Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. March 29, 1907
The Berhampur Conference
The Conference which meets at Berhampur tomorrow is the most important that has been yet held in Bengal, for its deliberations are fraught with issues of supreme importance to the future of the country. A heavy responsibility rests upon the delegates who have been sent to Berhampur from all parts of Bengal. For this is the first Provincial Conference after the historic twenty-second session of the Congress at Calcutta. At that session the policy of self-development and self-help was incorporated as an integral part of the political programme by the representatives of the whole nation, the policy of passive resistance was declared legitimate under circumstances which cover the whole of India, and it was decided that a constitution or working organisation should be created for the promotion throughout the year of the programme fixed by the Congress for the whole nation and by the Provinces for themselves. It rests upon the Berhampur Conference to see that proper provision is made for this executive work. We expect the delegates to realise the seriousness of the task that has been put in their hands and to appoint a Provincial Council which will command the confidence of the whole of Bengal and prove by its very composition that an earnest attempt will be made to harmonise all parties in working out so much of the national programme as has been assented to by all. Swadeshi, Boycott, National Education – these are the three planks upon which all can take their stand. We do not disguise from ourselves the fact that on the last two of these questions there are very serious differences of opinion between the two schools now dividing public opinion. In the matter of Boycott, the difference has been one of greater or less thoroughness in practice and of the ultimate goal; but the necessity of Boycott has been recognised by all and there is no reason why any section should refuse to take part in the measures by which it can be made effective. National Education is regarded by one school as an educational experiment to be carried on side by side with Government education, – by the other as a great national cause, the progress of which is to culminate in a truly national system replacing or absorbing the Government schools and colleges. Nevertheless, the spread of the movement has been recognised as desirable by all and there is therefore no reason why measures with that view should not be concerted with general approval. We trust therefore that the delegates at Berhampur will give a mandate to the newly-formed council to organise Swadeshi and Boycott in a practical manner and devise means by which they can be rendered stringent and effective and to see that national schools be established in every district and national support be given to the Council of Education. If they fail to do this, they will have done considerably less than their duty.
But the duty of the delegates does not begin and end with arranging for the execution of the national programme as laid down by the Congress. The Congress deals only with accomplished facts. It set its seal of sanction on National Education and Swadeshi and legitimised the Boycott for all India in recognition of work which had already been commenced in Bengal. But there are other fields in which self-development and self-help are urgently necessary; and it remains for each province to initiate action in each of them successively according to its own circumstances and under the pressure of its own needs. Both the policy of self-help and the Boycott policy have taken shape as a national policy in Bengal as a result of the exceptional trend of events in our province. They are now travelling all over India. Swadeshi has been universally recognised, Boycott is a fact in Maharashtra as well as in Bengal, and is now being publicly advocated in the North and in Madras. But Bengal cannot pause till the rest of India comes up with her, – she must still lead the way even if it be many miles in front. The very initiative she has taken will inevitably sweep her on, whether she wills it or not; for that exceptional trend of events which has carried her along is nothing but the impulsion of a Divine Hand which is shaping through her the way of salvation for all India. That impulsion is not likely to cease; it is already pointing us to fresh departures. Since the Congress met, three new necessities have presented themselves for Bengal, – the necessity of National Arbitration Courts, the necessity of Organised Self-protection and the necessity of Prevention of Famine by self-help. The second of these is the one which we should, in our opinion, take immediately in hand; for it is likely to be urgently needed in the near future and in its absence the national movement will remain deficient in the first element of strength and its defencelessness will perpetually invite attack. If we are to proceed with the work of the nation in peace, we must immediately turn our attention to organising self-protection all over Bengal. The immediate need of the prevention of famine may be met by the suspension of grain-export of which the Bangabasi has made itself the champion; but this policy will have to be supplemented and regulated by permanent measures of a far-reaching kind. At present a Resolution approving of export suspension as a temporary measure urgently needed, ought to be sufficient. We do not suppose we need apprehend much difference of opinion on this head. The anti-national superstition of free trade ought to have perished out of Bengal by this time; for a subject nation self-preservation must be the first and dominating principle of its political economy. Neither should there be any opposition to the proposal for Arbitration Courts. Arbitration as a means of diminishing the curse of litigation has been advocated by the Congress and the only difference now is that instead of asking for it from an alien Government which fattens upon the very litigation that impoverishes us, we resolve to establish it for ourselves. We fear, however, that there may be serious difficulty in getting the all-important proposal of self-protection accepted. The attitude of the Moderate leaders in the Comilla matter was of evil omen.
We hope nevertheless that the delegates of the new school will strain every nerve to get these necessary items added to the working programme for the year. By choosing a place where the New Spirit has not made headway and by fixing a date which will make it difficult for the East Bengal delegates to arrive in time, the managers of the Conference will probably have secured a large Moderate majority. We are not sorry that this should be so; for it will give us an opportunity of observing how the advantage gained by this tactical trickery will be used. The present Conference will decide whether the two parties can still hope to work together on the basis of the compromise arrived at in December, or whether, as in Japan, a determined fight for the possession of the national mind and guidance of national action is to precede the great work of emancipation. We shall willingly accept either alternative. If we can work together the work will be more rapid in the beginning and smoother; if, on the contrary, we have to settle our differences first, the work will be more energetic and more rapid in the end. Whatever the result, the forward party stands to win.
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.