Swarajya is my birthright and I will have it Tilak maker of modern India

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This year 2022, is the 75th year of Independence from the British. There is hardly a month before our Independence Day. Our beloved Prime Minister decided to celebrate this year as “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav. So, I am starting to write a feature on all those sons and daughters of Bharat Ma who fought against foreign invasion from time immemorial. I had written about Bharat Ma, As it is said “Janani Janmabhumishcha Swargadapi Gariyasi” which means “mother and motherland are superior even to heaven” in Dev Bhasha Sanskrit, from our great epic Ramayana. I believe in this motto and think my mother and Bharat Maa are superior to heaven. 23rd July is the birthdate of two great sons of Bharat Ma – Chandrashekar Azad and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and I am writing about both of them read on…

But the promised Dawn did finally come after nearly 200 years of colonial rule. We lost millions of Bharat Ma’s sons and daughters starting from Siraj-ud-Daula (Battle of Plassey, 1757), to Mangal Pandey, Rani Laxmi Bai (1857) and finally Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev, Chandrashekhar Azad, Veer Savarkar, Tilak and lastly the man who said “Give me blood, I will give you freedom”—Netaji.

As Rousseau, during the French Revolution said “Man is born free yet he is in chains”, it was true for India. The desire to be free is the dream of every human, but during the Raj it was a rare commodity. For a century we were ruled by a Company called East India Company, who let loose a reign of terror. It was truly a black era. But the Revolt of 1857 ended the Company rule and India was ruled by the British Government. But the reign of terror did not end. All voice of freedom was suppressed.

In such an India was born a true son of Bharat Ma on 23rd July1856, with the name Keshav Gangadhar Tilak, known as Bal Gangadhar Tilak in Bombay State (now Maharashtra). Tilak was born into a middle-class Brahman family. Although his birth place was Bombay, he lived in a village called Chikhali, along the coast till he was 10 years old. His father, an educator and a noted grammarian, took a job in Poona and he was educated at Deccan College in Poona. In 1876, he earned bachelor’s degrees in Mathematics and Sanskrit. Tilak then studied law, and received his degree in 1879 from the University of Bombay.  

Tilak had a long political career agitating for Independence from British Imperialism. He  was one of the most popular leader much before M.K. Gandhi. Tilak was considered a Radical Nationalist but a Social conservative unlike another great leader Gokhale. He was imprisoned many times that included a long period at Mandalay (Burma). He was called as "the father of Indian unrest" by British author Sir Valentine Chirol.

Tilak joined the Indian National Congress in 1890. He opposed the moderates in the Congress, especially towards the fight for self-government. In fact, it was the Swadeshi movement of 1905–1907 that resulted in the split within the Indian National Congress into the Moderates and the Extremists. In 1896, a bubonic plague infection spread from Bombay to Poona, and by 1897, it became a Pandemic. The Government bought in the British Army to deal with the emergency and strict measures were employed to curb the disease, which was very unpopular with the public.

Tilak soon took up this issue by publishing inspiring articles in his paper Kesari (Kesari in Marathi, and Maratha in English), quoting the Bhagvad Gita, and said “no blame could be attached to anyone who killed an oppressor without any thought of reward”. In 1897, Commissioner Rand and Lt. Ayerst were shot and killed by the Chapekar brothers “to put an end to the injustice borne by the people of Poona”.  British historians believed it was Tilak, who instigated the Chapekars. Tilak was charged with “incitement to murder” and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. After the imprisonment, he was admired as a martyr and a national hero. He adopted a new slogan that was devised by Kaka Baptista, "Swaraj (self-rule)is my birthright and I shall have it."

When Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India, partitioned Bengal in 1905, Tilak strongly supported the Bengali demand for the annulment of the partition and advocated a boycott of British goods, that soon, became a movement that swept the entire nation. Next year, he introduced a program of passive resistance, known as the “Tenets of the New Party”, that he hoped would destroy the influence of the British rule in order to gain Independence. These methods were later followed by M.K. Gandhi.

In the Mandalay Jail, Tilak wrote his magnum opus, The Srimad Bhagavad Gita, an original exposition of the most-sacred book of the Hindus. Previously in 1893, he had published The  Orion or, Researches into the Antiquity of the Vedas, and, a decade later, The Arctic Home in the Vedas. He intended to promote the Hindu culture as the successor to the Vedic Religion and he believed that the roots were in the “Aryans from the north”.

After his release from prison in 1914,  Tilak launched the Home Rule League  In 1916 he rejoined the Congress Party and signed the historic Lucknow Pact, with Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. Tilak visited England in 1918 as president of the Indian Home Rule League. He then, realized that the Labor Party was a growing force in British politics, and he established firm relationships with its leaders. His prudence was justified as it was a Labor Government that granted independence to India in 1947.

Did you know Tilak met Swami Vivekananda and they mutually admired each other? They met on a train journey in 1892. It was agreed between them that “Tilak would work towards nationalism in the ‘political’ arena, while Vivekananda would work for nationalism in the ‘religious’ arena. When Vivekananda died at a young age in 1904, Tilak expressed great sorrow and paid tributes to him in the Kesari as “No Hindu, who, has the interests of Hinduism at his heart, could help feeling grieved over Vivekananda's samadhi. Vivekananda, in short, had taken the work of keeping the banner of Advaita philosophy forever flying among all the nations of the world and made them realize the true greatness of Hindu religion and of the Hindu people”.

He was part of the popular trio of Lal-Bal-Pal : Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal and Bal Gangadhar Tilak. We can rightly conclude, “Tilak left the blueprint of the Home Rule Movement, Swaraj, and Swadeshi, which made him the first national leader who envisioned the formation of linguistic states” and “Atma Nirbhar Bharat” introduced by our respected Prime Minister is his legacy.

Tilak left this world on 1st August 1920, after a brief illness. The people of India fondly called him Lokmanya. A portrait of Tilak was veiled in the Central Hall of the Parliament in 1956. Many films were made to commemorate him. He is indeed a true leader who fought for the course of Swarjya propounded by Bharat Ki Veer Putra, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

Our great and esteemed Prime Minister tweeted today by saying “One of the everlasting legacies of Lokmanya Tilak is the large-scale Ganesh Utsavs, which ignited a spirit of cultural consciousness among the people. During one of my Mumbai visits, I visited the Lokmanya Seva Sangh, which has a close association with Lokmanya Tilak."


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