'Freedom is my birthright'
(Father of Indian Unrest Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak was born on July 23, 1856. To commemorate the birth anniversary, here is the text of a speech delivered by him at Nashik in 1917.)
I am young in spirit though old in body. I do not wish to lose this privilege of youth. To deny the growing capacity to my thinking power is to admit that I have no right to speak on this resolution. Whatever I am going to speak today is eternally young. The body might grow old, decrepit and it might perish, but the soul is immortal. Similarly, if there might be an apparent lull in our Home Rule activities, the freedom of the spirit behind it is eternal and indestructible, and it will secure liberty for us.
The Soul means Parameshwar and the mind will not get peace till it gets identified with Him. If one body is worn out the soul will take another: so assures the Gita. This philosophy is quite old. Freedom is my birthright. So long as it is awake within me, I am not old. No weapon can cut this spirit, no fire can burn it, no water can wet it, no wind can dry it. I say further that no CID can burn it. I declare the same principle to the Superintendent of Police who is sitting before me, to the Collector who had been invited to attend this meeting and to the Government shorthand writer who is busy taking down notes of our speeches.
This principle will not disappear even if it seems to be killed. We ask for Home Rule and we must get it. The Science which ends in Home Rule is the Science of Politics and not the one which ends in slavery. The Science of Politics is the "Vedas" of the country. You have a soul and I only want to wake it up. I want to tear off the blind that has been let down by ignorant, designing and selfish people. The Science of Politics consists of two parts. The first is Divine and the second is Demonic. The slavery of a Nation comes into the latter part. There cannot be a moral justification for the Demonic part of the Science of Politics. A Nation which might justify this is guilty of sin in the sight of God. Some people have the courage to declare what is harmful to them and some have not that courage. The political and religious teaching consists in giving the knowledge of this principle. Religious and political teachings are not separate, though they appear to be so on account of foreign rule. All philosophies are included in the Science of Politics.
Who does not know the meaning of Home Rule? Who does not want it? Would you like it, if I enter your house and take possession of your cooking department? I must have the right to manage the affairs in my own house. It is only lunatics and children who do not know how to manage their own affairs.
The cardinal creed of the conferences is that a member must be above 21 years of age; do you not, therefore, think that you want your own rights? Not being lunatics or children you uuderstand your own business, your own rights and, therefore, you know Home Rule. We are told we are not fit for Home Rule. A century has passed away and the British Rule has not made us fit for Home Rule; now we will make our own efforts and fit ourselves for it.
To offer irrelevant excuses, to hold out any temptation and to make other offers will be putting a stigma on the English policy. England is trying to protect the small state of Belgium with the help of India; how can it then say that we should not have Home Rule? Those who find fault with us are avaricious people. But there are people who find fault even with the All-Merciful God. We must work hard to save the soul of our Nation without caring for anything. The good of our country consists in guarding this - our birthright. The Congress has passed this Home Rule resolution. The Provincial Conference is only a child of the Congress, which submits to mandates of its father. We will follow Shri Ramachandra in obeying the order of our father the Congress. We are determined to make efforts to get this resolution enforced even if the effort leads us to the desert, compels us to live incognito, makes us suffer any hardship and even if it finally brings us to death. Shri Ramachandra did it. Do not pass this resolution by merely clapping your hands but by taking a solemn vow that you will work for it. We will work for it by every possible constitutional and law-abiding method to get Home Rule.
Through the grace of God, England has changed its mind towards us. We feel our efforts will not be without success. England proudly thought that a tiny nation might be able to protect the Empire by itself. This pride has gone down. England has now begun to feel that it must make changes in the constitution of the Empire. Lloyd George has openly confessed that England cannot go on without the help of India. All notions about a Nation of a thousand years old have to be changed. The English people have discovered that the wisdom of all their parties is not sufficient. The Indian soldiers have saved the lives of the British soldiers on the French battlefield and have showed their bravery. Those who once considered us as slaves have begun now to call us brothers. God has brought about all these changes. We must push our demands while the notion of this brotherhood is existing in the minds of the English. We must inform them that we, thirty crores of the Indian people, are ready to lay down our lives for the Empire; and that while we are with them none shall dare cast an evil glance at the Empire.