Gopal Krishna Gokhale was the social reformer and political leader in the time of Indian Independence Movement. He was one of the forerunners of the Indian National Movement. Gokhale established the Servants of India Society to the help of common people. He was a high-ranking leader of the Indian National Congress. He observed two major principles, Non-violence and improvement in the existing Government system.
Gokhale was born in Kothluk village of Guhagar taluka in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra in the poor Chitpavan Brahmin family. His family confirmed that he received English education to get a job of the clerk in the British government. He was the first generations of Indian who got university education. In 1884, he received the graduation degree from Elphinstone College. His education influenced him a lot in western political thought and he became the admirer of philosophers John Stuart Mill and Edmund Burke. He criticised many issues and steps of English colonial rules.
In 1889, he entered in the Indian National Congress as the member. He struggled with Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal,Dadabhai Naoroji, Lala lajpat Raj and Annie Besant to establish greater political demonstration and control over public affairs. He was the modern thinker and his views was different from other contemporary leaders. He visited Ireland and arranged an Irish nationalist Alfred Webb to be as the President of Indian National Congress. Later Gokhale chose for the post of Congress Joint Secretary along with Bal Gangadhar Tilak. They both were interested to improve the lives of Indians with their different views.
The first major conflict between Gokhale and Tilak occurred when the British introduced the Age of Consent Bill. Gokhale and his associate liberal reformers wanted to remove the superstitious and abuses from the Hinduism. Their wish was to remove the child marriage from the society. Bill was not the final, but Tilak didn’t object the idea of elimination of the child marriage, rather he was concerned that the British rulers were interfering in the Hindu matters. Tilak thought that these reforms can’t be established in the British rules. His idea was to solve these issues after independence when Indians would establish it by themselves. In Bombay presidency, the bill was established as the law. In 1905 the President of Indian National Congress became Gokhale. In 1906 Gokhale refused to support Tilak as the President of the Indian National Congress. Congress was divided into two parts, one in moderates with the leader Gokhale and Extremists with the leader Tilak. Gokhale was the modern reformist of the society. These two wings were again patched up in 1916, after Gokhale’s death.
In 1905, Gokhale was the powerful political leader during his period of President in Indian National Congress. He established the Servants of India Society. He wanted to spread education in the Indian society. He thought that only education can brought the political changes in India. He believed that existing educational institution and Indian Civil Service was not enough to offer the openings to progress the political education. He established this group to fulfil this need. For the Group, Gokhale wrote, “The Servants of India Society will train men prepared to devote their lives to the cause of country in a religious spirit, and will seek to promote, by all constitutional means, the national interests of the Indian people”. The society took many projects like, started mobile libraries, established schools; provided night classes for workers. Their only mission was to establish and spread education in the Indian society. But after Gokhale’s death it lost its path. Still now this group is exist with few members.
Gokhale was the pioneer leader of the Indian independence movement. But he was much more concerned about the social reform with the help of the British government rather than he concerned about the independence. He worked directly with the British for social reforms.
Gokhale was selected to the Bombay Legislative Council in 1899. On 22 May 1903, he was chosen to the Council of India of Governor-General of India. He was represented Bombay province. In 1909 he joined Imperial Legislative Council. He gained the reputation of very knowledgeable person. His contribution in annual budget debate was very much appreciated. He was invited to the London to meet the secretary of state Lord John Morley and Gokhale was established a connection.
Gokhale was become famous when he guided Mahatma Gandhi in his initial stages. In 1912 when Gokhale visited South Africa, he met with Gandhi and gave him guidance. They talked about the knowledge of understanding the country and issues connecting with the common people of India. Later Gandhi became the leader of the Indian Independence and in his biography he remembered Gokhale as his teacher and guide. Gandhi considered him as the commendable political leader.
Mohammad Ali Jinnah was also considered him as his guide and role model. Gokhale named Jinnah as thegreatest ambassador of the “Hindu-Muslim unity”.
Gokhale has prominentinspiration in the Indian Nationalist Movement. He always kept good relationship with the British government to recognize the power of the young educated Indians. He wanted to include these educated young Indians in the government processes. Gandhi was rejected Gokhale’s belief in western political institutions. But after independence, India accepted his belief in 1950.
Gokhale was continued his work till the last year of his death. He went many places in abroad. He was engaged in Servants of India Society, in Congress and in the Legislative Council and he was working to spread the education in India. But he died on 19 February in 1915 at the age of forty nine. At his funeral his political rival Bal Gangadhar Tilak said, “This diamond of India this jewel of Maharashtra, this prince of workers is taking eternal rest on funeral ground. Look at him and try to emulate him”.
His name was honoured in the name of few institutions, such as, Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics in Pune, Gokhale Memorial Girls’ College in Kolkata, Gokhale Centenary College in Ankola and Gokhale Institute of public Affairs in Bangalore. The year 2015-16 was observed as the 150 years of his birth anniversary.