Tag Archives: Maratha Empire

Shiv Sena

Shiv Sena is a modern militant Hindu political organization. This organization originally emerged from a movement in Mumbai demanding treatment for the Maharshtrians over migrants to the city. The city of Mumbai is one of Indias largest commercial and industrial centres. The citys predominant language is is Marathi which plays an important role in the unity among Maharshtrians. Shiv Sena is a product of nativism based upon Marathi ideologies and Hindutva (Hindu nationalism). The name Shiv Sena derived from the seventeenth century founder of the Maratha Empire. The Marathas became prominent in the seventeenth century under the leadership of Shivaji Maharaj, who revolted and defeated the Mughal Empire of the North. By adopting the name Shiv Sena, which translates to the Army of Shiva(Katzenstein 387) in 1966, this organization formed to safeguard the interest of the sons of the soil.In 1967, Shiv Sena entered the political scene by helping Congress defeat Krishna Menon, a South Indian by birth. And in 1968, this organization had 42 of 140 seats in the municipal election (Katzenstein 387).

Nativism is a term for the policy of protecting the interests of native born or established inhabitants against the interests of migrants. Multi-ethnic societies, such as India, often cultivate Nativist attitudes. Nativism most commonly arises in urban areas as opposed to small cities or tiny villages because industrial and commercial centres often attract migrants. On occasion, when Nativism is politicized it will find expression in the forms of demonstrations, riots, nativist associations and nativist political parties (Katzenstein 386). Shiv Senas movement of nativism is different from ethnic movements, linguistic movements and regional sub-nationalism because it is specifically anti-migrant (Katzenstein 386). However, Indian subnational movements such as Akali Dal and Dravida Monnetro Kazhagam may contain elements of nativism. Alkali Dal is a regional political party in the Punjab state of northwestern India, who is the principal advocacy organization for the large Sikh community (DSouza 2014). Dravida Monnnetro Kazhagam is also a regional political party in the southeastern state of Tamil Nadu. They are a nationalistic movement advocating the betterment of the dravidian population in Tamil Nadu as well as Sri Lanka (DSouza 2014). In India nativist movements have emerged in different sorts and sizes. In a small North Indian town of Khajurho, the faint dispersion of nativist attitudes had cased one of the three small restaurants to change its obvious South Indian name to one that is ethnically non-descriptive. In the city of Gauhati in North India, there have been violent demonstrations against migrant Marwari businessmen and shopkeepers (Katzenstein 386). And in the city of Bombay (current day Mumbai), nativist sentiment has found explicit political expression in the militant political party Shiv Sena. Bal Thackeray, the founder of the party, was a cartoonist for the Marthi newsletter the Marmik. Under his leadership the Shiv Sena became a dominant political force in Maharashtra (Hollar 2012).

There are essentially two phases of the formation of Shiv Sena (Katzentstein 388). The first was the emergence of the Sena as a nativist movement which aimed to protect the interests of the local people against the encroachment of the outsiders.And the second was the development of its more militant phase. Even though these two phases need to be examined independently, the origins of these phases are not; instead, they have emerged from each other (Katzentstein 388). The nativist phase of Shiv Sena mainly focuses on the job competition of middle class Maharashtrians. Shiv Sena primarily argues that a the main goal of an educated Maharashtrian was to find a stable job, particularly an office job. They claim that Maharashtrians, unlike other migrants to the state, do not have the aspirations or the equity to take up new businesses. For these people, it is far better to take up a reliable and safe office job rather than entering the unknown of commercial pursuits. The typical interpretation of the situation is that South Indians had been migrating to Mumbai, and that they began to monopolize the office jobs in the city. Accordingly, Maharashtrians were unable to compete with the migrant South Indians because either South Indians were able to speak better english or these people would hire exclusively from their own communities (Katzenstein 389). It is generally thought that the different communities in Mumbai maintained different employment specializations. South Indians were being recruited to management positions and office work; Maharashtrians typically worked as house servants or labourers. Bringing attention to these struggles faced by Maharashtrians is what had won Shiv Sena most of its votes. Shiv Sena also claimed, that as a community the Maharashtrians felt themselves to be subordinate on their own native soil(Katzenstein 392). These feelings of subordination were established in part due to the demographic position of Maharashtrians in the the city of Mumbai. In 1961, Maharashtrians were a minority, representing only 41% of Mumbais population, however they were still the largest linguistic community (Katzentstein 392). Although the fact that the non-Maharashtrians exceeded the local Maharashtrians in their own city evidently affected the way Maharashtrians perceived themselves and others. The minority position of Maharashtrians would have mattered less if these people did not perceive themselves to be economically or socially subordinate (Katzentstein 393). Surveys comparing the Maharashtrian communities from 1950 to 1966, when the Sena emerged, showed that the underdeveloped Maharashtrian communities had not changed in 16 years. This lack of economic and social change had caused the shift in the psychology of the Maharashtrians (Katzenstein 394). This lack of change and frustration provoked the emergence of Shiv Sena. Even two years before the formation of Shiv Sena proposals for Maharashtrian unity, and attacks on outsidersin the Marmik sparked awareness for the Maharashtrian frustration. The formation of Shiv Sena was only successful in the city of Mumbai and there neighbouring city of Thana. Shiv Sena attempted, but failed to attain political power in other urban and rural areas in Maharashtra. This success in the large cities opposed to smaller towns and rural areas was attributed to the higher literacy rates and the higher rates of migration. The literacy rates in Mumbai were twice as high than the surrounding ares of the rest of the state of Maharashtra; if this were not the case it is debated that the Sena would not have succeeded. Much of the partys reputation had been won through the media, especially through the Marmik.

With attempts to move farther into the state of Maharashtra, Shiv Sena realized that regional identity alone cannot help the party reach its ambitions because their philosophies and avenues to gain support had changed. Bal Thackeray had realized that his anti-south campaign had lost its edge (Engineer 1203). Thackeray, however, got an opportunity to reassure his importance when the Hindu revivalist movement began to emerge in the early eighties, after the episode of conversions to Islam of some Harijans in the Meenakshi- Puram district of Tamil Nadu (Engineer 1203). The party had already played an important role in the Kosa and Bhiwandi riots in the late sixties and the early seventies, only rarely was its anti-Muslim concept overlapped with its anti-south efforts. In 1984, Shiv Sainiks were roaming the streets of Mumbai with swords in their hands, this followed communal riots in Mumbai and Bhivandi (Engineer 1203). A series of riots and communal violence took place wherever the party opened a branch. Shiv Sena again used the changing demographic of Aurangabad to its advantage. Marathwada was previously a part of the old Nizam state. It was ruled by Muslim elite with some collaborations with Hindu elites. Hindu resentment against Muslim domination had began to surface (Engineer 1203). This situation had become worse with the social and demographic change. Like the city of Mumbai, industrialization had brought non muslim outsiders to Aurangabad. The muslim population began to decrease in numbers and significance. In 1985 Shiv Sena entered the town of Aurangabad by increasing communal tensions (Engineer 1204).

The anti-Muslim movement presented by the leadership did not make it to a popular level, until the movements leading to the riots of 1992 and 1993. These riots took place in Mumbai in December 1992 carrying into January 1993. 900 people were killed in these riots, which were initiated by the hostilities of large protests. These protests were reactions to the 1992 destruction of the Babri Mosque by Hindu Karsevaks in Ayodhya. In Hindu mythology, Ayodhya is the first place of the God – king Rama (Banerjee 1214). And the location of the Babri Mosque was believed to be on the actual birthplace of Rama. This event had escalated Hindu and Muslim tension. It is believed that the riots in Mumbai were pre-planned, and that the Hindu rioters were granted access to the location of muslim homes and businesses through sources that were not public. The women of Shiv Sena were recored as playing an important role in these riots. This violence in Mumbai had included a large number of women. Shiv Sena, mobilized women to block the arrest of several of its leaders, these women also prevented fire engines from being able to access Muslim areas in need. As well they had looted Muslim stores and attacked Muslim women (Banerjee 1214). Shiv Sena women also had a lot of influence in the partys violence through shaming the men with taunts of wearing bangles, being unmanly and suggesting that they could not be fathers to their children since they were standing by watching the violence Hinduswere being subjected to.

To further understand the significance of the rise of Shiv Sena in Mumbai it is important to understand the terms local peopleand the sons of the soil. Maharashtra, meaning the land of the Marathi speaking people, is the third largest state of India. Maharashtra meaning The land of the Marathi speaking people. The local people in Maharashtra were defined with three meanings: firstly, that a persons mother tongue was the linguistically dominant language. In Maharashtra, this was Marathi. Second that a person had lived in Maharashtra for at least ten to fifteen years. Lastly, one who identifies with the joys and sorrowsof Maharashtra (Katzenstein 387). It is important to note that the feeling of sub-ordinance felt by the local people of Mumbai and surrounding areas created tension and caused the very uprising of the Sena. Shiv Sena has had an outlasting effect on the people and culture of Mumbai and Maharashtra. It has been discussed that Shiv Sena and Bal Thackeray had changed Mumbai forever. Particularity the violence and riots they had sparked across the city.


Banerjee, Sikata. (1996) The Feminization of Violence in Bombay: Women in the Politics of the Shiv Sena.Asian Survey 36 (December): 1213-1225.

DSouza, Shanthie M. (2014) Dravidian Progressive Federation. Britannica Academic. Accessed March 25, 2017.

DSouza, Shanthie M. (2014) Shromani Akali Dal (SAD)Britannica Academic. Accessed March 25, 2017.

Engineer, Asghar A. (1988) Aurangabad Riots: Part of Shiv Senas Politcal Strategy.Economic and Political Weekly 23: 1203-1205.

Engineer, Asghar A. (1988) Shiv Sena – Protector of Hinduism or Menace to Minorities.Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 8:70 – 74

Hollar, Sherman (2012) Bal Thackeray.Britannica Academic. Accessed March 25, 2017.

Heuze, Gerard. (2000) Populism, Religion and Nation in Contemporary India: the Evolution of the Shiv Sena in Maharashtra.Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 20: 1-62

Katzenstein, Mary. (1973) The Emergence of Shiv Sena in Bombay.Asian Survey 13: 386 – 399

Related Topics for Further Investigation



Caste system


Mogul Empire

Marathi Empire


South Indian


Marathi Ideologies

Shivaji Maharaj

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Article written by: Cora Place (March 2017) who is solely responsible for its content.

The Shiv Sena

The Shiv Sena is a Hindu nationalist party based in Mumbai and founded by Bal Thackeray in 1966. Although the modern Shiv Sena party is deeply involved in Hindu nationalist rhetoric, it started as a regional, pro-Marathi party in the state of Maharashtra. The roots of the Shiv Sena’s pro-Marathi origins is evident in the name – which translates as Army of Shivaji. Shivaji was a Marathi warrior responsible for the foundation of the Maratha Empire in the seventeenth century. In the earliest period of the Shiv Sena, the organisation was motivated by the economic plight and migration of non-Maharashtrians to Mumbai (Roy 139). In addition to the establishment of the Shiv Sena, Thackeray had launched Marmik, a Marathi language based newspaper that pushed many of the Maharashtrian issues that would also be espoused by Shiv Sena. By the 1980’s, Mumbai and Maharashtra had been experiencing decades of economic decline and a stagnant labour market.

According to Shiv Sena founder, Bal Thackeray, Maharashtrians suffered from economic and social discrimination. When including Thackeray’s claims with the economic conditions of the state, it led to increased support for Shiv Sena (Banerjee 113). Thackeray had used the economic situation as a way to vilify all non-Marathi Indians in Mumbai and the state of Maharashtra. In 1984, however, Shiv Sena and Thackeray had moved away from a pro-Marathi ideology to the broader ideology of “Hindutva” or Hindu nationalism. In order to rejuvenate the Shiv Sena and take advantage of the weak political situation in Maharashtra, the adoption of Hindutva gave the Shiv Sena a wider Hindu base in contrast to a narrower ethnic base. It also allowed the Shiv Sena to gain political prominence, as Nehruvian secularism (named after former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru) became overshadowed by the Hindu nationalist ideology (Banerjee 85). Bal Thackeray and the Sena, as a result, began to focus their disdain and particular brand of Hindutva on India’s Muslim population.

In 1947, India had been partitioned into two states (and later three) on the basis of religion. Muslim-majority Pakistan (and later Bangladesh separate from Pakistan) and Hindu-majority India were divided into two dominions. The partition led to the displacement of approximately ten to twelve million people and resulted in a period of mass violence in both India and Pakistan. Like the 1940’s, the 1980’s was a period of tension and anxiety. Mainstay policies, such as secularism, began to look exhausted (Banerjee 85). As a result, Hindutva became more prominent. In order to understand the theory of nationalism theorised by Anthony D. Smith that was adopted by Shiv Sena, among other Indian far-right political organisations, some explanation of the form of nationalism espoused is required. The form of nationalism that Hindu nationalism fits is the theoretical model of Primordialism; primordialism can be explained in a way as a variant of “organic nationalism” (Smith 55). Primordialism is a strategy by which an ethnic group uses their language, religion, culture as markers of biological affinity (Smith 56). The basics of this nationalist strategy work with the Shiv Sena in both its pro-Marathi ideology and later Hindutva ideology. For the Shiv Sena, language was the original source of tension and grew to include religion, or wider-kin, according to primordialism. Other principles of primordial nationalism include an attachment to customs and territory (Smith 57): this too is supported by Thackeray and Shiv Sena’s push for policies to benefit Maharashtrians, rather than other Indians and Muslims in the 1960’s and 70’s. Anthony D. Smith’s monograph, Nationalism, uses the example of Pakistan and India as a case for primordial nationalism. In Nationalism, there is the discussion of Pakistan’s independence being driven by Muslim elites during the partition of India, as well as being driven by a desire to protect Muslim culture, traditions, and institutions (Smith 59).

As a Hindu nationalist organisation, Shiv Sena has not been averse to violence. While the Shiv Sena is a political party, it had been involved in inciting the Mumbai riots of 1992-93. Several instances – Jogeshwari, Behrampada, Dhavari, and Govandi – are some of the most notable acts that surround the period of the Mumbai Riots, where between sixty and sixty-seven percent of attacks by Shiv Sena targeted Muslim populations in and around Mumbai (Banerjee 35). According to Thackeray and Shiv Sena, Muslims are the enemies of the Hindu nation, supporting the primordial model of nationalism. As the Shiv Sena were founded upon a pro-Marathi ideology and named the “Army of Shivaji”, there is a sort of tradition that is notable. In the seventeenth-century,  Shivaji created an independent state from the Muslim Mughal Empire, starting in Maharashtra and eventually becoming the Maratha Empire. For Shiv Sena, this forms the early basis of the tradition of Muslims being their enemies. This is repeated in traditional “myths” of Islamic aggression against Hindus as a result of long-lasting Muslim rule of India and stories of Muslim rulers using brutality to maintain their dominance over the Hindus of India (Banerjee 36). Another example of how the Muslims were depicted as bloodthirsty is a slaughterhouse in Govandi/Deonar. A slaughterhouse was opened in this neighborhood in 1975, mostly employing Muslims, which resulted in the Sena using this as a political issue to state that Muslims are deliberately offending the Hindu people and faith as a result (Banerjee 49-50). This method of demonizing the Muslim populations of Maharashtra and India as a whole has also given the Sena an opportunity to use the matter of Hindu masculinity in their nationalist discourse.

The Shiv Sena have a discourse that is simple to understand once in the context of the Primordial nationalist theory. It maintains a narrative that Muslims are historical enemies of India and the Hindus, and the Sena maintains that Hindu masculinity is threatened by the Muslims. As a result, Shiv Sena has claimed that the Indian government is weak for maintaining a secularist system that damages Hindu tradition. Furthermore, Shiv Sena has characterised the government as impotent, effeminate, and castrated in order to be subservient to India’s Muslim community (Roy 141). The Shiv Sena espouse that due to the weakness of the Indian government, Hindu masculinity is rejuvenated through acts of violence against Muslims. This weakness is noted by the Shiv Sena in their reference to the authorities as Hijras (eunuchs), though it is disputed that the authorities actually sided with the Sena during instances like the Mumbai Riots in 1992 and 1993 (Banerjee 37-38). In the Shiv Sena organisation, the regeneration of masculinity is heavy in its rhetoric, attributing violence and aggression as masculine attributes. This can be noted in the rhetoric of referring to Shiv Sena militants as Shiv Sainiks (warriors), and their fight against Muslims as a dharmayudh (Holy War) (Roy 143). Another aspect of Shiv Sena’s nationalist rhetoric playing on masculinity is to draw on the necessity of protecting the women of their family. This is used by Shiv Sena in this particular instance by referring to the nation of India as Bharat Mata, or “Mother India” (Roy 146). While Shiv Sena is a majority male organisation and known to use hyper-masculinity with patriarchal constructs, the Sena also maintain a wing of women. For the Shiv Sena, it is possible that a woman can have “masculine traits”, and that masculinity and femininity are not necessarily limited to biological or gendered dichotomies (Banerjee 133-134).

While this development of women within the Shiv Sena may appear contrary to what Bal Thackeray originally espoused when founding the Shiv Sena, he lauded the role of women within the organisation (Sen 75). Despite this, Thackeray also maintained the position that women should maintain the more restricted roles of “everyday Sena women” as carriers of domestic and religious culture (Sen 75). There is a contradiction in what Thackeray espouses regarding the traditional role of women and the eventual role of women within Shiv Sena. Thackeray had many contradictions in regards to his writings and speeches regarding the role of women. As stated previously, Thackeray believed that women should carry the domestic and religious culture as necessary, but in his speeches, he made pleas to women to take up arms and defend themselves in the streets of Mumbai (Sen 77). Just as Shiv Sena used metaphors associated with lightning and fire to rejuvenate masculinity among Hindu men, Thackeray invoked the female goddesses Kali and Durga with the ideals of female militancy for Shiv Sena women, albeit to minimal effect (Sen 79).

While it may have been the goal of Bal Thackeray and Shiv Sena leaders to mobilise a militancy within Shiv Sena women, it appears to have failed. Instead, the Shiv Sena women used their political motivation to achieve objectives through continuous political engagement (Sen 108-109). As a result, the women of Shiv Sena provide a more pragmatic and utilitarian approach to Hindutva and Shiv Sena’s political participation. While Thackeray’s rhetoric may have been contradictory, it appears to have been suited to the situation when it came to Sena women. The call to arms may have failed when contrasted to how Hindu men responded, but it had an impact on how women approached politics within not only India, but also the male-heavy Hindutva movement. In fact, the role of Shiv Sena women is more aligned with Shiv Sena allies, Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). The Shiv Sena’s penchant for violence is contrasted by the RSS’ cooperative and activist approach – which is more in line with what Roy has noted with the Shiv Sena women (Roy 145). The two parties both belong to the Hindu nationalist movement but have different approaches. With there being different approaches within the Shiv Sena organisation itself, though, there is a possibility for further change within the organisation, especially following Bal Thackeray’s death in 2012.











Bibliography & Further Recommended Readings

Banjaree, Sikata (1999) Warriors in Politics: Hindu Nationalism, Violence, and Shiv Sena in Mumbai. Boulder: Westview Press.

Heuze, Gerard (2000) “Populism, Religion, and Nation in Contemporary India: The Evolution of Shiv Sena in Maharashtra.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 20: 3-43.

Roy, Abhik (2006) “Regenerating Masculinity in the Construction of Hindu Nationalist Identity: A Case Study of Shiv Sena.” Communication Studies 57: 135-152.

Sen, Atreyee (2007) Shiv Sena Women: Violence and Communalism in a Bombay Slum. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Smith, Anthony D. (2010) Nationalism: Theory, Ideology, History. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Aghadi women

Babri Masjid

Bal Thackeray

Bombay/Mumbai Riots

Hindu Nationalism

Partition of India

Mughal Empire

Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh


Srikrisna Commission


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This article was written by: Rasim Music (Spring 2017), who is entirely responsible for its content.