INDIA'S STRUGGLE for
freedom was a dynamic process in which a nation was roused from slumber, became
conscious of new aspirations, and realized its best self-Among the individuals who
initiated and accelerated this process; the late Lokmanya Tilak was one of the foremost.
He does not, however, belong to the past. His words and deeds are a part of the
personality of India today.
TILAK was born on the 23rd July, 1856, at Ratnagiri,
in the Bombay Presidency, on the West coast of India.
Tilak entered college in 1873. In the Deccan College of his days, the student community
being small was a compact one. It was a cosmopolitan institution, where students
belonging to all classes and communities studied together and most of them lived
in the hostel. Tilak passed his B.A. in 1876 in first class, with Mathematics, Pure
and Applied, as his optional subjects. Besides these, he had also to study English
and Sanskrit, as compulsory subjects. After taking his B. A., he studied for his
LL.B. degree, which he took in 1879.
'Kesari' and 'Mahratta'
Tilak wanted to influence the impressionable minds
of students, who would catch the spirit of idealism far more quickly than the elders.
But he also wanted to enlighten the people at large, by telling them of the shape
of things to come and inspiring in them a desire to shape their own destinies. It
was ultimately decided to launch two newspapers the 'Kesari,' ('The Lion') to be
edited in Marathi, and the 'Mahratta' to be edited in English.
The idea of starting a college had been lurking in
the minds of Tilak and his colleagues almost from the starting of the New English
School. On 2nd January 1885, the Fergusson College was inaugurated by Prin. William
Wordsworth, in Poona.
The Four Pillars
The Partition of Bengal was effected on the I6th October
1905, on grounds of administrative convenience and efficiency. The sinister motives
of Lord Curzon had become clear from his speeches in East Bengal, wherein he made
an effort to create enmity between the Hindus and the Muslims, in pursuance of the
imperialist policy of 'divide and rule'. The whole of Bengal rose against this as
one man spoke with one voice and acted with one mind. Curzon intended to divide
and Bengal was united.
Tilak knew that agitation had its significance in
creating an atmosphere of defiance and in stirring the passions of the people. But
he would not be satisfied with mammoth demonstrations, if they did not lead to further
action. He, therefore, laid all stress on Boycott, Swadeshi, National Education
and Swaraj- the four pillars which would support the edifice of the new life in
India. He directed all his energies for bringing home to the people the significance
of this programme, and convinced them that the movement for Swaraj was not confined
to the chosen few, either the elite or the revolutionaries, but had a place for
every patriotic person who was prepared to extend his or her support, however humble
it may be. National education was, according to Tilak, a programme for imparting
to the younger generation instruction in the new way of life of dedication. As Aurobindo
Ghosh picturesquely put it, The four resolutions were, for him the first step towards
shaking the Congress out of its torpid tortoise-like gait and turning it into a
living and action body.
In July 1920, Tilak came to Bombay and stayed at the
Sardar Griha. He was visited by Gandhiji, Shoukat Ali and others. He had an attack
of malarial fever while in Poona. He was again down with fever in Bombay. It soon
developed into pneumonia. After 28th July, he became unconscious. He began talking
in delirium. On 29th July he talked as if he was addressing a meeting: I am quite
sure and you may also believe in me that India will not prosper unless she gets
Swaraj. At 2 O'clock the same night he said I am thankful for what you and the
people have done. From the 30th, speech became indistinct. At 12:40
in the night of Sunday, 1st August, he breathed his last.
A Vedantic by instinct and training, Tilak was a true
democrat. He looked upon democracy not as just a form of Government but a faith
which decided one's attitude to others. He did not accept it as an imitation of
What India felt and what Indians continue to feel
for Lokmanya Tilak has been best expressed by Mahatma Gandhi in the following words
: For us, he will go down to the generations yet unborn as a maker of modern India.
Indians will revere his memory as of a man who lived for them and died for them.
It is blasphemy to talk of such a man as dead. The permanent essence of him abides
with us for ever. Let us erect for the only Lokmanya of India an imperishable monument
by weaving into our own lives his bravery, his simplicity, his wonderful industry
and his love of his country.