Role of Moderates and Extremists in Indian Freedom Struggle

Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Indian National Congress

Part Two: "Moderates" versus "Extremists" in the battle for "Swaraj" and "Swadeshi" Even as loyalist pressures cast a long shadow on political currents that were to influence the Indian elite of the late nineteenth century, rapidly deteriorating economic conditions also led to a heightened degree of radicalization amongst the most advanced sections of the new Indian intelligentsia. Ajit Singh in Punjab, Bal Gangadhar Tilak in Maharashtra, Chidambaram Pillay in Tamil Nadu and Bipin Chandra Pal in Bengal formed the nucleus of a new nationalist movement that tried valiantly, but mostly unsuccessfully to move the conservative leadership of the Indian National Congress in a more radical direction. Most charismatic amongst the new national leaders was Bal Gangadhar Tilak (b. 1856, d. 1920).

Portrayed as anti-Muslim by the Muslim-League, maligned by India's colonial rulers and British loyalists as an "extremist", and misrepresented as a sectarian Hindu revivalist by some historians, Tilak was in fact, one of the leading lights of the Indian freedom movement. Best remembered for his slogan "Swaraj is my birth-right ", he was one of the first to call for complete freedom from British rule, and fought a long and sometimes lonely political struggle against the forces of "moderation" that held sway over the Indian National Congress in the early part of the last century. After the defeat of 1858, one of the most significant challenges to British imperial authority in India had appeared in the form of Vasudeo Balvant Phadke's revolt of 1879, and amongst his many youthful followers and trainees in Pune was the young Tilak. Along with Chiplunkar, Agarkar and Namjoshi, Tilak initially concentrated on launching a nationalist weekly - the Kesari (1881), the publishing house - Kitabkhana, and developing Indian educational institutions such as the Deccan Education Society (1884). Tilak and his friends saw the right kind of education as being a crucial element in the task of...
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