The Marathi Manoos versus the Thackeray Brand

February 14, 2008
Aditi Nadkarni

On reading Anuradha Goyal's recent article on Desicritics titled Dear Marathi Manoos Thackerays I thought it might be timely to dissociate the identity of the long suffering "Marathi Manoos" from the Thackerays.

Of all the available discussions in the blogosphere, the one I found most interesting about the current Thackeray circus in media was a report by CNN-IBN where Raj Thackeray's mother-in-law claims support for Raj's crusade in the same breath as voicing her concern for Raj Thackeray's son's impending SSC exams. It is ironic that while Raj Thackeray seems to be rallying for the "Marathi Manoos", the "Marathi Manoos" is probably at home doing what Raj Thackeray should be: supporting his son during the notoriously hectic SSCs.

Barring one reported death in Maharashtra and a few customary automobile-burning incidents, the actual city of Mumbai where all Shiv Sena associated drama usually unfolds, was uncharacteristically calm. I am both proud and impressed. The unemployed youth who usually carried out the Sena's antics seem to be more suitably employed at the city's call centers or at swanky malls in upper class neighbourhoods. The country as a whole is moving forward and as part of the nation's commercial capital, these young people probably do not want to be left behind executing the schemes of jingoists who just happen to have political power.

While one Thackeray is engaging in a ridiculous anti-North Indian rhetoric, the other, very senior Thackeray in a laughable attempt at re-terrorizing the city, is now kicking a fit over Valentines' day celebrations. People will exchange Hallmark and Archie's cards, a few may throw a party to rejuvenate schedules lost in the city's bustle and who knows some lovestruck souls may even buy one of those red heart shaped balloons sold at traffic lights. And this, says Mr.Thackeray, will affect our Hindu culture. If we are to believe Mr. Thackeray, our ancient civilization is under serious threat from none other than St. Valentine. Now if only his idea of protest was to not buy the heart shaped balloon, we could have all heaved a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, what Mr.Thackeray does not realize is that the violent rampages he sends his lads out on every once a while are probably more of a threat to the Hindu preachings of non-violence than heart shaped balloons and Hallmark cards will ever be.

It is time to notice however that in recent years the sometimes anti-Muslim, sometimes anti-non-Maharashtrian rhetoric propagated by the Sena is starting to fall on deaf ears and evoking a lukewarm response from a city that now wants to move ahead. People who had once supported the Sena's "Marathi Manoos Jaaga Ho" ("Wake Up Marathi Man") rallies now have sheepishly realized that the Sena has no idea who the Marathi Man really is. Very simply, there is a divide of class and caste under the supposed "Marathi Manus" label itself. Raj Thackeray had once brought with his dynamic youth following, hopes of a new, evolved political party in Maharashtra and instead he too has jumped on the extremist bandwagon. He doesn't realize that the "Marathi Manoos" himself no longer has a singular identity separate from that of his beloved city. This real "Marathi Manoos" does not want skirmishes over Valentine's day and Chath Pooja by North Indians. Like any other conscientious, law abiding Indian, he too wants a decent education for his children and a steady occupation to fund his retirement. In fact, the violence that Thackerays' irresponsible words unleash into the city, robs this weary Marathi Manoos of his peace and does nothing for him or for any other of the city's residents.

The truth is that while the Shiv Sena is trying to rouse the Marathis, the actual Marathi Manoos (Marathi Man) lost sleep a while ago. He first woke up to the Sena's absurd and obsessive attempts at changing the names of roads, suburbs and airports to their original, pre-British, Marathi titles. In his alert wakefulness he also noticed that the Sena somehow forgot to change the very anglicized, "Thackeray" to "Thakray". Since then, the "Marathi Manoos" with the rest of Mumbai residents has been sitting wide-awake, at the edge of his seat, on tenterhooks watching in dismay the Sena's regressive demonstrations, hearing with disbelief Balasaheb's loud claims of idolizing Hitler and suffering in silence the damning economic consequences of senseless city bandhs and violent morchas. These very Thackerays who attack harmless Valentine's Day parties to oppose "Western" influences had once organized a Michael Jackson concert in Bombay that halted traffic and city functioning for days! Apparently Jacko's thrusting pelvis apparently wasn't as threatening to "Hinduism" as heart shaped balloons and Valentine's Day parties.

I would like to add that the real power in Mumbai has and always will rest with the city's youth. Whenever the students have come out and made their voices heard, the law enforcement and the city officials have found it necessary to take a stand. If the Mumbaikers/Bombayites do not want the embarassment of having their city's name be associated with a regressive, fascist school of thought in the 21st century then it is time for the college crowd to do more than just gather around and pass time at local Cafe Coffee Days. If anything, the Marathi Manoos should now stand up only to resist the Sena's claims of being his self-proclaimed representative.

For years, we, the residents of Mumbai have lived like a family with people from all over the nation. The cultural aptitude and tolerance bestowed by the rich experience of having lived in this indiscriminate potpourri come handy today for my life as an immigrant in a foreign country. So to me, when the Thackerays question this indomitable spirit of the city, it only goes to show that their world is really very small - as is the extent of their power.

Aditi Nadkarni is a cancer researcher, a film reviewer and a poet; her many occupations are an odd yet fun miscellany of creative pursuits. Visit her blog for more of her articles and artistic as well as photographic exploits.
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Sonal Panse
February 14, 2008
11:47 AM

Well said, Aditi!!

As for the Thackerays and Michael Jackson, I remember that visit - I was in art college in Bombay then - and I remember reading about Mr. Bal Thackeray crowing about Michael Jackson having peed in his toilet! And I remember thinking, this marathi manoos has some pride alright.

February 14, 2008
12:36 PM

You said it right. The current Marathi manoos doesn't have time for the Thackeray's and his vanar sena. And really, most of us Bombayiites are proud that we came from a cosmopolitan background, by mere association with our neighbors! Not sure who the sena is referring to anymore as the Marathi manoos.

Aditi Nadkarni
February 14, 2008
12:37 PM

Sonal, OMG that is exactly what I remembered when writing this post! I initially thought twas a figment of my imagination but I guess my memory did serve me right. It was in Bombay Times or Sunday Times in bold headlines with Thackeray proclaiming Jacko had used his toilet. I remember wincing at that.

The Sena has cost Mumbai a lot and it never stops. The anti-Muslim sentiment, the anti-Gujarati sentiment, the anti-South Indian sentiment...its all divisive and threatening towards national integrity. I am sad and disappointed that this time the irresponsible reactionaries got away with just a INR 15000 bail! I just hope I don't see reports of this discriminatory propaganda on some international media platform. It is bad enough that Mumbaikers have to suffer the shame.

February 14, 2008
01:02 PM

A big thumbs up Aditi! I am a native marathi from Bombay (I still can't call it Mumbai!) and have friends and colleagues from all over India who come from a variety of religious backgrounds. I am proud of each and every one of them. In this age of globalization, the Sena thoughts are extremely narrow-minded and I hope the current youth will see through them. I too am very impressed that Bombay has remained pretty calm during this period and am hoping for the best in coming days. Well done Bombayites!

February 14, 2008
01:18 PM

great piece aditi! your have expressed the views of all people who are genuinely concerned about India and the vicious effects and hangovers of sectarianism parading as nationalism...

February 14, 2008
02:00 PM

Very well articulated article, if I may say so, kudos to you dude.

Though I quite support Shiv Sena's stand against Valentine's day, after all last thing we need in this nation is a day for love and friendship.

How can you say love cupid when you should rather be saying heil Hitler. Hitler at least (de)famed Swastika so much.

I mean this message of Valentine's day is so against Hindu culture. Never mind how many raas Krishna had, how many times Arjuna got married, and I believe he even ran away with Krishna's sister.

Anyhow very well said Aditi.

February 14, 2008
02:36 PM

hey kunal, wait until someone jumps on you for allegedly insulting their sentiments...:)

February 14, 2008
02:55 PM

You know what I am Hindu myself and that too pretty religious. And I do not understand that a religion which laid down on the foundation of openness and acceptance to change can be depicted as a narrow minded stupid religion which can be opposed to celebrating a feeling as universal and as noble as love.

February 14, 2008
03:32 PM

Great post! Bombay's diversity is indeed what makes life so much fun there.

As for the Sena, they have run out of steam (just look at their ageng Shakha Pramukhs) and as you said there are not so many frustrated youth to whip up frenzy n create a scene. I remember last time they had a Mumbai Bandh, they were bringing people from far-off Karjat by local trains. And they were not exactly 'volunteers' -in the evening they were carrying back identical plastic bags containing food clothes (money?).

The Sena sold out on the livelihood of the original Marathi Manus who came here 150 years back- the mill workers.

Identity politics has its place and every community has a right to be treated fairly but these are just diversive antics to take public attention away from real issues.

I am sure it is through all the well-timed diversions that they provide that Raj Thackeray and Manohar Joshi's son get all the hundreds of crores to buy Kohinoor Mills.

And the people of Konkan have never forgiven Sena-BJP for cheating them with slogans of drowning Enron in Arabian Sea in 1995 and instead making a worse deal than the Congress govt. Remember how Rebecca Mark was welcomed at Matoshree just like Jackson.

They are liars who never had any principles other than power and money. And how can anyone forget the blood that they have on their hands from Jan 1993 'riots'.

Dilip D'Souza's article abt Enron:

Shiv Sena is not equal to Marathi Manus.

February 14, 2008
04:28 PM

Sonal & Aditi,

It was the Bombay Times. Morporia (that was the BT cartoonist's name, right?) did a cartoon on it too:)
Amazing wht we remember:)

Aditi Nadkarni
February 14, 2008
11:17 PM

Thanks to all the commentators on this thread the common "marathi manoos" will find a voice. It wouldve been great if some of the prominent Marathi media representatives would speak up even as migrant workers harassed by MNS supporters leave the city with their families. Lata Mangeshkar, Nana Patekar, Asha Bhonsale and the likes seem to be silent at least if the online media is to be believed. I wish one of them would find the courage to speak out. How can they just pretend to not notice the havoc this political party of pseudo nationalists has unleashed?

I wonder what the world would come to if migrants were targeted in this manner everywhere. Marathis find a career and a life in foreign nations all over thw world and should muster the spunk to speak out against the political tactics throwing a city, a state and a nation into such disharmonious factions.

PH: I do remember Morparia's cartoons. At this time I wish the major newspapers would've played a more active role in denouncing the MNS's actions and irresponsible words.

Kunal: Giving a Hallmark Holiday such lofty credit for threatening a culture as ancient and as rich as ours is a sign of lame insecurity. But saying that Adolf Hitler brought fame to the swastika is just plain stupid and insensitive. The Holocaust is one of the world's greatest tragedies and I would never want to associate any of my religious emblems with the name of the one person who perpetrated a crime of this extent.

If you are living in the United States I would recommend a visit to the Holocaust museum in Washington DC and if you are not, pls try and incorporate Anne Frank's Diary into your reading.

Also, the swastika is used most notoriously by white supremists who are thirsty for your blood.

Valentine's Day: Peace Love Celebration

Hitler: Devastating violence

The former has the principles of Hinduism while the later used only a disconnected symbol. I'd take the former any day.

February 14, 2008
11:25 PM


Dude I was being what you say.... ironical, starical , and obviously not very good at it, thats why no one really got it.

I know all about Holocaust, and infact was arrested for a brief period for the crime of wearing Swastika, hence I know how much "fame" it has got world over.

I guess you missed "de" in braces

"How can you say love cupid when you should rather be saying heil Hitler. Hitler at least (de)famed Swastika so much."

Moreover in my next post I made the point clear as:
"You know what I am Hindu myself and that too pretty religious. And I do not understand that a religion which laid down on the foundation of openness and acceptance to change can be depicted as a narrow minded stupid religion which can be opposed to celebrating a feeling as universal and as noble as love."

I guess we stand together on the issue, right dude?

February 14, 2008
11:26 PM


It's either a culture of fear or simple desensitization to these antics that keeps newspapers quiet.

In Raj Thackeray's case, he's trying hard to be Sena-er than thou. There's the Sarkar family dynamic playing out here. Raj feels snubbed by Uddhav and wants to prove who the real heir to (what he sees as) the Thackeray legacy is. Thackeray Senior evidently doesn't see him as his successor. To the MNS claim, "Naveen Maharashtra banwoon daakhwiin, maazhaa shabd aahe" (We'll build a new Maharashtra, upon my word), Thackeray's response was "tujhyaa shabdaa laa wichaartay koN?" (Who values your word?)

Aditi Nadkarni
February 15, 2008
12:27 AM

Kunal: Yes, satire is kinda tricky. Gone awry it can mean something completely different. I did not get the sarcasm. Your clarification does indicate that we do hold a united stand as far as extremist views go. Thanks for clearing that.

PH: Yes, Raj's antics have indicated that he is not at all interested in Maharashtra Navnirman (Creating a New Maharashtra) like he claims. Instead he is just a younger fella playing same ol tricks. Unfortunately for him and fortunately for us matters are much different now than they were when the senior T was urging the Marathi Manoos to be violent. The youth is better employed now and much less frustrated. Their world is bigger than the pettiness of regional politics.

You know, though, I had always thought Raj had the dynamism and charisma that could've created a positive youth movement if it were channelized right. He could've gotten the educated Marathis and the rest of the residents' support...something senior T never accomplished.

February 15, 2008
05:38 AM

Nice post!! Having said that, we will have to find ways of dealing with High fertility rates in UP and Bihar. Both these states have fertility rates (4+) at twice the rate of the rest of the country. On top of it, both UP and Bihar already contribute to about 250 M people....sooner or later more and more people are likely to feel swamped....People like us in blogs etc can talk about multicultural stuff and all that but the fact is that uncontrolled migration hits the wages of already depressed lower income groups. It is not that our LIGs earn wages at $ 5 an hour or whatever. Over and above, I am unable to understand why a marathi manoos or a bhadralok from Kolkata has to put up with excessive migration from two states that have done such a horrible job of providing even basic services to their citizens- Contraception for example. This is called export of poor Governance and sooner or later this will backfire. Afterall, we are FEDERAL republic and DIVERSE one too......


February 15, 2008
06:09 AM

Good one! I believe if we really want to send a strong message to our regional leader than we the people of this state do not subscribe to this divisive politics, is not to vote them to the state assembly or for that matter to the parliament.

February 15, 2008
11:53 AM


Before Raj T became a bigwig, a friend of mine had alerted me to his use of force to get what he wants which made it pretty clear he wasn't going to be the new Marathi maanoos

I have a personal cynical take that the Congress is exploiting him the way they exploited Shiv Sena back whn they wanted to cut the Communist vote.


There is some truth to what u say, but too often has a wrong cure followed a right diagnosis.

February 15, 2008
12:12 PM


I take exception to your presenting a one-sided view of what the "Marathi Manoo" thinks and wants. What's more.. you equate it with what you think is right or wrong. For every Marathi person who thinks like you I can show you one who is tired of the dirty "Bhaiyyas" and the blatant discrimination, arrogance, and nepotism by UP and Bihar people in places where they have influence.

You may have the high moral ground and the right principles but not sure if you are in touch with various flavors of reality that people face each day. Where a tax-paying honest citizen in Dadar (take any other place) who perhaps stays in a dingy chawl legally and makes ends meet, is at the mercy of illegal hawkers who have encroached on public lands and are now supported by courts in their demands for legal space in Mumbai! It just so happens that they are from outside Maharashtra mostly (it is not a coincidence but that's a more controversial topic).

Why are you not sensitive to these issues? Even if you do not agree with Raj, you can surely have some sense of right and wrong; legal and illegal; clean and dirty; appropriate versus inappropriate

If you do believe in your intellect and maturity, I challenge and request you to apply your thinking to the other side of the coin - not for Raj but for the "Marathi Manoos" who you so eloquently pretend to represent here.


BTW: I don't know about the whole Michael Jackson episode but its a telling commentary that it was reported and read in the "Times of India". Though an avid reader of the TOI - it is an open secret that TOI NEVER reports anything good about local politicians or shows sensitivity to local issues.

February 15, 2008
12:33 PM


You are welcome to write your own perspective on the issue at Desicritics - mail me at desicritics at gmail dot com to get set up.

February 15, 2008
12:34 PM

anil... you said "right and wrong; legal and illegal; clean and dirty; appropriate versus inappropriate "

oh! I see! so all north indians are wrong, illegal, dirty and inappropriate while all marathis are right, legal, clean and appropriate, is it?

thanks for clearing that up in such an educated, informed and succinct manner.

in a paragraph you have managed to sum up exactly what is wrong not only with the situation in mumbai but with the world in general. people who are so short-sighted, so narrow-minded, so completely closed in that they cannot see the reality past what they have created in their own heads....

how can it possibly be that all north indians are what you say and all marathis are model citizens? beyond it being silly rhetoric it is simply mathematically impossible. And by virtue of you being a marathi who would then always be right, you would have to see that the statistical impossibility there is pretty hard to argue with.

god help you if you ever set foot in a place where you are the outsider and you get a taste of your own medicine.

February 15, 2008
02:00 PM


I am sorry if that is how my post appeared to you. Would welcome if we had a more balanced thinking is all I was trying to say.

BTW, lets not make it personal because that is precisely what is stopping a good discussion. FYI - I have lived half of my life outside my native place including UP,Bihar,and South India and I am well aware of what adjustments I happily made to assimilate in the local cultures. I speak from experience and knowledge yet am not attempting to even make it based on personal experiences. For every bad one I had, I could look for a good experience I had as well as some others did.

It is not about North, South, East, or West. It is about how to assimilate, how to respect, and how to call a spade a spade without looking at who is behind it. Several years of divisive rule and appeasement of votebanks has destroyed any semblance of rule of law in India. It is high time we spoke about how to make things better. Why not make an attempt to understand the other side of the picture?


February 15, 2008
02:20 PM

Kunal dude,

I knew you were on to satire...my remark about you hurting "others sentiments" was a counter-satire :)

Aditi Nadkarni
February 15, 2008
02:42 PM

Anil: Just as there are several things a Marathi man could find wrong with a Bihari, a Bihari man could find many things wrong with the Marathi.

Marathis think Gujratis are money minded, Gujratis think Marathis don't have business sense. Marathis think Parsi people are nuts, Parsis think Marathis don't know how to enjoy life and spend their days as a "karkoon" (clerk) by never aiming high. Marathis think Bihari people are bullies and the goondagardi in Mumbai is cause of them. Biharis think the Marathis are spineless and never take a stand prefering instead to be neutral and unopinionated.

All these above listed are multidimensional views with heavy stereotypes and existent biases listed. But the one view highlighted in my article is this: You could take any Marathi man off the street of Mumbai and ask him what he'd rather deal with every day: a Bihari bhaiyya's arrogance, a Gujrati seth's money mindedness, a Parsi bawaji's nuttiness OR the violent morchas, city bandh's and regional riots. I can tell you right now. Any person who loves Mumbai will pick the former.

When the violence begins, the buses are burned, the stones are pelted, nothing constructive happens. The Marathi man also loses his job, his peace and his rickshaw, his home is also unsafe. Such reactionary approach to solving any problem is plain futile.

The cleanliness of the city, the legal property issues are NOT matters of regional specificity at all....these are quite blatantly city/ state policy and law enforcement issues. There are plenty of Marathis holding political power. Why don't they take on cleanliness drives or real estate reform instead of violence, riots and looting?

Do you know HOW MANY Marathis serve in the Municipality, in the Mumbai police force and in Mharashtra government? All gov offices in MH and Mumbai are teeming with Patils, Bhonsales and Shindes for god's sakes. There still are widespread cases of police corruption, sanitation problems across the city. Who is to be blamed?

My article is meant to dissociate prejudice and propagate regional harmony because I think issues can be solved without promoting regional hatred....if we stop pointing fingers and start doing something about the bloody issues at hand.

Nonetheless as a DC editor, as Aaman said, I too would welcome your views on DC.

February 15, 2008
03:11 PM


I cannot diasgree with anything in your latest post. But I think that is the easy thing to comment on. The harder thing to comment on and offer solutions is the root problems. Raj's methods are clearly unconstitutional (and wrong from my perspective) but what about the real issues that are causing this outbreak?


February 17, 2008
12:56 AM

"Kunal dude,

I knew you were on to satire...my remark about you hurting "others sentiments" was a counter-satire :)"

Oh I knew dude that you got it, but thought to clarify before guns actually get pointed towards me.

February 18, 2008
09:05 PM

I am wondering which "Marathi Manoos" is Raj really protecting - is he talking about the hooligans who molested 2 NRI women at Juhu hotel on 31st?? If those are the people is RAJ referring as Marathi manoos and so hell bent on protecting their interest, then trust me, I am better off not been tagged as "marathi".

Today Raj has problem with Chath pooja (or whatever) because it is celebrated by UP/Bihar bhaijya.... tomorrow he will have prblem with Dandiya and Garba. and then it would be New yrs eve on 31st Dec.

Interestingly, Raj targetted Amitabh Bachchan for opening a girls school in UP. His argument was since Amitabh made money in Maharashtra, then he should spend it in Maharashtra(apparently Marathis made Amitabh....some logic(??)), well now if we use Raj's logic than all the NRI's and Marathi's residing in other states should stop investing in Maharashtra, after all we all are earning in some other place so why should Maharashtra be benefitted from our income? Good logic Mr. Raj.

Just a thought- Amitabh atleast started a school from his own money, what is Mr. Raj's contribution??? ohh no we are not talking about his purchase of Kohinoor Mill.I am sure the real estate he bought has nothing to do with benefit of marathi manoos.

February 18, 2008
09:49 PM

Here is good article on politics behind Raj Thakey's antics


February 18, 2008
09:50 PM

Here is good article on politics behind Raj Thakeray's antics


February 18, 2008
10:43 PM

I am not surprised that media is using 'Sena' and 'Thakeray' in generic sense even when they know fully well that MNC that is leading the current episode against north Indians is more allied to congress than Shiv Sena and has nothing to do with Shiv Sena or Bal Thakeray - who have distanced themselves from MNS's antics. Bal Thakeray made it very clear that the Indian nation must prevail over parochial interests. So this episode is nothing but congress's sleeze politics to use MNS to divide and slander Shiv Sena's political base and than pose as saviours of North Indians to rebuild its base in north India. Congress has always used such divisive devices to build vote banks, and it is back to its old tricks.

Linguistic states are a reality in India and Shiv Sena did not create it. Each Indian state can be accused of lingusitic shovenism. So Maharastra is well within its rights to expect outsiders to assimilate into Marathi ethos. Shiv Sena sees Mumbai's cosmopolitan anarchy as a threat to Marathi culture and acts as a cultural police. And most Mumbaikar agree with Shiv Sena as they keep voting them to power. That is why MNS is trying desperately to break Shiv Sena's monopoly over Maratha pride. Being proud Marathi is not mutually exclusive with being nationalist or being hindu. Biharis, Gujaratis, Bengalis, Tamils, UP have their own linguistic states if they do not like to assimilate to Maharastra. They should not invade each other's cultures and destroy them in the process. To be truly nationalist, one has to make sure cultures of all states are respected, safe-guarded and strengthened - and not throw them in a grinder that destroys them. It is a cultural war and it is important to know who friends are and who enemies are.

On a lighter note, my Gujju friend has interesting twist on valentine day - he calls it velan-time - velan is a stick used by women in a kitchen to roll roti and it is also a weapon of choice for women to beat up errant men and women of the house.

February 19, 2008
09:35 AM


""So Maharastra is well within its rights to expect outsiders to assimilate into Marathi ethos. Shiv Sena sees Mumbai's cosmopolitan anarchy as a threat to Marathi culture and acts as a cultural police.""

Arrey?! I thought only the evil WEST was against multi-culturalism and in favour of assimilation? The shiv sena is a western party then?

""So this episode is nothing but congress's sleeze politics to use MNS to divide and slander Shiv Sena's political base ""

why would anybody need to slander them, when they auto-slander themselves so well??

February 19, 2008
09:39 AM


""To be truly nationalist, one has to make sure cultures of all states are respected, safe-guarded and strengthened - and not throw them in a grinder that destroys them.""

Keep dreaming. Or better still, build some museums of culture where your notion of the authentic culture will be ossified or preserved in huge jars...taken out occasionally for "strengthening" with nuts and bolts...

February 19, 2008
09:41 AM


""Bal Thakeray made it very clear that the Indian nation must prevail over parochial interests. ""

How generous of him! And thanks for reassuring us...

February 19, 2008
09:50 AM


""I am not surprised that media is using 'Sena' and 'Thakeray' in generic sense even when they know fully well that MNC that is leading the current episode against north Indians is more""

Am I surprised that you are defending Thakeray? No! Does he represent enough Dharma for you?

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