M. N. Roy Jawaharlal Nehru

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9 Kesari, January 21, 1904. 10 N. C. Kelkar : Landmarks in Lokmanya's Life, p. 10.

But Tilak also realized that mere philosophical disputation was not enough for the re-awakening of India, but it required change in the hearts of people and not, as reformers believed, change in the forms of institutions. As an editor who had always dedicated himself to popular education, he first reached the people. As his chief colleague, N. C. Kelkar, wrote : "Through his paper, the Kesari, he exercised an immense influence over the masses, and it is this influ­ence that is mainly responsible for the infusion of a new spirit among the people."10 He was a sincere, forceful speaker, and he taught from both the class-room and the public platform his new message of awakening India. Perhaps, the most effective way in which he reached the people was through the employment of national festivals. He was instrumental in popularizing two great festivals, one for Ganapati, the Hindu deity of learning and propitiousness, and the other to revive the memory and glory of Shivaji, the liberator of Maharashtra, and the restorer of Swaraj through his battle with the Mogul Empire. He especially emphasized the dynamic spirit of Shivaji. He wrote : "It is the 'spirit' which actuated Shivaji in his doings that is held forth as the proper ideal to be kept constantly in view of the rising generation." To keep this spirit in constant view,


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  1. Tilak worked ceaselessly to reach the people and to educate them through the festivals. Throughout Maharashtra, he carried his doctrine, he waged his battle. Education through religion and history, through the association in the popular mind with gods and heroes, through recreating an appreciation of the heritage of the past as a guide to the future—this was the way he conducted his battle. I.e soon became the first articulate spokesman for the no-longer silent, tradition-directed masses of India. He became the defender and the awakener of India's philosophy of life.

  2. His Messages of Action and Unity

  3. He taught first the dharma of action. This philosophy of action he drew from the Gita. He reminded the people that India had not become a great nation through negativism and indolence, but rather through a dynamic willingness to meet the problems of the day and to solve them morally. This was the greatest need of the present day. He often said such things as, "No one can expect the Providence to protect one who sits with folded arms and throws his burden on others. God does not help the indolent. You must be doing all that you can to lift yourself up, and then only you may rely on the Almighty to help you."'1

  4. Along with the dharma of action, Tilak taught the dharma of unity to the people of India. The unity of India, the unity of the Indian civilization, is the Bharat-dharma, the spiritually-based and spiritualty-dedicated way of life. The spirit of orthodoxy had done injustice to that way of life. It had compartmented society, it had placed men in segregated and exclusive caste communities that were inimical to the feeling of common heritage and common cause. The true spirit of the Vamashrama-dharma was harmony and co-operation and unity, and this spirit Tilak sought to reawaken through religious education. He wrote: "It is possible to unite thefollowers of Hinduism by the revival and growth of the Hindu religion," for "the Hindu religion does not lie in caste, eating and drinking."

    1. 11 B.G. Tilak : His Writings and Speeches, p. 277.

    The Ganapati and Shivaji festivals served the purpose of bring­ing people together. People who worship a common deity, people who recognize a common historical tradition will, in his mind, be able to stand together, to overcome the disunity of social form and to work together for the common good. Tilak envisioned a unity of all the people of India, united among themselves and united with their traditions, united to nee the future by the common ideals they held. In this way, through common, united effort, social evils could be corrected by the people themselves, and, moreover, the spirit of national revival, the restoration of national self-respect, essential for gaining self-rule, depended upon the restoration of national unity and mutual respect.

  1. Thus, through his messages of action and unity and as editor of the Kesari and The Mahratta, Tilak became the acknowledged 'awake-ner of India'. As editor of his newspapers, he also became active in political affairs. After he left the Deccan Education Society in 1889, he joined the Indian National CongTess hoping that it would be instrumental in further uniting the nation and in securing the politi­cal reforms. He held a post in the Congress as early as 1892, as Secretary of the Bombay Provincial Conference. At the same time, he actively participated in public affairs, holding public offices on several occasions. In 1894, he was elected a Fellow of Bombay University, and next year he held a post in the Poona Municipality. For two years he was a member of the Bombay Legislative Council, but he called the completely circumscribed powers and the work of this body a 'huge joke'. He did not seek public office because he desired a political or governmental career but rather because it was one means among several which he chose to utilize to further the causes in which he strongly believed. But he soon realized that holding public office was one of the least effective ways of promoting his ends, and, more important, he soon realized, public office under the alien raj was self-defeating. About this time he also began to be­come disillusioned with the programme and policies of the Moderate-dominated Congress. His fighting spirit was antagonized by the pre­dominant Congress attitude of pleading for reform and passing mild resolutions of protest against the abuses of the administration. The Congress was not coming to grips with the real problems of the people. In 1896, he publicly announced his disagreement with the policies of the Congress in writing : "For the last twelve years we have been shouting hoarse, desiring that the government should hear us. But our shouting has no more affected the government than the sound of a gnat. Our rulers disbelieve our statements or profess to do so. Let us now try to force our grievances into their ears by strong cons­titutional means. We must give the best political education possible to the ignorant villagers. We must meet them on terms of equality, teach them their rights and show how to fight constitutionally. Then only will the government realize that to despise the Congress is to despise the Indian Nation. Then only will the efforts of the Cong­ress leaders be crowned with success. Such a work will require a large body of able and single-minded workers, to whom politics would not mean some holiday recreation but everyday duty to be performed with the strictest regularity and utmost capacity."1'

    1. 12 Kesari, January 12, 1896,

    As he had relied on democratic social action through religious education, Tilak now relied on political education to rally the people behind the cause of political reform. He, therefore, began, through the pages of the Kesari and through an organization of volunteer famine relief workers, to inform the poverty-stricken peasants of their


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  1. legal rights. He urged the people to protest against governmental inaction. He sent out volunteers to collect detailed information on the devastation in rural areas which he then forwarded to the govern­ment to support his case. He printed and distributed a leaflet ex­plaining the provisions of the Famine Relief Code to the people and urged them to take their case to the government. His efforts in­formed and aroused the people and alienated the bureaucracy. On the heels of the famine, Poona was stricken by an epidemic of plague. The city panicked. Tragically, many of the educated, many of the leading social reformers fled from the city ; Tilak did not. He offer­ed his services to the government and went through the plague-infested districts of the city with the Government Sanitation Teams. He opened and managed a hospital for plague victims when govern­ment facilities proved inadequate. He established a free kitchen, and did everything within his power to alleviate the tragic condition of the people. If social reform meant anything, it meant tireless work on behalf of the people in the time of their greatest need. His famine and plague work marked Tilak as the greatest social reformer and national hero of the country. He was acclaimed 'the Lok-manya', the honoured and respected of the people.

  2. The British bureaucracy and the Anglo-Indian Press recognized that Tilak was an emerging leader of the people and of a new spirit in India. Those who lacked foresight began to fear him. When, in the tense atmosphere of famine and plague-racked Poona, a young man assassinated Rand, the British official in charge of piague relief, many of those who feared him were quick to blame Tilak for tl. death, although he nad no knowledge of the incident. Nevertheless, he was convicted and sentenced to two years' imprisonment. This was not to be Tilak's last imprisonment. For two decades he was persecuted by the British Indian Government, because they saw in him the greatest challenge to their rule over the Indian Empire.

  3. Swaraj and Swadharma

  4. TiJak was not an ordinary raan who could be cowed down by such threats and persecutions. He remained undaunted throughout. He had fought against injustice, he had argued against the placating policies of the Moderates, and he now began to put forward a posi­tive political programme centred round the concept of Swaraj, self-rule for India. As early as 1895, he had begun to preach the neces­sity for Swaraj. He came to realize that self-rule must precede meaningful social reform, that the only enduring basis for national Unity and national self-respect must be national self-rule. In 1895, he had reminded the people that Shivaji had recreated Swaraj as the necessary foundation of social and political freedom and progress and morality. His historical and philosophic frame of reference is clearly set out in his writing : "One who is a wee bit introduced to history knows what is Swaraj (people's own government) and Swadharma


  6. (people's own religion), knows the extraordinary qualities that are needed for the founder to establish Swaraj and Swadharma when both of them are in a state of ruin for hundreds of years, knows the valour, courage, guts and Drains of Shivaji Maharaj.by the dint of which he saved the whole nation from bitter ruin."1'

  7. His insistence on Swaraj was completely consistent with his personal, social and political philosophy. He approached all issues as a realist. He had the example of his own Maharashtrian history and the categorical imperative of bis nation's philosophy. As Auro­bindo Ghosh has written : "To found the greatness of the future on the greatness of the past, to* infuse Indian politics with Indian reli­gious fervour and spirituality, are the indispensable conditions for a great and powerful political awakening in India. Others—writers, thinkers, spiritual leaders—had seen this truth. Mr. Tilak was the first to bring it into the actual field of practical politics."1'

  8. Tilak examined the political problems of his day in the light of 'the gods-given Inspiration' of India's civilization. And with the urgency of the situation arising out of the partition of Bengal and the need for an effective programme of political action, he joined the group of the Nationalists and presented a programme and a line of action to the nation.

  9. His Threefold Programme for Political Action

  10. The Nationalists initiated mass political education in terms under­standable to the people. Tilak sounded the key-note in saying: "To spread our dharma in our people is one of the aspects of the national form of our religion," because, in his opinion, "Politics cannot be separated from religion." Exactly the same opinion was expressed later on by Mahatma Gandhi. The reason for political education and political action was not merely the injustice of foreign rule, not merely the arbitrary partitioning of Bengal. Self-rule was a moral necessity, t&e achievement of self-rule was the dharma of all self-resptvting men. As he later wrote in the Glta-Rahasya : "The blessed Lord had to show the importance and the necessity of per­forming at all costs the duties enjoined by one's dharma while life lasts." And, for Tilak and the Nationalists, "Swaraj is our dharma.'* Political action would alone accomplish the national dharma. In order that India solve her own destiny, the first essential, as in the case of the awakening of India, was the call for action, for a new spirit of courage and self-sacrifice. Only a pride in history and the values of India's own civilization could inspire men to the task ahead. Tilak movingly wrote: "To succeed in any business with full self-control and determination in spite of our valour does not generally happen

  1. Kesari, July 2, 1893.

  2. A. Ghosh, in Indrodoctory Appreciation to Bat Gangadhar Tilak: Hut Writings and Speeches, p. 7.


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  1. unless a nrm conviction is engendered in our minds that we are doing good work and God is helping us and that the religious instinct and the blessings of saints are at our back."1' It was with this firm conviction that Tilak and the Nationalists set out to arouse the nation to political action for the creation of its own destiny.

  2. Tilak and the Nationalists presented the nation with a three­fold programme for effective, practical, political action. The three principles were boycott, swadeshi and national education. Originally, they were designed for use in Bengal, as the most effective way to bring the British administrators to their senses over the issue of partition. But it was soon decided, however, that the entire nation could well co-operate with Bengal in following this threefold pro­gramme and thus increase tremendously the pressure on the British. And it was further taught that the great wrong, the significant evil, was not atone that an alien raj had partitioned the province of Bengal, but actually that Bengal was only a symbol, that an alien raj ruled autocratically over the whole nation of India, and that it was to alleviate this wrong that the programme was to be employed.

  3. Boycott initially involved the refusal of the people to purchase British-manufactured goods. It was started as a measure designed to bring economic pressure on the British business interests both in India and abroad. If British business could be moved, then business could be counted on to move the British Raj. But soon the boycott move­ment took on far more significant aspects than merely economic pressure. The Nationalists saw that the whole superstructure of the British Indian administration, that the British system of rule over India, was based upon the willing, or at least unthinking, co-operation of the Indian people. Tilak was one of the first to discern this, and he realized that boycott could be expanded to the point of jeopardi­zing the foundation of the whole British administrative machinery in India. In a speech at Poona, as early as 1902, he urged : "You must realize that you are a great factor in the power with which the administration in India is conducted. You are yourselves the useful lubricants which enable the gigantic machinery to work so smoothly. Though down-trodden and neglected, you must be conscious of your power of making the administration impossible if you but choose to make it so. It is you who manage the rail-road and the telegraph, rt is you who make settlements and collect revenues, it is in fact you who do everything for the administration though in a subordinate capacity. You must consider whether you cannot turn your hand to better use for your nation than drudging on in this fashion."

  4. Boycott gradually moved from the economic into the political sphere ; it moved from the arena of Bengal to all India. Boycott as an all-India political weapon was the first principle of the pro--

  5. 15 Gleanings from Tilak's Writings and Speeches, p. 121.

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  1. gramme of Tilak and the Nationalist leaders, Boycott foreshadowed non-cooperation.

  2. Swadeshi initially began as a primary economic counterpart to the programme of economic boycott. Swadeshi meant self-help, to rely upon Indian-made goods rather than to patronize the retail outlets of the manufactured produce of Birmingham and Manchester. Beginning in Bengal, bonfires of European clothing lit the night sky, and the people turned to local Indian production of swadeshi goods. Swadeshi was the first great impetus to industrial development in India. Local Indian production was given the stimulus for its natural growth. But like boycott, swadeshi soon came to mean a great deal more than simple economic self-sufficiency. If there could be self-help in the economic sphere, tben there most certainly could be self-help in all spheres of life. The dharma of action had taught self-respect and self-reliance, and swadeshi extended self-reliance to self-help in all things. Swadeshi was a tangible way in which to demonstrate the new spirit Tilak and the Nationalists had been teaching the people.

  3. The Swadeshi Movement quickly became a movement of national regeneration. Swadeshi was a practical application of love of country. As Tilak said : "To recognize the land of the Aryas as motherearth is the Swadeshi Movement."' It was an economic, political and spiritual weapon. Swadeshi was Bande Mataram in action.

  4. The third element in the threefold programme for effective poli­tical action was national education. Tilak had long before realized that the Western education started by Lord Macaulay and pursued in all the Government-supported schools was ruinous to the future health and well-being of the nation. The younger generations are being educated away from not only their families and the-great majority of the Indian people, but also away from the value system of India's civilization. Government-supported Western education uprooted the youths from their ties to the past and made them Indians-in-name only. Hence such a system of Western education was repulsive to Tilak and the Nationalists. They pleaded for the establishment of national schools and colleges throughout the country to provide inexpensive and wholesome education emphasizing the new spirit of self-help and self-reliance which young people could not expect to receive in the Government-supported institutions. And the national education became an integral part of the Nationalist programme for the India of the twentieth century.

  5. This threefold programme of boycott, Swadeshi and national education was presented to the country by Tilak and the Nationalists and was also presented to the Indian National Congress for its approval and adoption. The programme began primarily as an economic weapon, but quickly its political importance was realized and became predominant. The impetus behind the programme was initially a reaction to the British partitioning of Bengal, but it soon


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  1. developed an all-India momentum. The first reason for its use was to cause the government to reunify Bengal, but it soon became a

  2. ?rogramme for national reawakening and national liberation—Swaraj. bus, an economic programme became a political programme ; a locally-centred agitation became a national issue ; the cause of alter­ing a specific British policy evolved into the cause of gaining India's self-determination.

  3. Swaraj as People's Rule

  4. Swaraj became the reason and justification for the entire pro­gramme and movement led by Tilak and the Nationalists. Tilak realized that Swaraj, the goal of all efforts, was a moral national necessity. He held that the attainment of Swaraj would be a great victory for Indian nationalism. He gave to Indians the mantra : "Swaraj is the birth-right of Indians" (at the Lucknow Congress of 1916). He defined Swaraj as 'people's rule instead of that of bureau­cracy'. This was the essence of Tilak's argument with the social reformers when they sought to have the British Government legislate and enforce social reform measures. Tilak held that unless the people supported the reforms, in effect, unless the people exercised self-rule to legislate and enforce the reforms, the reforms were not only meaningless but also undemocratic and without moral significance. And for pushing his ideal of Swaraj forward, he started Home Rule Leagues in 1916 with die co-operation of Mrs. Annie Besant, which soon became so popular that the Government had to adopt severe repressive measures. But he went on undeterred with the propaganda of Howe Rule throughout the country. He also intented that a bill should be introduced in the British Parliament for Indian Home Rule, by the good offices of the Labour leaders, although he could not be successful in doing so. However, the fact that Tilak began his Home Rule agitation fn the year 1916 is an elo­quent testimony to his keen perception of political realities.

  5. Tilak contemplated a federal type of political structure under Swaraj. He referred to the example of the American Congress and said that the Government of India should keep in its hands similar powers to exercise them through an impartial council. Although in his speeches and writings, Tilak mostly stated that Swaraj did not imply the negation and severance of ultimate British sovereignty, we have every reason to believe that in his heart of hearts he always wanted complete independence. He once said that "there could be no such thing as partial Swaraj." Self-rule under Dharmarajya either existed fully or did not exist at all. Partial Swaraj was a contradic­tion m terms. Only the Westernized few who could not understand this could talk in such contradictory terms, could agree to settle for administrative reforms, could not see that "Swaraj is India's birth­right." Through Swaraj, the revolutionary change in the theory of government, and through Swaraj alone, could the destiny of India be


  7. fulfilled. This is Tilak's real meaning when he wrote ; "Swaraj is our dharma" Before the people of the nation he set this goal. Next, he set about to make it a political reality, to implement the pro­gramme to bring about the goal.

  8. Non-Violent Passive Resistance

  9. For the correct implementation of his programme, Tilak urged the method of non-violent passive resistance. Here it must be made clear that many foreign critics regard Tilak as a revolutionary. Chirol,1* John S. Hoyland" and several others think that Tilak believed in armed revolution, that he was responsible for many poli­tical murders and that his speeches and articles contained 'a covert threat of mutiny.' But it is not true. Undoubtedly, he supported the action of Shivaji in killing Afzal Khan. He appreciated the daring and skill of Cbafekar, as also the patriotic fervour of the Bengal revolutionaries. But as a moralist he put the highest premium on the purification of intentions. The external action could never be regarded as the criterion of moral worth. Hence if Arjuna or Shivaji or any other ardent patriot did commit or would commit some violent action, being impelled by higher altruistic motives, Tilak would not condemn such persons. But in spite of his metaphysical defence of altruistic violence, Tilak never preached political murder ; nor did he ever incite anybody to commit murder as a political means. A realist in politics though he was, he never taught the omnicompetence of force as Machiavelli or Treitschke did. His realism taught him to act in the political universe in such a way, so that his opponents could not take advantage of him. Only by passive resistance and democratic means, he taught, could the united action of the people prove powerful enough to bring; about the non­violent revolution that was Swaraj. Boycott and Swadeshi were, in effect, the precursors of the later non-cooperation movement The passive resistance taught by him and the Nationalists was the pre­cursor to non violent civil disobedience. Tilak dearly foresaw that violence would be wasteful, and that H would ultimately be ineffec­tual. Being a realist, he recognized that "the military strength of the Government is enormous and a single machine-gun showering hundreds of bullets per minute will quite suffice for our largest public meetings."1* Action must be direct, but, realistically apprais­ing the power of the Government, he urged that it be passive as well. He continually taught: "As our fight is going to be constitutional and legal, our death also must, as of necessity, be constitutional and legal. We have not to use any violence."1
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