‘Marmik’, a weekly magazine started by Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray that became the voice of the ‘sons of the soil’ or Marathi manoos, and eventually gave birth to the Shiv Sena, turned 60 on Thursday (August 13). The Shiv Sena celebrated the occasion in the presence of Chief Minister and Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray.
Formation of ‘Marmik’
Bal Thackeray, who worked as a cartoonist between 1945 and 1960 with the Free Press Journal and its Marathi daily ‘Navashakti’, quit the paper after disagreements with its non-Marathi bosses.
Soon afterward, he, along with his brother Shrikant (the father of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray), launched ‘Marmik’. The first copy rolled off the press on August 13, 1960.
The name of the magazine was suggested by Prabodhankar Thackeray, Balasaheb’s father. It is a word that is difficult to translate, but ‘apt’ comes closest to its meaning.
‘Marmik’ was launched against the backdrop of the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement for a Marathi-speaking state with the city of Bombay as its capital, carved out of the preceding Bombay State that included present day Maharashtra and Gujarat. The pages of cartoons (drawn by Balasaheb), articles and columns in the magazine, all fuelled the sentiment that injustice was being done to Marathi speaking people.
‘Marmik’ became phenomenally popular – and a force to reckon with – within a short time. Six years after ‘Marmik’ was launched, the Shiv Sena itself was born in 1966.
📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@ieexplained) and stay updated with the latest
Marmik and the Shiv Sena
As the readership of ‘Marmik’ grew, Maharashtrians started to approach the magazine with complaints of discrimination against them in employment. In a column titled “Vaacha ani thanda basa” (read and keep cool) the magazine published names of non-Marathis occupying top positions in various organisations in Mumbai.
“’Marmik’, with its cartoons, satire and columns that espoused the cause of the Marathi manoos, had struck a chord. This led to young people flocking to Thackeray’s Ranade Road house, which also served as the ‘Marmik’ office, complaining about the discrimination,” writes journalist Dhaval Kulkarni in his book ‘The Cousins Thackeray: Uddhav, Raj and the Shadow of their Senas’.
The magazine gained admirers among eminent writers and intellectuals such P K Atre and Pu La Deshpande. Even some in the Congress, the ruling party in the state then, were fans. It was, of course, a big hit with Marathi-speaking youth, who became the foot soldiers of the Sena when the party was launched.
Also in Explained | As the curtains fall on Rajasthan drama, four takeaways from a month of crisis
Formation of the Shiv Sena
It was Prabodhankar’s idea that a political party should be formed to fight for the rights of the Marathi people. He chose the party’s name, ‘Shiv Sena’, and ‘Marmik’ became its vehicle.
“Once Thackeray had decided to set up the Shiv Sena, he lost no time in making the announcement in an issue of the ‘Marmik’ – it appeared as a small notice at the bottom of the centre-spread. The party’s formal launch went almost unnoticed at first,” writes journalist Sujata Anandan in her book ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’.
Within a few days of launching the Shiv Sena, its membership grew in thousands and the circulation of the magazine also increased substantially.
The launch of ‘Saamna’
In 1989, at about the same time as the Shiv Sena turned towards Hindutva, the party launched a daily newspaper, ‘Saamna’ – which has ever since functioned as the party’s voice.
As ‘Saamna’ rose to prominence, its frequency as a daily made it more useful to the party than ‘Marmik’, especially during the violence in Mumbai after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Over the years, ‘Saamna’ has also been a mirror of what the party’s leaders are thinking on a particular issue, and it is through this newspaper that the Sena made clear its discontent as a junior partner of the BJP in the years preceding their 2019 break-up.
‘Marmik’ is still published, but its presence is peripheral, and its heyday was three decades ago. It stays on as a symbol of Balasaheb Thackeray’s legacy.