Friday, October 26, 2007

Maharashtra's Role in the Freedom Movement

The first session of the Indian National Congress was held in Maharashtra (Mumbai) in 1885. Justice Ranade provided a theoretical base for the national movement by advocating liberalism and starting several institutions for moulding public opinion on social, economic and political problems. Dadabhoy Naoroji, Pherozshah Mehta and Dinshaw Wachha, prominent Parsis of Mumbai, were leaders of the Indian National Congress. Two outstanding national leaders of Maharashtra between 1890-1920 were Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856-1920) and Gopal Krishna Gokhale (1866-1915). Tilak drew the masses into national politics through his community festivals in praise of Shivaji and Ganesh. He condemned the moderates' policy of 'mendicancy' and declared that Swaraj was his birthright. He was called the "father of political unrest in India." Gokhale, the true disciple of Justice Ranade, and essentially a leader of the elite adopted the policy of conciliation and compromise.

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the founder of the Abhinav Bharat Society became the idol of the youth. Mahatma Gandhi, who regarded Gokhale as his guru, and considered Maharashtra the beehive of constructive workers, received support from Maharashtra in his various movements and programmes. It was during this period that the non-Brahman element, under leadership of Keshavrao Jedhe, was brought within the fold of the Congress, mainly through the persuasive efforts of Kakasaheb Gadgil.

The ultimatum to the British to "Quit India" was given in Mumbai, and culminated in the transfer of power and the independence of India in 1947. Raosaheb and Achutrao Patwardhan, Nanasaheb Gore, SM Joshi, Yeshwantrao Chavan, Vasantdada Patil and several others played a prominent role in this struggle. BG Kher was the first Chief Minister of the tri-lingual Bombay Presidency.

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