effect and the wily politician understood how violence could effectively be used to serve the party's goals.
* 1970: Sena takes a communal turn
The party which till then had been espousing the Marathi cause got involved in communal politics with its involvement in the Bhiwandi and Jalgaon riots of 1970, when close to 82 people lost their lives. The Justice D P Madon Commission set up to probe the riots referred to the Sena's incessant efforts to win the Bhiwandi-Nizampur Muncipal Council as one of the reasons for the riots.
In a speech delivered at Bhiwandi, Thackeray is claimed to have said that the ceremonial coconut that he was breaking was going to fall on a Muslim's head.
With no one to rein it in, the party now headed into one of the most controversial phases of its existence when its members, bolstered by the soft approach of the state, stabbed and killed CPI legislator from Parel, Krishna Desai, on June 5, 1970. Two swords were thrust into Desai's ribs, killing him on the spot. Thackeray issued a statement terming his death unfortunate. Nineteen Sena supporters were arrested for the murder and 16 subsequently convicted.
Many felt that the Sena had gone too far this time. However, indicating its growing popularity, Sena candidate Wamanrao Mahadik managed to defeat Desai's widow in the by-elections for the same seat.
* 1984: Shift to Hindutva
The '70s saw a relative lull in the Sena's violent tactics. However, after a brief dalliance with the Congress as well as the Socialists in the '80s, the Sena supremo made a definitive shift to Hindutva in 1984, when a major conflagration was provoked by his alleged statement on Prophet Mohammed. Subsequent riots in Mumbai, Thane and Bhiwandi claimed 256 lives.