Bal Gangadhar Tilak was an Indian social reformer and freedom activist. He was given the moniker “Lokmanya” for being a “beloved and accepted leader of the people”. On August 1, India will observe Tilak’s 100th death anniversary.
Tilak was a teacher, advocate, journalist, scholar, mathematician, philosopher, and a reformer who helped lay the foundation for India’s independence by building his defiance of British rule into a national movement.
Born on July 22, 1856, to a Sanskrit Scholar in Ratnagiri, Keshav Gangadhar Tilak later shifted to Pune. A teacher and journalist by profession, Tilak initiated his political life as a social reformer and freedom activist. He was one of the first few leaders to advocate for ‘swaraj’ or self-rule. He published two newspapers -Kesari (Marathi) and Mahratta (English) -that actively circulated the cause of national freedom. His slogan ‘Swaraj is my birthright, and I shall have it’ inspired millions of youths.
Tilak had a long political career agitating for Indian autonomy from British rule. Before Gandhi, he was the most widely known Indian political leader. Unlike his fellow Maharashtrian contemporary Gokhale, Tilak was considered a radical Nationalist but a Social conservative. He was imprisoned on several occasions that included a long stint at Mandalay.
Tilak was against the 1891 Age of Consent bill, seeing it as interference with Hinduism and a dangerous precedent. The act raised the age at which a girl could get married from 10 to 12 years. Following the Partition of Bengal, which was a strategy set out by Lord Curzon to weaken the nationalist movement, 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 that 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.
Famous quotes of Bal Gangadhar Tilak:
- “Freedom is my birthright. I must have it.”
- “If God is put up with untouchability, I will not call him God.”
- “If we trace the history of any nation back into the past, we come at last to a period of myths and traditions which eventually fade away into impenetrable darkness.”
- “Our nation is like a tree of which the original trunk is swarajya and the branches are swadeshi and boycott.”
- “It may be providence’s will that the cause I represent may prosper more by my suffering than by my remaining free.”