Bal Gangadhar Tilak, was an Indian nationalist, social reformer and independence fighter who was the first popular leader of the Indian Independence Movement and is known as "Father of the Indian unrest". He was also conferred upon the honorary title of "Lokmanya", which literally means "Accepted by the people (as their leader)".
Tilak was one of the first and strongest advocates of "Swaraj" (complete independence) in Indian consciousness. His famous quote, "Swaraj is my birthright, and I will have it!" is well-remembered in India even today.
Tilak co-founded two newspapers with Gopal Ganesh Agarkar, Vishnushastri Chiplunakar and other colleagues: Kesari, which means "Lion" in Sanskrit and was a Marathi newspaper, and 'The Maratha', an English newspaper in 1881. In just two years 'Kesari' attracted more readers than any other language newspaper in India. The editorials were generally about the people's sufferings under the British. These newspapers called upon every Indian to fight for his or her rights.
Tilak joined the Indian National Congress in the 1890. He opposed its moderate attitude, especially towards the fight for self government.
In 1891 Tilak opposed the Age of Consent bill. The act raised the age at which a girl could get married from 10 to 12. The Congress and other liberals supported it, but Tilak was set against it, terming it an interference with Hinduism. However, he personally opposed child marriage, and his own daughters married at 16.
When in 1897, plague epidemic spread from Mumbai (then Bombay) to Pune the Government became jittery. The Assistant Collector of Pune, Mr. Rand, and his associates employed extremely severe and brutal methods to stop the spread of the disease by destroying even "clean homes." Even people who were not infected were carried away and in some cases, the carriers even looted property of the affected people. When the authorities turned a blind eye to all these excesses, furious Tilak took up the people's cause by publishing inflammatory articles in his paper Kesari, quoting the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, to say that no blame could be attached to anyone who killed an oppressor without any thought of reward. Following this, on 27 June, Rand and his assistant were killed. Tilak was charged with incitement to murder and sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment. When he emerged from prison, he had become a national hero and adopted a new slogan, "Swaraj (Self-Rule) is my birth right and I will have it."
Tilak opposed the moderate views of Gopal Krishna Gokhale, and was supported by fellow Indian nationalists Bipin Chandra Pal in Bengal and Lala Lajpat Rai in Punjab. They were referred to as the Lal-Bal-Pal triumvirate. In 1907,the annual session of the Congress Party was held at Surat (Gujarat). Trouble broke out between the moderate and the extremist factions of the party over the selection of the new president of the Congress and the party split into the "Jahal matavadi" ("Hot Faction," or extremists), led by Tilak, Pal and Lajpat Rai, and the "Maval matavadi"("Soft Faction," or moderates).