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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Remembering the great Nationalist Lokmanya Tilak

The history of freedom movement in India, often is  summarized in one pithy sentence: "Mahatma Gandhi gave us freedom through non-violence." For sure freedom was not that easy and there were so many sacrifices of persons with varied thought processes. 

The year 2016 marks the centenary of a great slogan ‘Swaraj is my birthright’ and today marks the birth of a great leader  - Thilagar.  Bal Gangadhar Tilak ( Lokmanya Tilak ) [1856-1920]  a great  nationalist, teacher, social reformer, lawyer and an independence activist, was the first leader of the Indian Independence Movement. The British colonial authorities called him "Father of the Indian unrest."  ‘Lokmanya’, means "accepted by the people as their leader.

Tilak was the strongest advocate of the"Swaraj",which means (self-rule in english) and a strong radical in Indian consciousness. He is known for his quote *Swarajya is my birthright and I shall have it!*. He formed a close alliance with many Indian National Congress leaders including Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai, Aurobindo Ghose, V. O. Chidambaram Pillai and Jinnah. As a strong advocate of Swaraj, he was against Gandhi's policy of non-violence,  advocating  use of force where necessary.

Tilak joined the Indian National Congress in 1890. He opposed its moderate attitude, especially towards the fight for self-government. A radical, he was, he published strong articles in his paper Kesari (Kesari was written in Marathi, and Mahratta was written in English).  Thilakji was charged with incitement to murder of  Commissioner Rand and another British officer, Lt. Ayerst  in 1897 by Chapekar brothers and their other associates.  He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.  Following 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.   Tilak’s strong opinions were supported by  Bipin Chandra Pal in Bengal and Lala Lajpat Rai in Punjab. They were referred to as the "Lal-Bal-Pal triumvirate".

In the annual session of Congress in 1907  at Surat,  there was trouble over the selection of President.  Gujarat. The party split into the radicals faction, led by Tilak, Pal and Lajpat Rai, and the moderate faction. Nationalists like Aurobindo Ghose, V. O. Chidambaram Pillai were Tilak supporters.  During his lifetime among other political cases, Bala Gangadhar Tilak was  tried for Sedition Charges,  three times by British India Government. Firstly in 1897, in 1909 and in 1916.   The middle one for his support to the two Bengali youths, Prafulla Chaki and Khudiram Bose, who  threw a bomb on a carriage at Muzzafarpur, to kill the Chief Presidency Magistrate Douglas Kingsford of Calcutta fame. While Chaki committed suicide when caught, Bose was hanged.  Tilak was handed  a six year imprisonment and  was sent to Mandalay, Burma from 1908 to 1914.  While imprisoned, he continued to read and write, further developing his ideas on the Indian nationalist movement. While in the prison he wrote the Gita Rahasya.

Wikipedia states that Tilak developed diabetes during his sentence in Mandalay prison. This and the general ordeal of prison life had mellowed him at his release on 16 June 1914.

The year 2016 marks the centenary of Tilak's famous slogan 'Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it'.

Lokmanya: Ek Yug Purush,  is a Marathi biopic released in 2015. Subodh Bhave played the title role.

**  The silver bed of Marina Beach at  Chennai was the venue where the great national leaders like Balagangadhara Thilakar, Lala Lajpath Rai, Bipin Chandran Paul, Mahathma Gandhi, Subash Chandrabose, C.R. Doss, Mahakavi Bharathi, V.O. Chidambaram Pillai and others made their clarion call to the people of the land to raise against the British rules.  This place is known as ‘Thilakar ghat’  - now has a plaque opposite to Presidency college. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

23rd July 2016.

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