Bal Thackeray Funeral: Security Tight In Mumbai

by
staff
Security is tight in Mumbai as large crowds gather for the funeral of Hindu nationalist politician Bal Thackeray.

Bal Thakrey

Security is tight in Mumbai as large crowds gather for the funeral of Hindu nationalist politician Bal Thackeray.

India's financial capital has come to a virtual halt, with businesses closed and taxis staying off the streets.

Thackeray, who had been ill for some months and died on Saturday aged 86, was revered by followers as the founder of the right-wing Shiv Sena party

But his fiery rhetoric was blamed for inciting tensions between Hindus and Muslims during the 1993 Mumbai riots.

Some 900 people died in the sectarian bloodshed.

Never convicted

Large numbers of police were deployed in Mumbai to ensure security during Sunday's funeral and cremation.

Tens of thousands of people reportedly lined the road to Shivaji Park to pay their respects as the body of Thackeray - still sporting his trademark sunglasses and covered in the national flag - was carried by.

A cartoonist by trade, Mr Thackeray formed the Shiv Sena in 1966, partly with a view to keeping South Indian migrants out of Maharashtra state and to halt the spread of Islam.

In 2002 and again in 2008, he called on Hindus to form suicide squads to attack Muslims.

A government inquiry into the riots in Mumbai in 1992 and 1993 blamed Shiv Sena members and several party leaders for taking a major role in organising attacks on Muslims.

Mr Thackeray was never convicted of any offence in connection with the riots.

He denied being anti-Muslim but said he was fiercely opposed to those who were pro-Pakistan.

"Only Marathis [residents of Maharashtra] have the first right over Mumbai," Mr Thackeray wrote last year in the Shiv Sena newspaper.

He was also instrumental in the renaming of Bombay as Mumbai to break with its colonial past.