The Catholic connection in Swarajya
Credited with Tilak’s famous phrase, Joseph Baptista also co-founded Home Rule and AITUC
Very few know it was a Catholic who inspired to originate the words Swaraj is my birth right. Meet Joseph Baptista, the most trusted lieutenant of Lokmanya Tilak. When Tilak coined 'Swarajya mazha janmasiddha hakka ahay'," the original phrase came from Baptista who had floated the idea of 'Freedom is My Birth right'. Such was their closeness that when Tilak was prosecuted for sedition in 1907, he insisted Baptista to handle his defence.
Coming from a well to do family in Matharpacady in Mazagaon, Bombay who hailed from Uttan, near Vasai, he was an engineer by profession and had impressive oratory skills. It is said that he was spotted by none other than Dadabhai Naoroji who sent him England to study politics and qualify for the Bar. He is also credited to have co-founded AITUC and also the Home Rule Movement. After his intensive work among the postal workers, mill workers and coal miners, he was fondly called Kaka, a title which is still carried along with his name. Before he became the first mayor of Bombay (1925-1926) he worked with the BMC for almost 17 years.
He is documented in “Kaka Joseph Baptista: Father Of Home Rule Movement In India” by K R Shirsat whose son, Ravi Shirsat is running the Joseph Baptista Institute of Politics and Economics in Vasai. The writings reflect the way at Kaka overshadowed the priority of gaining independence than his community or its issues. Later on Shirsat's trust and the Panchayat celebrated as well as the East Indian community celebrated his 150st birth anniversary. March 17 is now called Kaka Baptista Jayanti.
It was also demanded by a certain section of the society to name the now Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link after John Baptista. But you will find a few areas in Mumbai with his name, prominent among them is Mazgaon's Joseph Baptista Garden.