BAL GANGADHAR TILAK was one of the great men who, along with Mahatma Gandhi, fought for India’s freedom during the British Rule.

As a student, Bal was known to his teachers as one of the brilliant, disciplined and well-behaved boys in the school. But one day, one of the teachers had a strange experience. During the recess, some student had eaten groundnuts in the class and thrown the nut-shells on the floor near the teacher’s table. None of the boys who were coming in took serious notice of it. The school bell rang and all the boys were back in their seats. As the teacher stepped in he saw the nut-shells scattered near his table and burst into a rage. “Who has done this mischief?” he shouted. There was no reply from the students. “I ask again,” shouted the teacher still louder. “Whose mischief is this? If the guilty boy does not stand up, those who know him should tell me who it is.”

The boys looked at one another, most of them really wondering who the culprit could be. No one stood up. No one spoke a word either.

The angry teacher then picked up the cane from the table and said, “Since none of you is helping me to catch the guilty boy, I am going to cane every one of you.” While the teacher was nearing the first row of boys, Bal stood up and boldly said, “Sir, many of us really do not know who the guilty boy is. There are many others who have not even seen the nutshells on the floor. During the recess all of us had gone out of the classroom. A boy from some other class might have done this mischief. Why then, should the innocent boys be caned?”

The teacher who knew Bal’s good behaviour tried to restrain his own anger but failed. “Don’t be overwise, Bal,” he said. “I am sure some of you know the culprit. If they don’t speak out, I have got to punish the whole class.” Immediately Bal said though respectfully, “But, Sir, I feel this is neither fair nor just. What I told you about our innocence is the truth. I don’t want to see the innocent ones punished. So, please allow me to leave the class.” Before the teacher could say a word, Bal picked up his books and walked out of the classroom.

All the boys admired Bal’s courage and his love of justice and truth. Even the teacher could not help praising Bal. He looked at the class and said: “Bal is no ordinary boy. If every student is as truthful and disciplined as he is, our country will have a great future.”

It is this love of truth and justice that made Bal a great leader of our nation. He came to be called “Lokmanya Tilak” because he won by these qualities the love, admiration and respect of all the people of India.


  1. What was the teacher’s mistake?
  2. Why did Bal leave the class?
  3. Suppose you were in Bal’s class on the day of this event, What would you have done?
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