Introduction:  

Bal Gangadhar Tilak, one of the earliest leaders of independence movement, gave the slogan  ‘Freedom is my birth right’ .He along with two other leaders  Bipin Chand Pal and Lala Lajpat Rai  formed the trio  popularly known as Bal, Pal and Lal. The British called him “ Father of Indian unrest”. . 

Early life and career

He was born on  23rd July 1956 in Ratnagiri (Maharashtra). Tilak graduated in first class in the year 1877 and passed law in 1879.. He started his career as a teacher. He taught mathematics. He was also a journalist. He mixed religion with politics.  According to him: "Religion and practical life are not different. To take Sanyasa (renunciation) is not to abandon life. The real spirit is to make the country your family work together instead of working only for your own. The step beyond is to serve humanity and the next step is to serve God."  He organized the Deccan Education Society His emphasis was on  nationalist ideas and Indian culture. . 

Political role 

He was a leading Freedom fighter before Mahatama Gandhi appeared on the national horizon. His contemporary Bal Krishna was a moderate leader  He was considered radical. He was  imprisoned on  numerous occasions. The experience in Mandalay Jail  considerably moderated him. . This moderation and softening of stand led to joining Jinnah and Annie Besant along with whom he formed Home Tule League. He joined Indian National Congress in 1890

Irrational opposition to even reforms  

His radicalism and blind opposition to British administration often resulted in very ridiculous position. He would oppose British even when he agreed with their motive. He did not favour the 1891  Age of Consent Bill that he dubbed as interference with Hinduism  The age of marriage of a girl was  raised from 10 to 12 years. Tilak would not support the British government even in a laudable reform like raising age of girl’s marriage. Again he did not like strict measures by British government to deal with the wide spread plague. Tilak opposed even the measures taken for public benefit. He wrote inflammatory articles in Kesari.  He quoted Bhagwad Gita to justify killing of oppressor. In the backdrop of murder of some British officers, Tilak was charged with incitement to murder and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. The imprisonment raised his image as a martyr and a national hero. He adopted a new slogan ‘Swaraj’ (self rule) is my birthright and I shall have it."

Social, literary and religious contribution 

Tilak said, "I regard India as my Motherland and my Goddess, the people in India are my kith and kin, and loyal and steadfast work for their political and social emancipation is my highest religion and duty".   He is also known for his book “Gita Rahasya’ that he wrote in Mandalay prison. 

He ran two weeklies- Kesari in Marathi and Mahratta in English. His editorial contributions gave him recognition as 'awakener of India'. The weekly Kesari later became a daily and continues even today. His another contribution is .Ganesh worship as a grand event. Even now Ganesh Puja (worship) is celebrated every tear. He would use such events for patronizing swadeshi movement, glorifying Hindu/ national culture and raising political issues. He also founded ‘Shri Shivaji Fund Committee for celebrating ‘Shiva jayanti’. His deliberate act of mixing independence  movement with religion also caused Hindi Muslim differences.  His reverence for Shivaji has been taken up by Hindu political organization Shiva Sena.

Conclusion 

To conclude, role or Tilak in awakening the nation against foreign rule can hardly be over stated.  In fact, the credit for complete independence movement largely goes to him. The earlier leaders were content with getting more autonomy and better conditions for Indian officers and employees under British government. They would be satisfied with just dominion status. His slogan- Freedom is my birth right- brought a sea change in Indian independence movement. However, mixing freedom movement with religion had some side effects. The non Hindu nationals of India were skeptical of the movement.  The activities like Ganesh Pooja and Shivaji jayanti alienated the minorities and thus to some extent weakened national unity so essential for genuine freedom movement. In this connection, we may contrast Tilak with Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose. The revolutionary movement of Bhagat Singh and the overseas military operation by Subhash Chandra Bose were genuinely secular without any communal or religious colour. 


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