How Bal Thackeray’s newspaper got its name

01 December 2013

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO, when Bal Thackeray, the founder and leader of the Shiv Sena, decided to launch a publication to serve as the party’s mouthpiece, he settled on the name “Saamna” (Confrontation) for it. According to the journalist Harish Kenchi, who would go on to work as an editor for the paper, Thackeray was keen on the name because it was phonetically simple and was familiar to the public because of Jabbar Patel’s 1974 Marathi film of the same name. It also suited the aggressive editorial approach he had planned for his paper, Kenchi said.

Thackeray learnt, however, that the title had already been registered. Vasant Kanade, a resident of the village of Madha in Solapur district had launched a publication with the title Saamna in 1975, and had been running it since. But Thackeray had his heart set on the name and approached Kanade to ask him to part with it.

“It was not an easy decision—no parent gives up a baby willingly,” Narmada Mane said of her late husband’s decision to transfer the title to Thackeray. “I am handing over my child to you. Please take good care of it,” he told Thackeray on 12 August 1988, the day they formalised the transfer deed at a Bandra court. The new Saamna was launched on 23 January 1989, and as the journalist Vaibhav Purandare notes in his book Bal Thackeray and the rise of the Shiv Sena, the paper flaunted its politics from its very first issue, announcing itself on its masthead, the book says, as “the only Marathi daily which advocates the cause of fiery, militant Hindutva”.

Anosh Malekar is an award-winning journalist based in Pune, who prefers traveling in rural India and writing about people living on the margins of society. He has worked with publications such as The Week and the Indian Express.

Keywords: media Maharashtra journalism Hindutva newspaper Bal Thackeray Shiv Sena