Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
The Proposed Reconstruction of Bengal1
Partition or Annihilation?
In the excitement and clamour that has followed the revolutionary proposal of Lord Curzon's Government to break Bengal into pieces, there is some danger of the new question being treated only in its superficial aspects and the grave and startling national peril for which it is the preparation being either entirely missed or put out of sight. On a perusal of the telegrams which pour in from Eastern Bengal one is struck with the fact that they mainly deal with certain obvious and present results of the measure, not one of which is really vital. The contention repeatedly harped on that Assam is entirely different to us in race, language, manners etc. is in the first place not altogether true, and even if true, is very bad political strategy. In these days when the whole tendency of a reactionary Government is to emphasize old points of divisions2 and create new ones, it should plainly be the policy of the national movement to ignore points of division and to emphasize old and create new points of contact and union. The Assamese possess the same racial substratum as ourselves though the higher strata may be less profoundly Aryanised and their language is a branch of Bengali which but for an artificial diversion would have merged into the main stream of Bengali speech. Why then should we affront our brothers in Assam and play the game of our opponents by declaring them outcast from our sympathies? The loss by Eastern Bengal of a seat on the Legislative Council is again the loss of a delusion and does not really concern its true national welfare. Even separation from the Calcutta High Court if it should come about, means very little now that the High Court has definitely ceased to protect the liberties of the people and become an informal department of the Government. The dislocation of trade caused by its diversion from Calcutta to Chittagong might be a calamity of the first magnitude to Calcutta but its evil effects on Eastern Bengal would, the enemy might well argue, be of a very temporary character. The transfer of advanced provinces to a backward Government is, no doubt, in itself a vital objection to the measure but can be at once met by elevating the new province to the dignity of a Lieutenant-Governorship with a Legislative Council and a Chief Court. Indeed by this very simple though costly contrivance the Government can meet every practical objection of a political nature that has been urged against their proposal. There are signs which seem to indicate that this is the expedient to which Government will eventually resort and under the cover of it affect an even more extended amputation than it was at first convenient to announce; for Rajshahi as well as Faridpur and Backergunje3, are it appears also to be cut away from us. There would remain the violation of Bengali sentiment and the social disturbance and mortal inconvenience to innumerable individuals which must inevitably accompany such a disruption of old ties and interests and severance from the great4 centre of Bengali life. But our sentiments the Government can very well afford to ignore and the disturbance and inconvenience they may politely regret as deplorable incidents indeed but after all minor and temporary compared with the great and permanent administrative necessities to be satisfied. Will then the people of Eastern Bengal finally, seeing the Government determined pocket the bribe of a separate Lieutenant-Governorship, a Legislative Council and High Court and accept this violent revolution in our national life? Or will Western Bengal submit to lose Eastern Bengal on such terms? If not, then to nerve them for the struggle their refusal will involve they must rely on something deeper than sentiment, something more potent than social and personal interests, they must have a5 clear and indelible consciousness of the truth that this measure is no mere administrative proposal but a blow straight at the heart of the nation. The failure to voice clearly this, the true and vital side of the question can arise only from want of moral courage or from that fatal inability to pass beyond superficialities and details and understand in their fulness deep truths and grand issues in politics which has made our political life for the last fifty years so miserably barren and ineffective. That it springs largely if not altogether from the latter is evidenced by the amazing apathy which allows Western Bengal to sit with folded hands and allow Eastern Bengal to struggle alone and unaided. Eastern Bengal is menaced with absorption into a backward province and therefore struggles; Western Bengal is menaced with no such calamity and can therefore sit lolling on its pillows, hookah-pipe in hand, waiting to see what happens; this apparently is how the question is envisaged by a race which considers itself the most intelligent and quick-witted in the world. That it is something far other than this, that the danger involved far6 more urgent and appalling, is what I shall try to point out in this article.
Unfortunately, to do this is impossible without treading on Lord Curzon's corns and indeed on the tenderest of all the crop. We have recently been permitted to know that our great Viceroy particularly objects to the imputation of motives to his Government – and not unnaturally; for Lord Curzon is a vain man loving praise and sensitive to dislike and censure; more than that, he is a statesman of unusual genius who is following a subtle and daring policy on which immense issues hang and it is naturally disturbing him to find that there are wits in India as subtle as his own which can perceive something at least of the goal at which he is aiming. But in this particular instance he has only himself and Mr. Risley to thank, if his motives have been discovered – or let us say, misinterpreted. The extraordinary farrago of discursive ineptitudes which has been put forward...
Later edition of this work: The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo.- Set in 37 volumes.- Volumes 6-7.- Bande Mataram: Political Writings and Speeches. 1890–1908 .- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2002.- 1182 p.
1 An incomplete article found among early manuscripts.
2 2002 ed. Vol. 6-7: division
3 2002 ed. Vol. 6-7: Backergunge
4 2002 ed. Vol. 6-7: grand
5 2002 ed. Vol. 6-7: the
6 2002 ed. Vol. 6-7: involved is far