Perhaps the only policeman who dared to throw the rulebook at the Tiger – as the late Sena chief Bal Thackeray was popularly known as – vouches that Thackeray never threatened the city’s peace, which critics often accused him of.
“I never felt that Balasaheb Thackeray was a threat to the law and order of the city,” said former Mumbai police commissioner MN Singh. “Though he was a staunch Hindu, he was secular and brutally frank.”
Singh’s first encounter with Thackeray was in January 1994, when the then chief minister, Sharad Pawar, deputed him to stop a march by Thackeray and his Sainiks to Aurangabad. The Sena was protesting the government’s decision to rename the Marathwada university after Dr BR Ambedkar. Singh was the joint commissioner of police, crime, Mumbai, at the time.
“Balasaheb had threatened to make a khoon ki nadi (river of blood) if his march was stopped,” Singh said.
The police officer quickly issued an order banning Thackeray’s entry into Marathwada, and cautioned him that he would be arrested if he violated the order. But the Tiger did not relent.
Singh then deputed two of his officers and a massive force to halt Thackeray’s convoy. “Balasaheb took the copy of the order from the officers and cancelled the march,” Singh said.
Then, in July 2000, barely a few months after he assumed charge as police chief, Singh arrested Thackeray under section 153 of the IPC (promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion) in connection with a case registered against him in 1984, for allegedly making provocative statements about the Shah Bano case.
“Here again, there could have been violence. However, I kept an informal channel open with Balasaheb and his arrest happened without any violence.”