Law and Radical Rhetoric in British India: The 1897 Trial of Bal Gangadhar Tilak
The first generation of radical nationalists in British India played a crucial role in the emergence of political propaganda as a fully fledged industry in the era after the partition of Bengal in 1905. Bal Gangadhar Tilak's 1897 trial is a key moment in this story: it marks the first time that dissent was criminalised, and that reading publics across British India were confronted with powerful arguments theorising political violence. This paper attempts to draw out the meanings Tilak made in two of his texts (an article and a poem, both published in Kesari) and the two most influential readings to which they were subject at the time: one in the courtroom, where the texts were successfully assimilated to the narrowest possible legal interpretation, resulting in Tilak's conviction, and the other in the Indian press, where the drama of the trial eclipsed the texts themselves. The trial moderated the militant message of the texts for the middle-class print public and allowed for a more acceptable definition of radicalism to emerge, one anchored in themes of suffering, sacrifice and victimisation.
|Keywords||Bal Gangadhar Tilak, law, nationalist historiography, political trial, propaganda, radicalism, revolutionary nationalism|
|Journal||South Asia: Journal of South Asia Studies|
Kamra, S. (2016). Law and Radical Rhetoric in British India: The 1897 Trial of Bal Gangadhar Tilak. South Asia: Journal of South Asia Studies, 39(3), 546–559. doi:10.1080/00856401.2016.1196529