Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak

Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak
Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak
Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak was a prominent militant nationalist leader of the Indian freedom movement against British rule. He was born in Ratnagiri to a family of Brahmans in 1856. His father was an officer in the educational department. Tilak passed the bachelor of arts examination from Deccan College in 1879 and received a bachelor of law from Elphinston College, Bombay (now Mumbai).

Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak was one of the founders of the New English School, Pune, and taught there in 1880. The success of the school encouraged him and his colleagues to set up the Deccan Educational Society in October 1884, and the following year the society opened Fergusson College. Tilak also led influential newspapers—Kesari and Mahratta, in Marathi and English respectively—in 1881.

Tilak was a radical in politics, but he was not a socialist. Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak opposed the Age of Consent Act of 1891, saying that the British were interfering in the social life of Hindus.

Tilak was strongly resistant to British rule, advocating an agenda of social conservatism and a return to a golden Hindu past. He became the extremist leader of Indian politics against moderates like G. K. Gokhale. In the 1890s he championed the cause of peasants and criticized the plague prevention policies of the British government. Tilak was sentenced to prison for 18 months on charges of sedition.

Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak was interested in the Indian National Congress (INC) right from its inception in 1885, and he was elected its joint secretary in 1895. He was elected to the Bombay Legislative Council in the same year.

When Viceroy Lord Curzon partitioned the province of Bengal in 1905, Tilak joined those who opposed it and plunged into a swadeshi (indigenous) movement to advocate a boycott on British goods. The agitation galvanized the masses in a boycott of foreign goods. Tilak and his supporters dominated the INC session of 1906, which endorsed the idea of swaraj, or self-government.

The result was a split between moderates and the extreme nationalists at the Surat session of the INC in 1907, with Gokhale emerging as a leader of the moderates. In June 1908 Tilak was arrested in a bombing case and charged with sedition. Tilak defended himself brilliantly but was sentenced to six years of imprisonment.

After his release Tilak formed the Indian Home Rule League in 1916, which collaborated closely with the Home Rule League of Annie Besant. Both leagues demanded Home Rule or self-government for India after the end of World War I. Because the moderates and extremists of the Congress had realized that a split among them was not serving Indian freedom, Tilak and his supporters returned to Congress again in 1916.

Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak was among those who signed the famous Lucknow Pact, which endorsed a Hindu-Muslim rapprochement. He then went to England in 1918 to open a branch of the Home Rule League, garnering the support of many Labour party leaders. He caught pneumonia and died on August 1, 1920, in Bombay. His courage, patriotism, and devotion guided latter-day freedom fighters. Mohandas Gandhi honored him as the “maker of modern India.”