I am glad that the Governnient of India is bringing out this publication containing a full and authentic account of the proceedings of the great historic trial in which Bal Gangadhar Tilak was tried for the offence of sedition at the Third Criminal Sessions of the High Court of Bombay from 13th to 22nd July 1908. This trial ranks in importance second only to the famous trial in which Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, was arraigned for the same charge of sedition in Ahmedabad in 1922 and it is necessary that every Indian citizen and particularly every young Indian should know something about this great trial so that he may feel inspired to dedicate himself to a life of sacrifice and service, as did Lokamanya Tilak. Today, more than ever before, it is vital for our growth and development for our existence and individual survival that our people should sustain them-selves on the inspiration drawn from persons like Lokamanya Tilak who sacrificed their liberty, their property-indeed their very life-to secure free-dom for the country. Unfortunately, what is at present afflicting our society is-crisis of character. All our social, economic and political ills are the result of this crisis of character.
It is only if we improve our character that we can build a strong and united India ready to take its rightful place among the nations of the world. It is because of this lack of character that we seem to be drifting rudderless and directionless. Somehow or other most of the people today seem to be concerned more with themselves, with their own power and position than with the country. Love for the country appears to have van-ished from our hearts. We must recapture the old patriotism by which we were actuated during the days of the freedom struggle and nothing can help us to do this more effectively than recalling the memories of the deeds of the great sons of India. We have in the past produced great intellectuals and spiritual giants. Lokamanya Tilak was one of the bravest and the best amongst them. It was Lokamanya Tilak who gave the clarion call that Swarajya is my birthright, I will have it. He epitomised all that is best in Indian culture and he fought for the freedom of the country with rare courage and determination. His fiery writings in Kesari invited the wrath of the British Government and he was tried for sedition in 1897. Mr. Justice Strachey of the Bombay High Court found him guilty and sentenced him to 18 months' imprisonment.
But, this imprisonment could not stifle his indomitable spirit and undaunted he went on writing in Kesari. The articles written by him in Kesari in May and June 1908 again brought him in conflict with the Government and he was tried before Mr. Justice Dawar in the Bombay High Court in 1908. This is the historic trial of which the proceedings are now being placed for the first time since independence before the people through this publication. The Jury by a majority of 7 against 2 returned a verdict of guilty. It is interesting to note that all the jurors who returned a verdict of 'guilty' were Europeans while both the jurors who returned a verdict of 'not guilty' were Indians. On being asked by the Judge whether he had anything to say, Lokamanya Tilak uttered these memorable words: "All that I wish to say is that, in spite of the verdict of the jury, I maintain that I am innocent. There are higher Powers that rule the destiny of things and it may be the will of Providence that the cause which I represent may prosper more by my suffering than by my remaining free." The learned Judge sentenced Lokamanya Tilak to six years' transportation and a fine of Rs. 1000/-. It is an interesting parallel that 13 years later Mahatma Gandhi was also tried for the offence of sedition. He too, when asked by the Judge if he wished to make a statement before receiving the sentence, made a statement which ranks as one of the finest pieces of English literature and which eloquently gave expression to his intense patriotic fer-vour, his firm and resolute determination to fight the British rule and his all-consuming passion to free his people from the exploitation to which they were subjected by the British regime. The only difference was that whereas Judge Broomfield who tried Mahatma Gandhi showed great respect to the accused before him, almost bordering on veneration, while Justice Dawar who tried Lokamanya Tilak went on to make observations which were illtimed and intemperate, entirely lacking in judicial restraint and dignity.
The words uttered by Lokamanya Tilak, when called upon to make a statement at the end of the trial lingered in the memory of his people and about 50 years later, after India became independent, these words were inscribed in a marble tablet fixed outside the Central Court room in the Bombay High Court where he was tried. Chief Justice Chagla while unveiling the tablet made a memorable speech, of which I will quote only a few excerpts: "There is no honour and no distinction which I have valued more than the privilege of being able to unveil the tablet to Lokamanya Tilak's memory this morning. In this very room on two occasions within the space of 12 years, Lokamanya Tilak sat in the dock as an accused; and on two occasions he was convicted and sentenced to a term of imprisonment. We have met here today to make atonement for the suffering that was caused by these convictions to a great and distinguished son of India. That disgrace tarnished our record and we are here to remove that tarnish and that disgrace. It may be said that those convictions were a technical compliance with justice; but we are here emphatically to state that they were a flagrant denial of substantial justice. He was sentenced for the crime of patriotism. He was sentenced because he loved his country more than his life or his liberty."
The conviction in this trial as much as the conviction in the earlier one, was intended to suppress the voice of freedom and patriotism. But it failed in its object, for the spirit of man can never be vanquished. No amount of incarceration can conquer the indomitable spirit of man. Lokamanya Tilak continued to fight for the freedom of his country until 1st August 1920 when he passed away, leaving a flame behind him, a flame which was carried forward by Mahatma Gandhi, a flame which grew larger and larger, bigger and bigger, fuelled by the sacrifices of millions of patriotic sons and daughters of India, until it consumed and reduced to ashes the vestiges of the British Rule in India.
I have no doubt that the proceedings of this historic trial of Lokamanya Tilak will continue to inspire young men and women of this country for years to come. Today, we need this inspiration most because the country is passing through difficult times and more than ever before, it needs complete surrender and sacrifice from all of us, if it is to survive, march forward into an era of peace and prosperity and once again rise to that pinnacle of glory which it was once its undoubted privilege to occupy.
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