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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. April 13, 1907

By the Way

An old and venerable friend of our old and venerable friend the Indian Mirror, weeps bitter tears over Raja Subodh Mallik. Subodh Mallik is a large-hearted and generous man, laments our friend's friend; but he is doing immense harm to himself and his country. Is he not partly responsible for the publication of that pernicious sheet, Bande Mataram, which attacks old and venerable gentlemen and old and venerable journals and refuses to regard politics as a school for society manners? Has he not given a lakh of rupees to the National Council an institution for which the Indian Mirror cherishes a lively want of sympathy? We call on the young gentleman to repent of his sins, fall weeping on the capacious bosom of the Indian Mirror and devote the rest of his possessions to founding a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to obsolete papers and out-of-date politicians.

We will admit that much that was said and done at Berhampur on both sides was petulant and wanting in dignity. But was it worse than what happens in European Parliaments and political meetings when men are heated by conflict and passions run high? We trow not. Let us try to be perfectly courteous and superior to other nations by all means; but if we cannot, there is no reason for disingenuous concealment and a mere Pharisaic pretence of superiority. The Japanese have an excellent habit of keeping anger out of their speech and reserving all their strength for acts; they will express their disapproval of you with great plainness, indeed, but also with wonderful calmness and politeness. The Samurai used to rip up his enemy very mercilessly, but also very politely; he did it as a duty, not out of passion. But of our emotional, sentimental race, so long accustomed to find its outlet in speech, nothing so heroic can be expected.

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Still we think the young men of the New Party would do well to follow the example of the Japanese as far as possible. We should be absolutely unsparing in our attack on whatever obstructs the growth of the nation, and never be afraid to call a spade a spade. Excessive good nature, chakshu lajja (the desire to be always pleasant and polite), will never do in serious politics. Respect of persons must always give place to truth and conscience; and the demand that we should be silent because of the age or past services of our opponents, is politically immoral and unsound. Open attack, unsparing criticism, the severest satire, the most wounding irony, are all methods perfectly justifiable and indispensable in politics. We have strong things to say; let us say them strongly; we have stern things to do; let us do them sternly. But there is always a danger of strength degenerating into violence and sternness into ferocity, and that should be avoided so far as it is humanly possible.

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Babu Bhupendranath Bose got little by his attempt to frown down the Government of Bengal in their own den over the bureaucratic temper of their replies to his interpolations. It is to be feared that the Government have little appreciation for the opposition-cum-cooperation gospel which their loyal subject not only preaches but practises with such fidelity and vigour. They like their water without salutary bitters. Babu Bhupendranath, however, insists on dealing with Sir Andrew Fraser like a father, and when he makes wry faces at the medicine, treats him to a painful and public spanking, whereupon Sir Andrew responds with a backhander in Bhupen Babu's fatherly face. The whole affair was most exquisitely ludicrous and futile, but Sir Andrew's was a nasty and stinging backhander!

“The Hon'ble member himself has not infrequently, either on my invitation or of his own motion, discussed with me privately the propriety or wisdom of certain courses of action which he has followed. I have frankly given him my advice. He has sometimes taken it and he has sometimes rejected it. I should have considered it a grave breach of confidence, if, in either case, he had published it and had attributed his line of action to me.”

So it appears that often when we have been hanging on the wise words of the popular and democratic leader, the influential adviser of Surendranath, the secret dictator of the Moderate caucus, it was really the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal to whom we listened and by whose counsel we were guided. The voice was the voice of Bhupen, but the thought was the thought of Andrew. These be thy gods, O Israel!

 

Later edition of this work: The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo.- Set in 37 volumes.- Volumes 6-7.- Bande Mataram: Political Writings and Speeches. 18901908 .- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2002.- 1182 p.