BAL GANGADHAR TILAK (1856-1920)
MODERN HISTORY – 08
The high priest of this new national fervour was BANKIM CHANDRA CHATTERJI (1838-1894), the author Of ANANDAMATH. He wielded his mighty pen to ridiculet the mendicant policy of the Congress which only put up an annual show for 3 days. The cry was taken up by others and sharp protests were heard against the Congress. AUROBINDO GHOSE (1872-1950) wrote a series of articles against it in the Bombay weekly Indu Prakash between August 1893 and March 1984 under the heading ‘New Lamps for Old’. The Congress leaders at Bombay felt alarmed at the tone of these articles and pressure was put upon the editor to stop their publication. But soon there appeared a great nationalist leader in Maharashtra, BAL GANGADHAR TILAK (1856-1920), who refused to give way.
BAL GANGADHAR TILAK (1856-1920)
Tilak, however, chose to become a politician and a man of action, being prompted by the impulse of liberating his country from foreign rule. His message had a speical appeal to his people who had lost their independence. The Maratha country, therefore, proved a congenical soil for fostering the new spirit. Valentine Chirol rightly called him the ‘Father of Indian UnresT’. Tilak made it the great object of his life to diffuse the spirit of patriotism and nationalism among the masses. For this purpose, he inaugurated the Sivaji festival and transformed the traditional worship of Ganapati in Maharashtra into an altogether new form. The Sedition Committee appointed in 1918 reported that at the time of celebrations, leaflets were distributed ‘urging the Marathas to rebel as Sivaji did’, declaring that the danger of subjection to foreign rule penetrated the bosom of all, and urging that a religious outbreak should be made the first step towards the overthrow of the foreign power. Thus, Tilak made full use of the two great forces of religion and history to achieve his objective. Through his journals the Kesari (in Marathi) and THE MAHRATTA (IN ENGLISH) he called for nationalist fervour and asserted that only strong congress would lead to the goal.
It was Tilak who, for the first time, set out before the nation, in a clear manner, the attainment of SELF GOVERNMENT OR SWARAJ rather than reforms in administration as the ideal, and lastly it was Tilak who carried the gospel of self-help and political agitation to the masses. Meanwhile a severe famine struck the Deccan (1896-1897) and ‘people perished like flies.’ Tilak organized a corps of volunteers to help the famine-stricken people and even lunched a no-tax campaign among the peasant. THE BUBONIC PLAGUE which burst out in Poona in all its severity, further added tot eh hardship of the people.
The forced segregation and the compulsory domiciliary visits created a feeling of panic and alarm among the people. The inquisitorial searches carried out by the Plague Committee (with the help of British soliders) in private houses and places of worship created a widespread discontent which culminated in the murder OF W.C. RAND (the Chairman of the Poona Plague Committee) and LT. AYERST, another British officer (June 22, 1897).
The CHAPEKAR BROTHE DAMODAR and BAL KRISHNA were tried for the murders and sentenced to death. Tilak was arrested on a charge of inciting disaffection against the Government by means of his articles in the Kesari and sentenced to 18 months rigorous imprisonment. Tilak’s arrest sent a wave of discontent and indignation throughtout the country and even the untutored mill-hands fasted in protest and students in colleges and schools ‘wore black mark indicative of the deep sorrow they felt in their hearts. “SURENDRANATH BANERJEE gave expression to these feelings of sorrow when he declared at The Congress Session Of 1897: “A Nation Is In Tears.”