Patriots > Early Nationalist and Moderates > Gokhale, Gopal Krishna
Gokhale, Gopal Krishna (1866-1915)
G. K. Gokhale was born on 9 May 1866 at Katluk in Chiplun taluka in Ratnagiri district in a poor Chitpavan Brahmin family. His father's name was Krishnarao Shridhar and mother's Satyabhama. The economic position of the family was so bad that on Gokhale's father's death, Gokhale could continue his educational career only because of his elder brother's sacrifice of his own education.

After completing his elementary education at Kagal, Gokhale went to Kolhapur (1876). He passed his matriculation examination in 1881, at the early age of 15. He had his University education in the Rajaram College (Kolhapur), the Deccan college (Kolhapur), the Deccan College (Poona) and the Elphinstone college (Bombay). He took his B. A. degree in 1884 and joined the Law College in Bombay, but could complete the LL. B. course.

Gokhale was influenced by Ranade, whom he regarded as his master in political and public life, by G.V. Joshi of Sholapur, a brilliant economist, by Dadabhai Naoroji, who was his hero, and by Pherozeshah Mehta.

Immediately after his graduation, Gokhale joined the Deccan Education Society, Poona,as a Life Member. When the Fergusson College was opened in 1885, he was called upon to lecture to college classes on English Literature and mathematics. He retired in 1902 specifically to devote himself to public life. He wrote a school text-book on Arithmetic.

In 1889 he became a member of the Indian National Congress. In 1890 he was elected Honorary Secretary of the Sarvajanik Sabha, Poona, of which Ranade was the most influential member. In 1893 he became the Secretary of the Bombay Provincial Conference. In 1895 he became Joint Secretary of the Indian National Congress along with Tilak. In the same year he was made a Fellow of the University of Bombay.

In 1896 he became a member of the Deccan Sabha, Poona, founded by Ranade. In 1897 he was appointed the Deccan representative to the Royal Commission known as the Welby Commission. In 1899 Gokhale was elected a member of the Bombay Legislative Council. In 1902 he was elected to the Imperial Legislative Council. In 1904 he was made a C. I. E. In 1905 he was elected President of the Poona Municipality. In 1908 he gave evidence before the Decentralization Commission as the principle non-official.
In 1912 he was appointed a Member of the Public Service Commission. In 1914 he was offered the K. C. I. E. but refused it.In 1905 Gokhale founded the Servants of India Society with the object of training men to devote themselves to the service of India as national missionaries and to promote by all constitutional means the national interest of the Indian people. In 1908 he founded the Ranade Institute of Economics.

Gokhale's mode of life suggested deep spirituality. He was a front rank Reformer; he deprecated the caste-system and untouchability, pleaded for the emancipation of women and championed the cause of female education. He was also a dedicated social worker and rendered great services in the Plague relief operations at Poona in 1897-98.

In Gokhale's opinion, the introduction of Western education in India, with its liberalising influence, was great blessing to the people. He was a firm believer in the theory that mass education was a prerequisite to national political consciousness. He advocated that primary education should be free in all schools throughout India at once. He held pronounced views on the use of vernaculars and favoured the creation of a separate Vernacular University with English and Sanskrit as compulsory languages.

As for Gokhale's ideas on nationalism and the conduct of the nationalist movement, he sought greater autonomy for Indians who would co-operate with the Government in reforms and obtain through constitutional means and by persuasion an advance over the reforms granted until, finally, India became a self-governing Dominion within the British Commonwealth of Nations.

He was an upholder of national dignity and severely criticized the treatment of Indians in South Africa. While appreciating the benefits of British rule in general, he never failed to criticize unjust policies and highhanded actions of the Government. He characterized the scheme of the Partition of Bengal by Curzon as a complete illustration of the worst features of the system of bureaucratic rule.

In his opinion, the economic results of British rule in India were absolutely disastrous, resulting in a frightful poverty. He bitterly criticized England for introducing Free Trade in India, for it destroyed such small industries as had existed in the country.
1 2