Bal Thackeray funeral: Thousands mourn right-wing leader

The BBC's Yogita Limaye watched as thousands mourned Bal Thackeray

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The body of controversial Hindu nationalist politician Bal Thackeray has been cremated in Mumbai following a huge funeral.

Earlier hundreds of thousands of mourners filled the streets of the city as the body of Mr Thackeray was driven through the huge crowds.

Thackeray, who was 86, founded the right-wing Shiv Sena party and was revered by followers.

But he was also blamed for inciting tensions between Hindus and Muslims.

His body was dressed in his trademark sunglasses, and was draped in the Indian flag.

Security had been tight as crowds began gathering for the procession earlier in the day, with thousands of police deployed.

But the crowds appeared calm as the funeral procession made its way to the cremation site.

His son Uddhav Thackeray lit the funeral pyre to chants of "Thackeray is immortal" from supporters.

Bal Thackeray (file photo - April 2012) Thackeray was revered by followers of the right-wing Shiv Sena party he founded
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Mr Thackeray was one of the most divisive figures in Indian politics.

A cartoonist by trade, he formed the Shiv Sena in 1966, partly with a view to keeping South Indian migrants out of Maharashtra state and to halt the spread of Islam.

In 2002 and again in 2008 he called on Hindus to form suicide squads to attack Muslims.

A government inquiry into the riots in Mumbai in 1992 and 1993 blamed Shiv Sena members and several party leaders for taking a major role in organising attacks on Muslims.

Thackeray was never convicted of any offence in connection with the riots.

He denied being anti-Muslim but said he was fiercely opposed to those who were pro-Pakistan.

"Only Marathis [residents of Maharashtra] have the first right over Mumbai," he wrote last year in the Shiv Sena newspaper.

He was also instrumental in the renaming of Bombay as Mumbai to break with its colonial past.

Indian media reports suggested 1.5 million people attended the funeral, though there was no official estimate.

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