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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. April 24, 1907

By the Way

The Englishman and Mr. N. N. Ghose, faithful brothers in arms, were beside themselves with joy last week. What had happened? Had Nationalism by some divine miracle been suddenly blotted out of the land? Had the spirit of Nobokissen appeared to his devotee and admirer and prophesied the eternal continuance of the British domination in India? Or had Mr. N. N. Ghose been at last elected to the Legislative Council? No, but happy signs and omens, prophetic of these desirable events, have appeared in the political heavens. Hence this war-dance of victory in Hare Street and Sankaritola. The great Twin Brethren, the black Aswin and the white, the two heavenly physicians of our political maladies, have laid a joint finger on the national pulse and discovered that the fever of Nationalism is passing away and the patient returning to a healthy state of loyalty and contented servitude.

*

The epoch-making pronouncement of the Indian Mirror is the chief source of joy and comfort to these allied powers. The Mahatma of Mott's Lane has waved his wonder-working hand1 and Nationalism is no more. Narendranath has spoken; the British Empire is saved. It is not surprising that the discoveries made by the Indian Mirror should have awakened admiring wonder and delight in Hare Street, for they are certainly such discoveries as are only made once or twice in the course of the ages. The Mirror has discovered that all is for the best in the best of all possible Governments. It has detected liberalism in Mr. Morley's Indian policy and a passionate desire for reform in Anglo-India. And to crown all, it has found out that the Extremists, those bold, bad, dangerous men, represent a party which consists only of themselves. This is a discovery worthy of Newton or Kepler, and it has naturally filled Hare Street with delighted awe. An ordinary man might ask, of whom else should the party consist? But such criticism would be profane in the face of so much occult knowledge.

*

The Englishman sits at the feet of Babu Narendranath Sen like a pupil, with lifted eyes full of childlike wonder and admiration. Mr. N. N. Ghose welcomes his neighbour on equal terms as a fellow-loyalist and fellow-discoverer. For Mr. N. N. Ghose has also been industriously discovering things, not only in natural history, but in political science. The other day he discovered the surprising fact that Mr. Tilak and Lala Lajpat Rai do not belong to the new school of politics a discovery which will certainly edify and astonish both the hearers of Lala Lajpat Rai's speeches and the readers of the Kesari. He has discovered too that the new school have no “constructive programme” and are do-nothing politicians. Unhappily, this is a discovery which Mr. N. N. Ghose is in the habit of making about his opponents and critics ever since he attacked Shambhunath Mukherji, in language of astonishing coarseness, so it lacks the charm of novelty.

*

The Amrita Bazar Patrika has also become an object of Mr. N. N. Ghose's scientific investigations. He has discovered that this great organ of public opinion is returning to light, in other words, that it was mad and is becoming sane. We do not precisely know why. The passages quoted from the Amrita Bazar Patrika merely report2 views which it has been insisting on for a long time past and the programme which it sets before the public is one in which the Amrita Bazar and the new school are in entire agreement. In the opinion of Mr. Ghose, however, this programme shows an insufficiently broad view, and he holds out an ominous threat of broadening Srijut Motilal Ghose's intelligence. For the present, however, “we reserve our suggestions” and the Amrita Bazar is spared this painful operation. In passing, Mr. Ghose informs a startled world that in regard to constructive works he has his own ideas. Evidently he has a constructive programme up his sleeve and is awaiting the dramatic moment for dazzling the world by its appearance. But for how long will he condemn us to hold our breath in awed expectation?

*

The Amrita Bazar finds occasion to condemn such effusive receptions as Babu Surendranath received at Rajashahi3, and, in doing so, disclaims the charge of envy and jealousy which is usually brought against it when it criticises the moderate leader. Immediately the Indian Nation falls on its neck and weeps joyfully, “I too have been accused. Embrace me, my fellow-martyr.” We doubt whether our contemporary will quite relish being put on a level with Mr. N. N. Ghose and the Indian Nation. Its editor is a recognised political leader and his paper has from early days been a power in the land, read and relished in all parts of India and even in England; but Mr. N. N. Ghose is only Mr. N. N. Ghose and the circulation of his weekly is well, let us say, confined to the elect.

*

The Hare Street journal has undergone a startling transformation. It is trying to write sympathetically and pretending to have political ideas. This is rather hard on the unfortunate people who are compelled to read its outpourings; for the attempt to make some sense out of its leaders involves an agonising intellectual strain, which one naturally resents because it is not in the day's work. If our contemporary goes on much longer in this strain, we shall all have to go on strike and either petition the Government to pass prohibitive legislation or else organise passive resistance. As a sort of anti-popular Red Indian in war paint and on the war-path, brandished tomahawk in hand and yelling wild and weird war cries, the Englishman is picturesque and amusing. But its new departure makes neither for instruction nor for entertainment.

*

It followed up its great pronouncement. “For such a Time as this” with an almost equally fog-bound leader on “Swaraj”. This document begins by entreating us to give up our political aspirations out of respect for the lamented memory of Professor Huxley. After paralysing our wits with this stroke of pathos, the Englishman, not to be outdone by the Mirror or the Nation, announces a political discovery of its own. Our moderate friends, it appears, have been labouring under a serious delusion. The Liberal Party cannot give us reform, even if it would, but there is one who can and will, and it is the Government of India! Codlin's the friend, not Snort4. We congratulate our moderate friends on the delightful choice that is open to them. Minto's the sympathiser, not Morley Minto will give you Swaraj, the Englishman stands guarantee for it. But after bidding us kowtow to the Government of India because it alone can help or harm us, our contemporary with light-hearted inconsistency declares that our habit of kowtowing to those who can help or harm us, is the chief reason of our unfitness for Swaraj. It seems, on the other hand, that our behaviour is very disrespectful towards those who cannot help or harm us, e.g., Tommies, coolies and the Englishman. The Anglo-Indian rules India because of his paternal kindness to the coolie; until we too learn to enquire habitually into the state of the coolie's spleen with our boots and overwhelm him with vigorous and lurid terms of endearment in season and out of season, we shall not be fit for self-government. No wonder the Mirror asks us solemnly to lay our hand5 on our hearts and declare truthfully whether we are morally, mentally and physically fit for self-government. If this is the loyalist test, we answer sorrowfully, “No.”

Political discoverers are not confined to this side of India. The Indu of Bombay is full of impotent wrath against Mr. Morley for prolonging Lord Kitchener's term and gives him a severe journalistic whipping for his misconduct. The Indu is extremely anxious, as a good moderate should be, for the safety of the British possessions in India; it has discovered that Lord Kitchener is not a good general and is capable of nothing more heroic than digging up dead Mahdis, so it clamours for a better general who will defend the British Empire more effectively6 and spend less over it. Poor Mr. Morley! Even the Indu has found him out at last. We cannot expect our contemporary to realise that only in a free and prosperous India can defence be both effective and inexpensive. The present Government has to provide both against aggression from outside and discontent from within7, and this means a double expenditure. But what is the use of the Indu's shaking its moony fist in Mr. Morley's face and calling the darling of moderatism bad names? Much better were it done to send a petition with two lakhs of signatures for Lord Kitchener's recall, and, having done that, sit content.

 

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.

1 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: wand

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2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: repeat

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3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Rajshahi

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4 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Short

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5 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: hands

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6 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: efficiently

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7 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: discontent within

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