Posts Tagged ‘British Raj’

Bal Gangadhar Tilak( 1856-1920)

In his day Gokhale was the cool wind of moderation while he supplied the thunder. ‘Swaraj is my birthright etc.,’ has become quotable quote as his philippics caused the youth to take him at his word. Considered as Father of Indian National Movement; Founded “Deccan Education Society” to impart quality education to India’s youth; was a member of the Municipal Council of Pune, Bombay Legislature, and an elected ‘Fellow’ of the Bombay University; formed Home Rule League in 1916 to attain the goal of Swaraj.

He was a strong critic of the Western education system, feeling it demeaned the Indian students and disrespected India’s heritage. Despite being personally opposed to early marriage, Tilak opposed the 1891Age of Consent bill, seeing it as interference with Hinduism and a dangerous precedent. The act raised the age at which a girl could get married from 10 to 12. He believed the precepts from Bhagavad Gita that no blame could be attached to anyone who killed an oppressor without any thought of reward. The manner he set about upholding his religious beliefs still resonate in the manner the way politics is played in Maharashtra. Parochialism has taken over there what with Shiva Sena banning Bihari migrant workers and communal politics that is clear violation of the the spirit of the Union of India still goes on with impunity.
His father Gangadhar Ramachandra Tilak was a Sanskrit scholar and a famous teacher. Tilak was a brilliant student and he was very good in mathematics. In 1877, Bal Gangadhar Tilak got his B.A. degree with a first class in mathematics. The very next year after the Deccan Education Society was founded, Tilak started two weeklies, ‘Kesari’ and ‘Mahratta’. ‘Kesari’ was Marathi weekly while ‘Mahratta’ was English weekly. These were platforms for voicing his concerns, ideals and plan of action for the day.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak joined the Indian National Congress in 1890. Tilak was arrested and sent to prison for his views. He was released in 1898. After his release, he launched Swadeshi Movement. Through newspapers and lectures, Tilak spread the message to each and every village in Maharashtra. A big ‘Swadeshi Market’ was opened in front of Tilak’s house. Meanwhile, Congress was split into two camps-Moderates and Extremists. Extremists led by Bal Gangadhar Tilak opposed the moderate faction led by Gopal Krishna Gokhale who thought that time was not yet ripe but Tilak was for immediate self-rule. This rift finally led to a split in the Congress.

Tilak was once again arrested on the charges of sedition in 1906. After the trial, Tilak was sentenced to six years of imprisonment in Mandalay (Burma). After his release in 1914, Bal Gangadhar Tilak tried to bring the two factions of Congress together. But his efforts did not bear much fruit. In 1916, Tilak founded the ‘Home Rule League’. Bal Gangadhar Tilak died on August 1, 1920. His life was selflessly dedicated to create a nation as of old which was an impossible dream. In a modern India old values of caste in whichever form would not have sat still isolated from rest of the world.
In retro: If intentions were considered as touchstone of a patriot Tilak shall be considered a patriot of purest ray serene. His political life was rooted on the precepts of Hindu epics and his actions however caused many examples which we see these days too often. He advocated killing evil as justified and litlle did he know what it let loose if followed through. Jihadists of the present times would base their heinous crimes on the same principle. On 30 April 1908 two Bengali youths, Prafulla Chaki and Khudiram Bose, threw a bomb on a carriage at Muzzafarpur in order to kill the Chief Presidency Magistrate Douglas Kingsford, but erroneously killed some women travelling in it. Tilak in his paper Kesari defended the revolutionaries. Blame for the saffron terror that target the mosques(Malegaon) today partly owes to Tilak’s extreme views. Tragedy is that Tilak’s patriotic highmindedness in translation speaks jibberish; and this is what resonates among the Indian youth. These saffron clad sangh parivars do not even represent the modern secular India.



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Field Marshall Archibald Wavell(1883-1950)
Viceroy of India

Once he was the guest of Lady Cunrad who asked him, ’What do you think about love, Field Marshall?’
Knowing how tongue tied he could be in company the question especially about love made many who assembled there to perk up their ears. Wavell replied, ’It is like a cigar. If it goes out you can light it again, but it never tastes quite the same.’

Field Marshall Sam Manekshaw(1914-2008)

As a brigade commander, he was once crossing the Sutlej River, which was in spate.
To make things worse the launch developed engine trouble and was moving out of control headlong to a fall. Meanwhile the other officers swam ready to safety. But Manekshaw sat there nonchalantly twirling his moustache, as though he intended to brave it out. Luckily for him help came in time. Leading ashore the staff captain complimented him for his cool. ‘You didn’t even remove your boots!’ he exclaimed.
‘What the hell for?’ replied Manekshaw,’I don’t know how to swim.’

Morarji Desai(1896-1995)
5th Prime Minister

The former Prime Minister of India after his graduation in 1917 applied to join the provincial Civil Service. During the interview he faced three Government secretaries, all Englishmen. Towards the end he was asked how he would feel if he didn’t get the job. ‘Who knows I may get something better,’ Desai told them in his characteristic manner. The post indeed went to someone else but the Board impressed with the candidate created an additional post to accommodate him.
Morarji Desai, the former PM of India for his many faults was a man of very strong principles. His obsession with rectitude was his undoing in the summer of 1969 when Mrs. Indira Gandhi fielded her candidate VV Giri against the official Congress candidate Mr. N. Sanjiv Reddy for the Presidential post. It was open war against the Syndicate: Kamaraj and others wanted to take action against her but Morarji stayed their hand until after the election.
‘You cannot condemn a person until the charge against him or her is proved beyond a shadow of doubt.’
The events showed later that initiative for such niceties of law was taken out of their hands.
Time determines how right is the law as in the case of treason: when the knife of an assassin, say that of Brutus struck at Caesar, law was neutral. Had Brutus subsequently won power there would have been no case against him for treason.

Indira Gandhi(1917-1984)
Prime Minister

While filming Indira Gandhi film maker M.S Sathyu spotted a framed picture of her illustrious grandfather in one corner of her study. In what he thought was an inspired shot the director asked, ‘Madam, will you dust that photograph?’ The Prime Minister obligingly sent for a duster.’ No Madam, your sari end… if you would wipe with it that will show your attachment.’
Mrs. Gandhi cut him short saying, ’don’t be silly! I don’t have attachment with dust.’
In 1971 elections, Congress Party rallied around Indira Gandhi whose slogan’ Garibi Hatao!'(Remove Poverty!). When Indira Gandhi arrived at Arrah, a small Bihar town she was already two hours late. By the time she climbed over to the platform she could sense the restive crowd and she took a sip of water and began her speech. One in the crowd heckled:’Indira Hatao!’
She stopped her speech to say, ‘It is now up to you. Indira hatao or Garibi Hatao.’
With that she walked of the dais leaving the crowd speechless.

Dilip Kumar (1922-)

In one of the Air India flights from Geneva to Mumbai Dilip Kumar was the only passenger besides an elderly gentleman in the first class cabin. Dilip Kumar an household name and one of the reigning film stars was intrigued by his companion who was totally absorbed in his work. It was G.D Birla, the great industrialist who had only seen two films in his life and neither of which featured the matinee idol. It was a sobering thought for him he was more or less a face in the crowd outside the reel life.

Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru(1875-1949)

Once Sapru was arguing a case in the Allahabad High Court before a non-ICS judge with considerable judicial experience. Sapru went on explaining the basis of civil law at length at which the Judge was a bit peeved to observe: Sir Tej, please remember, I am not an ICS judge.’
Pat came the reply,’ I know my Lord. It is a very difficult examination to pass.’
Mohammed Ali Jinnah and he were once appearing in a Hyderabad court in a case, which Koran was quoted. The court asked Jinnah to translation which he could not. Sir Tej offered to translate the quotation for the court. Next day the local newspaper carried the headline,’ Maulana Tej Bahadur translates Koran for Pandit Mohammed Ali Jinnah.’ (Ack.JN Sahni-Illustrated weekly of India, Dec 26,1976)

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