Bal Thackeray's launch pad: Marmik

Bal Thackeray

Much before Sena assumed importance and clout in Mumbai and Maharashtra politics, its seeds were sown by a frail yet fiery cartoonist whose works were wittily sharp and yet often unabashedly derogatory.

Shiv Sena was born six years after Bal Thackeray launched for himself a platform where he could -- with his brush -- freely voice his opinions and create Sainiks from within the Marathi community. Marmik was, as Thackeray puts it, not just a cartoon weekly but also the prime reason for the birth and growth of the Sena.

While many long-serving Sainiks will state that Thackeray, along with his brother Shrikant, launched Marmik (in August 1960) without any political intentions, even the earliest of the weekly magazine's editions propounded the idea of a separate political front and ideology -- repeatedly lashing out at Jawaharlal Nehru-led Congress, S.A.Dange of the Communist Party and Jai Prakash Narayan's Janata Party. The launch of the magazine by Samyukta Maharshtra's first chief minister Yashwantrao Chavan did not help him either escape Thackeray's wrath in his later cartoons.

With the absence of any other Marathi cartoon weekly at the time, Thackeray's acerbic jibes found an eager audience and as the word Marmik means, touched people's heart with its poignancy. His long stint with the Free Press Journal and its Marathi daily Navshakti from 1945 to 1960 had launched him as a cartoonist who let his brush to paint local, state issues as well as those pertaining to India's international relations. Nehru was a regular target for "toeing the Soviet Union line", as Thackeray put it. The pro-RSS and anti-Muslim stand of Thackeray reflected both subtly and strongly in some of the cartoons in Marmik. The Muslim community was often branded and symbolized by a shabby-looking man wearing a skull cap. A 1963 cartoon showed this man falling over a frail Hindu symbolizing "the burden of increasing Muslim population on Hindus in India between 1951 and 1961."

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