Bal Gangadhar Tilak
(THE FATHER OF INDIAN UNREST)
“Bal Gangadhar Tilak was described by British as ‘The Father of Indian Unrest’ Tilak was born on 23.7.1856. his slogan “Swaraj (self-Rule) is my birthright”, inspired and mobilized millions of Indians. The book “Geetarahasya” a classic treatise on Geeta in Marathi was written by him, in prison at Mandalay. Great journalist-editor, an authority on Vedas, Sanskrit Scholar, mathematician and a natural leader of India.”
Tilak was born in Ratnagiri, a small coastal town on July 23, 1856 in a middle class family. Tilak had to fend himself for college education. At an early age he was convinced that the educational system the British provided for the Indians was not last all adequate. He passed B.A. in first class. After graduation and a law degree, he helped to found a school which laid emphasis on nationalism. The studies made him realize the state in which his motherland existed under British Rule. He started a newspaper. ‘Kesari’ which tried to teach Indians of their glorious past and reminded them to be self-reliant (Swadeshi).
The British was using all the native raw materials to run their factories in England and selling the finished products to India, keeping the Indian an ever dependant, underdeveloped country. In the process all the industries of India like spinning, weaving. Glass making, sugar, dyeing, paper making were getting destroyed. People became destitute for no fault of theirs to help an empire become richer and stronger.
He tried to breathe life into the moribund nation through four mantras: (1) Boycott of foreign goods, (2) National Education, (3) Self-Government, (4) Swadeshi or self-reliance. He realized that mere protest against British Rule would not help anymore and insisted on native production and self-reliance. “We have no arms, but there is no necessity. But our strong political weapon is boycott (of foreign goods). Organize your powers and then go to work so that they cannot refuse you what you demand”, he told the masses.
British smelled treason in these words. He founded Deccan Education Society to give better education as per the country’s needs. He wrote scathing articles over inhuman punishment meted out to the nationalist youth who protested the division of Bengal (Vanga Bhanga). Indian newspapers were not to criticize the British policy in those days and two articles titled “Has the Government lost its head?” and “To Rule is not wreak vengeance” appearing in Kesari landed him in jail, after a namesake trial. The British lawmakers didn’t find it amusing and he was jailed for 18 months. In 1907, he formed a radicalist faction inside the Congress and started the Home-Rule League along with an Irish lady. Ms. Annie Besant. Though a conservatist toward social reforms he was a pioneer to foresee that mass support was needed to make his motherland free from imperialistic clutches. For the first time in British History, intellectuals in England (including the great orientalist, Max Muller) were able to convince the Government that the trial was unfair. But the second time (1908) was no different. Tilak advocated his own case and when the judgment of six years of black-waters (kalapani) imprisonment was pronounced, he gave the famous statement”
“All I wish to say is that in spite of the verdict of the jury, I maintain my innocence. There are higher powers that rule the destiny of men and nations. It may be the will of Providence that the cause I represent may prosper by suffering than by remaining free”.
In order to bring the Maratha people together on the same platform, he started the celebration of shivaji Festival. When the “Indian Reforms Act” was introduced in 1919, he rejected it describing it as inadequate, disappointing and unsatisfactory.
When he was 52, a diabetic and ailing person he wrote his famous commentary on Bhagavad-Gita, the sacred book of Hindus. He stressed that Geeta taught action (karma), nothing but action. Religion or spiritual message was secondary and the need of the hour was to arise and fight. This was Lord Krishna’s message to Arjuna. Tilak’s wife, his companion of 45 years, died at Pune and the news reached him in Mandalay prison Burma only after a week. He had sacrificed his personal life, his profession, name and fame for the sake of the country.
By the time Tilak completed his six year prison term, he became the unquestioned leader of the Indian0- the uncrowned king. He was known as the Tilak Maharaj. There was unprecedented jubilation after Tilak was free and back in India. Civil resistance, the concept of Swaraj and nationalism had taken deep roots. Tilak’s suffering did not go in vain. A band of leaders, full of zeal for nationalism and self-sacrifice was coming up. National schools were coming up in all corners of India. He paved the way for Khadi (hand woven cloth), picketing a against foreign goods and alcoholism. His death in 1920 brought Mahatma Gandhi on the scene and Gandhiji gave a concrete shape to Tilak’s ideas of Swadeshi. He also authored books such as “Geeta Rahasya” and “Arctic Home of Vedas”.
He launched the congress Democratic Party in 1920 but before he could take up the action he suddenly died on 1st August leaving behind millions of mourners. A champion the downtrodden people, Tilak was given the sobriquet “Lokmanya”.
BAL GANGADHAR TILAK
“Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it” was the clarion call given by Tilak in 1907 at the Surat Congress session. He was born just one year before the first war of Independence in India in 1857 and four years before Abraham Lincoln took oath as the President of USA when the political situation in that country was very unstable. So was it in India after the partition of Bengal in 1905. As Tilak grew young his life was influenced by all these happenings in his country as well as in the west specially USA.
Born on July 23, 1856 at Ratnagiri has was a great scholar, mathematician, philosopher. But over and above he was a militant nationalist. Still he was not a precursor of Chapekar Brothers, Bhagat Singh, Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaq Ullah and Azad who targeted British Officers and killed him. He did not believe in this type of avenge. He believed in agitation – fiery agitation against the British rulers. But he always took the masses with him.
Tilak was brought up in a very orthodox family. His father Gangadhar, a school teacher infused in him a love for learning. He of course became a great scholar. But he broke all the shackles of conservation. He considered education a basic condition for freedom. He was deadly against the Macaulian system. He believed that we should “preserve national sentimants by giving due credit to all that is good in the old system but without detriment to progress and reforms needed for our national uplift”. Thus he established the New English School in 1880. He further founded Deccan Education Society in 1885. His aim was to create a younger generation of learned patriots having roots in the soil.
Immediately after this he turned a journalist to awaken political consciousness he started two papers – Kesri in Marathi and the Mahratta in English. In these two he bitterly criticized the British rule. He also wrote articles of passing the moderates (Gokhale and his friends and followers) who wanted social reforms along western lines and political ones along constitutional lines.
In due course he started two festivals – Ganesh Utsav and Shivaji Utsav in 1895. The aim was to give the national work a religious symbolism on the one hand and raising national on the other. The former aimed at the first. The letter was meant to arouse the patriotism against the foreign rule. Shivaji was the first in Maharashtra to defeat Muslim invaders and to establish Maratha state up to Agra.
With all these activities Tiiak came into straight conflict with the British Government. He was prosecuted for sedition and imprisoned in 1897. He became so popular that he was named Lokmanya (Beloved leader of the people). He was sentenced to 18 months of rigorous imprisonment. When he was released on September 6, 1898 he was just a Skelton and was not in position to walk steadily.
After the Surat Congress session Tilak was arrested on June 24, 1908 on charges of inciting violence through his articles. He decided to defend his own case. His address went on for more than 21 hours. His account of defence has become a testament of liberty. On July 22 the Jury asked him to make his final statement. He said, “All I wish to say is that, in spite of the verdict of the Jury, I maintain that I am innocent. There are higher powers that rule the destiny of men and nations, and it may be the will of providence that the cause I represent may prosper more by my suffering than my remaining free”. Tilak was sentenced to six years imprisonment. He was deported to Mandalaya, Burma (Non Myanmar).
Behind the bars Tilak decided to give his ideas on the Bhagvad Gita a shape of book. He wrote “Gita Rahasya “. He began writing in 1910 and finished the 900 page manuscript in March next year. During his jail term his wife expired in 1912. It shook him of course. After his release in 1914 his family wanted to publish his book. After great efforts the manuscript arrived.
On his release in 1914 he again plunged in politics. He launched the Home Rule League. In 1918 as the President of Indian Home Rule League he went to England. He established good relations with the members of Labour Party. It was actually this Party that declared independence of India in 1947.
After his return in 1919 he attended the meeting of the congress at Amritsar. He advised the delegates to cooperate with Mahatma Gandhi in his non cooperation movement. He had already lost his health and expired after five days illness on August 1, 1920. Gandhi called him “the maker of modem India” and Nehru considered him “the father of the Indian Revolution”.