(बाळ गंगाधर टिळक) (July 23 1856 - August 1 1920), was an Indian nationalist, social reformer and independence fighter who was the first popular leader of the Indian Independence Movement and is known as "Father of the Indian unrest."
Tilak was one of the first and strongest proponents for Swaraj (complete independence) in Indian consciousness, and is considered the father of Hindu nationalism as well. His famous quote, "Swaraj is my birthright, and I will have it!" is well-remembered in India even today.
After graduating, Tilak began teaching mathematics in a private school in Pune and later became a journalist. He became a strong critic of the Western education system, feeling it demeaned the Indian students and disrespected India's heritage. He organized the Deccan Education Society to improve the quality of education for India's youth. He taught Mathematics at Fergusson College.
Tilak used to say to his colleagues: "You are not writing for the university students. Imagine you are talking to a villager. Be sure of your facts. Let your words be clear as daylight."
Tilak strongly criticized the government for its brutality in suppressing free expression, especially in face of protests against the division of Bengal in 1905, and for denigrating India's culture, its people and heritage. He demanded that the British immediately give Indians the right to self-government.
Tilak joined the Indian National Congress in the 1890. He opposed its moderate attitude, especially towards the fight for self government.
In 1891 Tilak opposed the Age of Consent bill. The act raised the age at which a girl could get married from 10 to 12. The Congress and other liberals supported it, but Tilak was set against it, terming it an interference with Hinduism. However, he personally opposed child marriage, and his own daughters married at 16.
When in 1897, bubonic plague spread from Bombay to Pune the Government became jittery. The Assistant Collector of Pune, Mr. Rand, and his associates employed extremely severe and brutal methods to stop the spread of the disease by destroying even "clean homes." Even people who were not infected were carried away and in some cases, the carriers even looted property of the affected people. When the authorities turned a blind eye to all these excesses, furious Tilak took up the people's cause by publishing inflammatory articles in his paper Kesari, quoting the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, to say that no blame could be attached to anyone who killed an oppressor without any thought of reward. Following this, on 27 June, Rand and his assistant were killed. Tilak was charged with incitement to murder and sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment. When he emerged from prison, he had become a national hero and adopted a new slogan, "Swaraj (Self-Rule) is my birth right and I will have it." Tilak opposed the moderate views of Gopal Krishna Gokhale, and was supported by fellow Indian nationalists Bipin Chandra Pal in Bengal and Lala Lajpat Rai in Punjab. They were referred to as the Lal-Bal-Pal triumvirate. In 1907,the annual session of the Congress Party was held at Surat (Gujarat). Trouble broke out between the moderate and the extremist factions of the party over the selection of the new president of the Congress and the party split into the Garam Dal ("Hot Faction," or extremists), led by Tilak, Pal and Lajpat Rai, and the Naram Dal ("Soft Faction," or moderates).
On 30 April 1908 two Bengali youths, Prafulla Chaki and Kudiram Bose, threw a bomb on a carriage at Muzzafurpur in order to kill a District Judge Douglass Kenford but erroneously killed some women travelling in it. While Chaki committed suicide when caught, Bose was tried and hanged. British papers screamed for vengeance and their shrill cries became even more insistent when Police raided and found a cache of arms at Calcutta. But Tilak in his paper Kesari defended the revolutionaries and called for immediate Swaraj or Self-rule. The Government swiftly arrested him for sedition. He asked a young Muhammad Ali Jinnah to represent him. But the British judge convicted him and he was imprisoned from 1908 to 1914 in Mandalay, Burma.
Much has been said of his trial of 1908, it being the most historic trial. His last words on the verdict of the Jury were such: "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 which I represent may prosper more by my suffering than my remaining free". These words now can be seen imprinted on the wall of Room. No. 46 at Bombay High Court.
Tilak had mellowed after his release in June 1914. When World war I started in August, Tilak, cabled the King-Emperor in Britain of his support and turned his oratory to find new recruits for war efforts. He welcomed The Indian Councils Act, popularly known as Minto-Morley Reforms which had been passed by British parliament in May 1909 terming it as ‘a marked increase of confidence between the Rulers and the Ruled’. Acts of violence actually retarded than hastened the pace of political reforms, he felt. He was eager for reconciliation with Congress and had abandoned his demand for direct action and settled for agitations ‘strictly by constitutional means’ - a line advocated his rival- Gopal Krishna Gokhale since beginning
Later, Tilak re-united with his fellow nationalists and re-joined the Indian National Congress in 1916. He also helped found the All India Home Rule League in 1916-18 with Annie Besant and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Tilak was impressed by the Russian Revolution, and expressed his admiration for Lenin.
Tilak, who started his political life as a maratha protagonist, during his later part of life progressed into a prominent nationalist after his close association with Indian nationalists following the partition of Bengal. When asked in Calcutta whether he envisioned a Maratha type of government for Free India, Tilak replied that the Maratha dominated Governments of 17th and 18th centuries were outmoded in 20th century and he wanted a genuine federal system for Free India where every religion and race were equal partners. Only such a form of Government would be able to safe-guard India's freedom he added
Tilak was a critic of Mahatma Gandhi's strategy of non-violence, civil disobedience. Although once considered an extremist revolutionary, in his later years Tilak had considerably mellowed. He favored political dialogue and discussions as a more effective way to obtain political freedom for India.
When Tilak died in 1920, Gandhi paid his respects at his cremation in Bombay, along with 20,00,000 people. Gandhi called Tilak "The Maker of Modern India".
Other collections of his writings include:
Street fighter ; Instead of making speeches in council halls and composing endless petitions to the British, Bal Gangadhar Tilak developed innovative campaigns that took the nationalist cause to the streets.
Apr 21, 2008; BAL GANGADHAR TILAK FREEDOM FIGHTER, 1856-1920 Bal Gangadhar Tilak was a charismatic and forceful politician and was one of the...
INDIAN PRIME MINISTER, LOK SABHA SPEAKER, PARLIAMENT MEMBERS PAY FLORAL TRIBUTES TO FREEDOM FIGHTER LOKAMANYA TILAK
Jul 23, 2008; Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and other Members of Parliament paid floral tributes to...