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Bal Gangadhar Tilak

(1856 – 1920) – (Maharashtra)

Bal Gangadhar Tilak (Aged 64) also known as Lokmanya Tilak, was born on 23 July 1856 as Keshav Gangadhar Tilak. He was an Indian nationalist, teacher, and independence activist, and was one third of the Lal Bal Pal triumvirate. Considered the first leader of the Indian independence movement, he was called “The father of the Indian unrest” by British colonial authorities.

Tilak was conferred with the title of “Lokmanya,” which means “accepted by the people (as their leader),” and Mahatma Gandhi called him “The Maker of Modern India.” He was one of the first and strongest advocates of Swaraj (“self-rule”) and a strong radical in Indian consciousness. His quote in Marathi, “Swarajya is my birthright and I shall have it!” is famous.

Tilak formed a close alliance with many Indian National Congress leaders, including Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai, Aurobindo Ghose, V. O. Chidambaram Pillai, and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. He joined the Indian National Congress in 1890 and opposed its moderate attitude, particularly towards the fight for self-government. He was one of the most eminent radicals at the time, and his Swadeshi movement of 1905–1907 resulted in the split within the Indian National Congress into the Moderates and the Extremists.

Tilak tried to convince Mohandas Gandhi to leave the idea of total non-violence (“Total Ahimsa”) and try to achieve self-rule (“Swarajya”) by all means. Although Gandhi did not entirely agree with Tilak on the means to achieve self-rule and was steadfast in his advocacy of satyagraha, he appreciated Tilak’s services to the country and his courage of conviction. After Tilak lost a civil suit against Valentine Chirol and incurred pecuniary loss, Gandhi even called upon Indians to contribute to the Tilak Purse Fund started to defray the expenses incurred by Tilak.

After years of trying to reunite the moderate and radical factions, Tilak gave up and focused on the Home Rule League, which sought self-rule. Tilak travelled from village to village to gather support from farmers and locals to join the movement towards self-rule. He was impressed by the Russian Revolution and expressed his admiration for Vladimir Lenin. He passed away on 1 August 1920.