Question: Lokmanya Tilak is often regarded as the ‘Father of Indian Unrest.’ Elaborate on this statement, highlighting his role in shaping the extremist phase of the Indian National Congress. (150 words)
Tilak was born on July 23, 1856. A lawyer, scholar, and journalist (he ran the newspaper Kesari in Marathi and Maratha in English), Tilak joined the Indian National Congress in 1890. Initially, his stance was not very different from that of the Congress, of demanding reforms and more rights for Indians, but not necessarily a total revolution. The title “Father of Indian Unrest” is attributed to him because of his radical ideas and his advocacy for more assertive and militant methods in the struggle for independence from British colonial rule.
- Advocacy of Swaraj (Self-Rule): Lokmanya Tilak firmly believed in the concept of “Swaraj” or self-rule for India. He emphasized the importance of Indians governing themselves and viewed it as the ultimate goal of the freedom movement. Tilak’s unwavering commitment to Swaraj influenced the ideology of the extremist faction within the Congress.
- Emphasis on Mass Mobilization: He actively encouraged and mobilized the common people, especially in Maharashtra, to participate in nationalist activities and take an active interest in their country’s political affairs.
- Promotion of Indigenous Culture: Tilak believed that India’s rich cultural heritage and traditions could be a unifying force in the struggle for independence. He popularized Ganesh Chaturthi and Shivaji Jayanti celebrations as occasions to foster a sense of national identity and pride.
- Formation of Home Rule League: In 1916, Tilak, along with Annie Besant, founded the All India Home Rule League with the aim of attaining self-government within the British Empire. This move marked a more assertive and radical phase in the Congress’ demand for freedom.
- Support for Boycott and Swadeshi: Lokmanya Tilak endorsed the Swadeshi movement, encouraging the use of Indian-made products and boycotting British goods. He believed that economic self-sufficiency was crucial to gaining political independence.
- Journalism and Public Discourse: Tilak was an influential journalist and used his newspapers, Kesari (Marathi) and Maratha (English), as platforms to spread nationalist ideas and rally public support for the freedom movement. His editorials inspired and energized countless Indians to join the cause.
- Influence on Later Leaders: Tilak’s radical ideas and assertive methods left a lasting impact on future leaders of the Indian freedom struggle, including Subhas Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh, who embraced more militant approaches to achieve independence.
Lokmanya Tilak’s role in shaping the extremist phase of the Indian National Congress was pivotal. His strong advocacy for Swaraj, emphasis on mass mobilization, promotion of indigenous culture, and involvement in the formation of the Home Rule League, among other factors, significantly influenced the course of the freedom movement. His radical ideas and methods left a lasting impact on the Indian nationalist movement and helped pave the way for a more assertive and militant approach in the fight for independence.