February 19, 2021 marks the 106th death anniversary of one of the greatest Indian freedom fighters, Gopal Krishna Gokhale. Gokhale was born in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra, into a poor Chitpavan Brahmin family on May 9, 1866 and died at the age of 48 before he could see his dream of free India turn into reality.
However, as long as he was alive, Gokhale made sure that he contributed the most to make India a better society free from the colonial rule of England.
Besides being a freedom fighter and a political leader, Gopal Krishna Gokhale was a mathematics professor by profession. He also founded the Servants of India Society for the promotion of education and social development.It is a well known fact that Gokhale played a pivotal role in Mahatma Gandhi’s life.
Gokhale was like a teacher to Gandhi and he often referred to the former as Mahatma. But Gokhale was also revered by Mohammed Ali Jinnah. In their book The Woman Who Stood Defiant Ruttie Jinnah, authors Saad S Khan and Sara S Khan mention that the relationship between the two was so close that there was a joke among the group of Congress politicians that Gokhale and Jinnah should form a ‘mutual admiration society’. Gokhale’s moderate stance in the Congress party was eventually carried on by Jinnah.
Being a staunch advocate of strengthening the academic representation of Indians, Gokhale was one of the first major political leaders to demand universal and free primary public education.
In 1884, Gokhale became one of the first few Indians to complete graduation after which he moved to Pune to pursue a career in teaching. However, he soon turned to politics and in 1889, he became a member of the Indian National Congress (INC).
He was also the secretary of the Reception Committee of the Poona session of the INC in 1895. He eventually got elected to the Imperial Legislative Council in 1902 and became the president of Congress’ Benaras session in 1905.
Unlike some fierce and extremist Congress leaders, Gokhale was a constitutionalist politician who believed that real change can only be brought in through systemic changes in administration and policies. He was also one of the first liberal economists of the country.