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Remembering Shri Bipin Chandra Pal, the man who tried to liberate India both from the British and the country’s intrinsic religious dogmatism.

On his 164th birth anniversary, we commemorate the journalist-turned-freedom fighter who held a rational perception of what a free India ought to be!

Every revolution on this planet has been a manifestation of the ideas and ideologies put forward by a ‘writer’ or a ‘journalist.’ Since time immemorial, journalists have used the might of a pen to influence their readers by spinning a narrative of public concern. The Indian National Movement, too, was aided by revolutionary writers who elaborated on the extent of colonial oppression while waging an attack on the hypocrisy of the self-righteous colonisers. 

Bipin Pal was a proficient journalist, writer, orator, and social reformer during the Indian National Movement. Through his columns, he preached the glory associated with Indian culture and instilled a feeling of nationalism in the minds of his readers. 

Through the nib of his pen, Bipin Pal orchestrated the monumental “Swadeshi movement” that would later invigorate the progeny of Indian Nationalists in their quest for “Poorna Swaraj” (Complete independence). The journalist-turned-freedom fighter not only bared the double standards of the British Raj but also prompted the nation to break free of religious and cultural dogmatism. 

Early life and introduction to the Indian National Movement:

Born on November 7th, 1858, to a Bengali family in Sylhet (presently in Bangladesh), Bipin Pal received his education from the Church Mission Society College Calcutta (present St. Paul’s Cathedral College). Later, he got admitted to the prestigious Presidency College, after which he pursued comparative theology at the New Manchester College in Oxford. 

Bipin Pal began his career as the headmaster of a school in Bengal. But the task of expounding his pupils with tales of European superiority (from the British set curriculum) over their oriental ‘subordinates’ filled him with disgust and anger. When the story of Suredranath Banerjee, an ex-ICS (Indian Civil Service) officer who voluntarily gave up his rank to serve the Indian cause, reached a young Bipin Pal, he, too, resigned and decided to pursue politics.

How “Lal-Bal-Pal” emerged as the face of the ‘radical’ faction of the freedom struggle:

During the early phase of his political career, Bipin Pal joined the Indian National Congress in 1886. Expressing his solidarity with nationalists like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, and Shri Aurobindo, Pal concluded that the aim of the Indian National Movement should be to fetch “Poorna Swaraj” (Complete Independence) for the country and nothing less. 

Unlike the moderate faction who believed in Prayer-Petition-Protest (PPP), Bipin Pal, along with Lala Lajpat Rai and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, embraced extreme methods like boycotting British goods and shops, burning western clothes, and radicalising Indian workers to carry out strikes and lockouts of British factories. This trio would later adorn the history textbooks of India under the title of “Lal-Bal-Pal.”

His stay at the Indian National Congress had initially lasted for 21 years. During the Congress split into two factions of Moderates and Radicals during the Surat Session (1907), Pal decided to join the latter. He propounded that the Britishers would not give in to the Gandhian view of diplomacy and that Congress needed stricter measures to force the Britishers out of India. 

The slow progress made by Congress did not impress Bipin Pal, and he finally decided to quit active politics in 1920. According to Bipin Pal, Gandhi Ji and his views were too idealistic and pacifistic to prompt India into taking a tough stance against the British. He realised it was time he utilised his writing skills to spread the word of Indianised Nationalism.

Blessed with profound writing skills, Bipin Pal founded a Bengali weekly named “Paridarshak” to preach the tale of self-reliance to the contemporary Indian youth. In his prominent career as a journalist, he edited several other gazettes and bulletins based in Kolkata, Lahore, Allahabad, and London. In 1906, Pal founded an English daily named “Vande Mataram” (Victory to Mother India), where he lashed out directly at the British Crown and propagated the cherished theory of “Passive Resistance.” 

Bipin Pal had taken up the helms of the Indian journalism scenario when the British “lords” were engaged in slandering the Indian esteem through their racist outlook. Bipin Pal took up the herculean task of reinstating confidence among Indians and stopping them from falling prey to British propaganda. In 1932, aged 74 years, Bipin Chandra Pal took his last breath at his residency in Calcutta.

Bipin Pal’s aversion towards religious orthodoxy:

Bipin Pal lived his life as a reformist. Being a devout follower of Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s Brahmo Samaj, Bipin Pal criticised religious orthodoxy prevalent in contemporary 

Indian society. After the passing of his first wife, Pal married a widow and joined the Brahmo Samaj, where he publicly elaborated the evils of the caste system and upheld the nuances of women’s empowerment. He hated the native religious dogmatism as much as he hated the British Raj!

Given the norm of his time, Pal was an astoundingly forward-looking individual. His religious beliefs and rationality were founded based on Swami Vivekananda’s doctrine of Hinduism. A few decades later, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose embraced a similar stance on religion. His aversion to the British Raj was born out of socio-economic reasons and not religious ones.

A lesson for all:

When a French political theorist named Jean-Paul Marat used his writing skills via the “L’Ami du peuple” to prompt the impoverished French farmers into overthrowing the French aristocracy, the world knew how a writer was no less than a soldier when it came to harnessing the undercurrents in tough times. Centuries later, Bipin Chandra Pal used the might of his pen to rejuvenate the spirit of Indian Nationalism and reform Indian society.  

Despite being a staunch nationalist, Bipin Pal did not wink at the social malpractices prevalent in the country. Bipin Pal’s school of nationalism, later pursued by Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, articulated how India was to be made independent not only from the British Raj but also from its cultural dogmatism. Being an outspoken critic of the Caste System and patriarchy, Bipin Pal spelt out the problems that plague India even after seventy-five years of her independence.

Thus, his story not only inspires us to introspect and revamp ourselves into rational beings but also holds up a yardstick to evaluate what Journalism ought to be!

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