Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak: The fearless freedom fighter

Anagha Telang

An Indian social reformer and freedom activist, one of the prime architects of modern India and probably the strongest advocates of Swaraj or Self Rule for India. His famous declaration “Swaraj is my birthright, and I shall have it” served as an inspiration for future revolutionaries during India’s struggle for freedom. The British Government termed him as the "Father of Indian Unrest" and his followers choose for him the title of ‘Lokmanya’ meaning he who is revered by the people.A brilliant politician as well as a profound scholar who believed that independence is the foremost necessity for the well being of a nation, the great freedom fighter 'Lokmanya Baal Gangadhar Tilak.'

Childhood & Early Life
yle="font-size: large;">His original name was Keshav Gangadhar Tilak. He was born on 23 July,1856 in a middle class Maharashtrian  Brhamin family at Ratnagiri, Maharashtra. His father, Gangadhar Shastri was a noted Sanskrit scholar and school teacher at Ratnagiri. His mother's name was Paravti Bai Gangadhar. Following his father's transfer, the family shifted to Poona. In1871 Tilak was married to Tapibai who was later rechristened as Satyabhamabai.
As a student Tilak was very bright and intelligent. After graduating from Deccan College, Pune, in 1877 in Sanskrit and Mathematics, Tilak studied L.L.B. at the Government Law College, Bombay and completed it in 1879. After compliting his education he started teaching in  English and Mathematics at a private school in Poona. Following a disagreement with the school authorities he quit and helped found a school in 1880 that laid emphasis on nationalism. Though, he was among India's first generation of youths to receive a modern, college education, Tilak strongly criticised the educational system followed by the British in India. He protested against the unequal treatment of the Indian students compared to their British peers and its total disregard for India’s cultural heritage. He started the Deccan Educational Society with college batchmates, Vishnu Shastry Chiplunkar and Gopal Ganesh Agarkar for the purpose of inspiring nationalist education among Indian students.

Political Career
Indian National Congress:
In 1890 Tilak joined the Indian National Congress. He put forward his strong and firm opinion to the moderate views of the party on self-rule.  He maintained that simple constitutional agitation in itself was futile against the British. This subsequently made him stand against the prominent Congress leader, Gopal Krishna Gokhale. He wanted an armed revolt to broom-away the British. Following the partition of Bengal by Lord Curzon, Tilak wholeheartedly supported the Swadeshi (Indigenous) movement and Boycott of British goods. But his methods also raised bitter controversies within the Indian National Congress (INC) and the movement itself. 
Due to this fundamental difference in outlook, Tilak and his supporters came to be known as the extremist wing of Indian National Congress Party. Tilak’s endeavours were supported by fellow nationalists Bipin Chandra Pal of Bengal and Lala Lajpat Rai of Punjab. The trio came to be popularly referred to as the Lal-Bal-Pal. In the 1907 national session of the Indian National Congress, a massive trouble broke out between the moderate and extremist sections of the Indian National Congress Party. As a result of which, the Congress split into two factions.

In 1896, plague broke out in Pune and the adjacent regions and the British employed extremely rigorous measures to contain it. Under directives from Commissioner W. C. Rand, the police and the army invaded private residences, violated personal sanctity of individuals, burned personal possessions and prevented individuals to move in and out of the city. Tilak protested against the oppressive nature of the British efforts and wrote provocative articles on it in his newspapers.
His article inspired the Chapekar brothers and they carried out assassination of Commissioner Rand and Lt. Ayerst on June 22, 1897. As a result of this, Tilak was imprisoned for 18 months on Sedition charges for inciting murder.
During 1908-1914, Bal Gangadhar Tilak had to undergo six years of rigorous imprisonment in Mandalay Jail, Burma. He openly supported the revolutionaries Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki’s efforts to assassinate Chief Presidency Magistrate Douglas Kingsford in 1908. He continued to write during his years of imprisonment and the most prominent of which is Gita Rahasya. Following his growing fame and popularity, the British government also tried to stop the publication of his newspapers. His wife died in Pune while he was languishing in Mandalay prison.

All India Home Rule League:
In 1915 Tilak Returned to India when the political situation was fast changing under the shadow of the World War I.Tilak founded the All India Home Rule League in 1916 with Joseph Baptista, Annie Besant and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. By April 1916, the league had 1400 members that increased to 32,000 by 1917. He rejoined the Indian National Congress but could not bring about reconciliation between the two opposite-minded factions.

Bal Gangadhar Tilak published two newspapers -'Mahratta' (English) and 'Kesari' (Marathi). Both the newspapers actively propagated the cause of national freedom.In 1896, when the entire nation was gripped by the famine and plague, the British government declared that there was no cause for anxiety. The government also rejected the need to start a 'Famine Relief Fund'. The attitude of the government was severely criticized by both the newspapers. Tilak fearlessly published reports about the havoc caused by famine and plague and the government's utter irresponsibility and indifference. 

Social Reforms
After completing his education Tilak devoted himself to the service of the nation. He was a great reformer and worked for the development of the nation.  He advocated the cause of women education and women empowerment. Tilak educated all of his daughters and did not marry them till they were over 16. Tilak proposed Grand celebrations on ‘Ganesh Chaturthi’ and ‘Shivaji Jayanti'. He envisioned these celebrations inciting a sense of unity and inspiring nationalist sentiment among Indians.

Tilak was left heart broken after the Jalliwallah Bagha massacre that his health started declining. Tilak suffered from diabetes and had become very weak. In mid-July 1920, his condition worsened and on August 1, he passed away.

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