09 May 1866
Birth of Gopal Krishna Gokhale
One of the leaders of the moderate bloc of the Indian National Congress and Mahatma Gandhi’s political mentor Gopal Krishna Gokhale was born on May 9th, 1866.
- Gokhale was born in Kotluk in District Ratnagiri in modern-day Maharashtra to Krishna Rao Gokhale and his wife Valubai.
- Despite having financial problems, his family ensured that he received a western education. This was to have a profound influence on him as came to admire the works of John Stuart Mill and Edmund Burke.
- He first went to school in Kolhapur and then to Bombay for higher education. He secured his graduate degree from Bombay’s Elphinstone College in the year 1884.
- He worked in Pune as a school teacher. He later taught political economy and history at Fergusson College, Pune and also became the institution’s principal in 1902.
- In 1889, Gokhale joined the INC motivated by his mentor, social reformer M G Ranade.
- He fought along with a host of other leaders and reformers for more political rights for the Indian people. He was a moderate. He did not believe in radical demands altogether and wished for peaceful and non-confrontationist methods to acquire rights and privileges from the government.
- This is where he came into conflict with the extremist faction of the INC, especially Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
- In 1905, Gokhale established the Servants of India Society for expanding education to Indians. He wanted Indians to receive education that would instil in them a civic and patriotic sense of duty.
- As part of the Society’s activities, he arranged mobile libraries and schools. He also gave night classes to industrial workers.
- Gokhale believed in working with the colonial government to bring about social reforms in the society. He was voted to the Legislative Council of Bombay in 1899, and also to the Governor-General’s Imperial Council in 1901.
- Gokhale visited Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa in 1912 on the latter’s request. He was famously mentor to the father of the nation, who returned to India at Gokhale’s request.
- In Gandhi’s autobiography, he writes of Gokhale, “pure as crystal, gentle as a lamb, brave as a lion and chivalrous to a fault and the most perfect man in the political field.”
- Gokhale also started newspapers, ‘Mahratta’ and ‘Jnanaprakash’.
- He died on 19 February, 1915 aged 48.
Also on this day
1540: Birth of the Rajput king of Mewar, Maharana Pratap. 1945: Germany signed the German Instrument of Surrender ending the Second World War in Europe.
See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.