Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. 20 September, 1906
By the Way
The Statesman and the Indian Mirror appear to have entered into a Holy Alliance for the suppression of the extremists. The basis of this great political combination seems to be mutual admiration of the most effusive and affectionate kind. Mirror assures Statesman that he is a noble Anglo-Indian and a true and tried Friend of India; Statesman quotes Mirror's solemn lucubrations by the yard. It only needs the Hindu Patriot to join the league and complete the Triple Alliance. An Anglo-Indian paper, a Government journal masking under the disguise of an Indian daily, and the exponent of the most pale and watery school of “patriotism”, would make a beautiful symphony in whites and greys. Such an alliance is most desirable: it would be a thing of artistic beauty and a joy forever – and it would not hurt the new party.
We were a little surprised to find the Bengalee lending itself to the campaign. It chooses to insinuate that while the methods of the old party are extremely proper, sober and legal, those of the new party are outside the bounds of the law. In what respect, pray? We advocate boycott and picketing, but that is a gospel of which Babu Surendranath Banerji has constituted himself in the past the chief Panda. We advocate abstention from Legislative Councils and other Government bodies, but so do the old leaders strongly recommend it – to East Bengal. We advocate the assertion by the people of their right to carry on the agitation in every lawful way – but so did the old leaders at Barisal. We advocate abstention from all association with the Government, but such abstention has not yet been forbidden by law. We advocate the substitution of Indian agency and Indian energy in every department of life for our old state of dependence1 on foreign agency and energy. We advocate an organised system of self-development guided by a Council with regard to Bengal and an open democratic constitution for the Congress instead of the secret unconstitutional manipulations of a few leaders. We advocate finally, autonomy as the ideal and goal of our endeavours. Where is the illegality, if you please?
To listen to these excited people one would imagine we were calling on the teeming millions of India to rise in their wrath, fall upon the noble Anglo-Indian friends of the Mirror and with teeth, nails and claws, drive them pell-mell into the Indian Ocean. All these imputations have, of course, a definite object and the excitement is a calculated passion. On one side to discredit the2 party with the timid and cautious, on the other to draw the attention of the bureaucracy and secure for us free lodgings from a paternal Government, seems to be the objective. Of neither contingency are we afraid; the new policy is not for those who tremble or who prefer their own safety and ease to the service of their country, and the fear of the Government we renounced long ago and have forgotten what it means. It is no use trying to awaken that dead feeling in our nature. We shall go on our way steadily and persistently, careless of defeat or victory, indifferent to attack or suffering, until we have built up such a nucleus of force and courage in India as will compel both moderate and official to yield to the demands of the people. But always within the bounds of the law, if you please, our friend of Colootola. We are a law-abiding people, even when we are extremists.
We have been severely attacked more than once for splitting up the country into factions3 and thus marring the majestic unity of the national movement. We have already given our answer to that charge. Already before the Swadeshi movement the divergence of ideals had begun to declare itself and in several parts of India strong sections had grown up who were already dissatisfied with mendicancy and with the haphazard formation and methods of the Congress. Until recently the only course which seemed left to men of this persuasion was to hold entirely aloof from the Congress or else to attend it without taking any prominent part in its deliberations. But at the present time the aspect of things has greatly changed. The party predominates in the Deccan, is extremely strong in the Punjab and a force to be reckoned with in Bengal. It numbers among its leaders and adherents many men of ability, energy and culture some of whom have done good service in the past and others are obviously among the chief workers of the future. They have a definite ideal which is not the ideal of the older leaders and definite methods by which they hope to arrive at their ideal. It is idle to expect that a party so constituted will any longer consent to be excluded from political life or from the deliberations of the Congress through which it may exercise a general influence over the country. The old party is anxious that we should take up the position of an insignificant “extremist” party, tolerated perhaps and sometimes made use of to frighten the Government into concessions, but not recognised. “Exist, if you please, but do not interfere with or oppose us,” is their cry, “and do not try to assert yourselves in the Congress.” Such a demand is ridiculous in the extreme. When there is a definite difference as to ideals and methods, it is too much to expect of any growing party that it shall not use every means to educate the people to their views and organise such opinion as has declared itself on their side. Nor is it reasonable to demand a considerable part of the educated community to banish itself from Congress or only attend as a mute and inert element. If the Congress is really a national body, it must admit all opinions and give them free facility for expressing their views and urging their measures. If, on the other hand, it is merely a gathering of moderates, it has no right to pose as a national body. The argument usually urged that the Congress has been built up by a certain class of people and with certain ideas and that therefore it should remain in the same hands and under the domination of the same ideas, is one which has no value whatever, unless we are to accept the Congress merely as a society for the cultivation of good relations with the Government. If it is a national assembly, it must answer to changes of national feeling and progress with the progress of the nation. We shall therefore persist in disseminating our ideas with the utmost energy of which we are capable and in organising the opinion of the country wherever we have turned it in the desired direction, for action and for the prevalence of our ideals. The only question that remains, is the question of united action. It is certainly desirable, if it can be brought about, that the action of the whole country in certain important matters should be united. But the very first condition of such unity is that all important sections of opinion should have the chance of expressing its views and championing its own proposals, before the united action to be taken is decided by a majority. It is for this reason that we demand an elective constitution and a Council honestly representing all sections, so that real unity may be possible and not the false unity which is all the old party clamours for. Their plan for united action is simply to boycott the new party and impose silence on it under penalty of “suppression”. So long as they persist in that spirit, united action will remain impossible.
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 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: dependency
2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: our
3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: into two factions