Tilak in Jail and The Swadeshi Movement of Bal Gangadhar Tilak

The Biography of Famous Personalities of India will tell you about the controversies, the dark sides of a person that you may have never heard of.

Tilak in Jail and The Swadeshi Movement of Bal Gangadhar Tilak

Tilak in Jail

“ All I wish to say is that in spite of the verdict of the jury, I maintain my innocence. There are higher powers that rule the destiny of men and nations. It may be the will of Providence that the cause I represent may prosper by suffering than by remaining free” – Bal Gangadhar Tilak

The then British Government did not do anything to improve the condition of cells in the jails. The dark cell measured just 13 square feet, and the prisoner could not even turn from one side to another. The prisoners had a miserable life there.

The bugs in the bed sucked the prisoners’ blood as if to prevent the mosquitoes from flying away with the prisoner. Officers whipped the prisoners and mercilessly set them to work. In short, it was just like a hell on the earth.

Tilak made rope and mats from coir and his fingers got blisters. The fingers that wrote ‘Orion’, which won praise from great scholars like Max Mueller, were made to do dreadful tasks, which made them, bleed. Tilak lost 30 pounds of weight in just four months. In the little leisure that he had, he would read and write. His book ‘The Arctic Home in the Vedas’ written in the jail, is a priceless work.

After reading his writings, scholars and statesmen – from all over the world appealed to the government to release Tilak. The government insisted on two conditions to release him: he should not attend any reception arranged in his honour and he should not criticise the government. Tilak was ready to accept the first condition, as he did not desire anything for himself.

But he would rather live as an outlaw in the Andamans than live as a coward in Maharashtra, admitting that he had done something wrong when he had not done so. So, he rejected the second condition. Finally the government reduced his sentence from one and a half years to a year.

In 1898, at Deepawali, Tilak was released from jail. The joy of the people was beyond words. People were rejoiced and rushed to have ‘darshan’ of Tilak. He was 1 taken in a procession through the main streets of Pune. Everybody shed tears of joy.

From a regional leader, now Tilak became a national leader. Every Indian’s heart was filled with reverence for Tilak. His sufferings in the jail had made him very ^ weak. His eyes were sunken and the bones in the cheeks protruded. But after his release, in a few days his health improved.

Tilak And The Swadeshi Movement

Just after his release, the ‘Swadeshi’ movement grew intense. This was a movement for boycott of goods made in other countries. Gokhale, Ranade, Paranjape and others had shown the importance of the swadeshi principle.

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. Swadeshi goods were sold in the fifty odd stalls in the market.

The British Government used the raw materials from India to run their factories in England and sold the finished products to India, a system that kept India an ever dependent country. Self-employing industries of India like spinning, weaving, glass making, sugar, dyeing, paper making were destroyed. People became helpless for no fault of theirs to help an empire become richer and stronger.

Tilak preached four mantras to awaken the sleeping Indians. The mantras were:

  1. Boycott of foreign goods
  2. National Education
  3. Self Government
  4. Swadeshi or self reliance.

He realized that mere protest against British rule was not going to help and insisted on native production and reliance.

The voice of people trying for Swadeshi was heard everywhere. All the people, including women and children had lost fear from their mind. They threw out all the foreign goods available in their home. Foreign clothes were reduced to ashes. Foreign sugar was thrown away and local jaggery was used. Swadeshi cotton mills, paper mills and factories to manufacture goods were started. People were now content with the indigenous materials.

During this period, an incident took place at the college. The students of Rajaram College, Kolhapur, were to take an examination. They tore the blank books given to them, saying they would not use foreign-made paper. These students were given six lashes each as punishment. And they pleaded that they should be beaten only with a local made cane.

It is interesting to note that, fourteen years later Mahatma Gandhi started the non-cooperation movement against the British. The methods he placed before the people, Tilak had formulated as early as in 1906.

During the Swadeshi movement, the Government of India and some British newspapers harassed Tilak in many ways. A rich man, Baba Maharaj by name, had died. He had expressed the wish in his will that Tilak should look after his property. He was, in fact, bound to look after the property, without any personal question.

So, Tilak took charge of it. Baba Maharaj’s wife was misled by some selfish persons. She complained against Tilak to the government. The government was waiting for an opportunity. The government arrested Tilak and sent him to the prison.