Friday, 1 August 2014
Bal Gangadhar Tilak (23 July 1856 – 1 August 1920), born as Keshav Gangadhar Tilak, was an Indian nationalist, journalist, teacher, social reformer, lawyer and an independence activist. He was the first leader of the Indian Independence Movement. The British colonial authorities called him "Father of the Indian unrest." He was also conferred with the honorary title of "Lokmanya", which literally means "accepted by the people (as their leader)". Tilak was one of the first and strongest advocates of "Swaraj" (self-rule) and a strong radical in Indian consciousness. He is known for his quote, "Swaraj is my birthright, and I shall have it!" in India.
Tilak was born in Ratnagiri, headquarters of the eponymous district of present day Maharashtra on 23 July 1856. His father, Gangadhar Tilak was a school teacher and a Sanskrit scholar who died when Tilak was sixteen. Tilak graduated from Deccan College, Pune in 1877. Tilak was amongst one of the first generation of Indians to receive a college education. In 1873, he entered Deccan College and in 1877 he passed his Bachelor of Arts in first class in Mathematics. In 1879 he passed his LL.B degree. Despite two attempts he did not succeeded in qualifying M. A.
After graduating, Tilak started teaching mathematics at a private school in Pune. Later due to ideological differences with the colleagues in the new school, he withdrew and became a journalist later. Tilak actively participated in public affairs. He stated:
"Religion and practical life are not different. To take Sanyasa (renunciation) is not to abandon life. The real spirit is to make the country your family work together instead of working only for your own. The step beyond is to serve humanity and the next step is to serve God."
He organised the Deccan Education Society with a few of his college friends, including Gopal Ganesh Agarkar, Mahadev Ballal Namjoshi and Vishnushastri Chiplunkar. Their goal was to improve the quality of education for India's youth. The Deccan Education Society was set up to create a new system that taught young Indians nationalist ideas through an emphasis on Indian culture. The Society established the New English School for secondary education and Fergusson College in 1885 for post-secondary studies. Tilak taught mathematics at Fergusson College. He began a mass movement towards independence by an emphasis on a religious and cultural revival.
Tilak encouraged the Swadeshi movement and the Boycott movement. The movement consisted of the boycott of foreign goods and also the social boycott of any Indian who used foreign goods. The Swadeshi movement consisted of the usage of natively produced goods. Once foreign goods were boycotted, there was a gap which had to be filled by the production of those goods in India itself. Tilak said that the Swadeshi and Boycott movements are two sides of the same coin.
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". Tilak travelled from village to village for support from farmers and locals to join the movement towards self-rule. Tilak was impressed by the Russian Revolution, and expressed his admiration for Vladimir Lenin. There were total of 1400 members in April 1916 and in 1917 there were approximately of about 32,000 members in the league.