Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. May 11, 1907
The last action of the Minto-Morley Government has torn every veil from the situation and the policy of the British rulers. Whatever else may be the result of this vigorous attempt to crush Nationalism in the Punjab, it has the merit of clearing the air. We have no farther excuse for mistaking our position or blundering into ineffective policies. The bureaucracy has declared with savage emphasis that it will tolerate a meekly carping loyalism, it will tolerate an ineffective agitation of prayer, protest and petition, but it will not tolerate the New Spirit. If the Indian harbours aspirations towards freedom, towards independence, towards self-government in his mind, let him crush them back and keep them close-locked in his heart; for from English Secretary or Anglo-Indian pro-consul, from Conservative or from Liberal they can expect neither concession nor toleration. Indian aspirations and bureaucratic autocracy cannot stall together; one of them must go. The growth of the New Spirit had been so long tolerated in Bengal because the rulers, though alarmed at the new portent, could not at once make up their mind whether it was a painted monster or a living and formidable force. Even when its real nature and drift had become manifest, they waited to see whether it was likely to take hold of the people. They were not prepared for the enormous rapidity with which like a sudden conflagration in the American prairies, the New Spirit began to rush over the whole of India. By the time they had realised it, it was too late to crush it in Bengal by prosecuting a few papers or striking at a few tall heads. For the New Spirit in Bengal does not depend on the presence of a few leaders or the inspiration from one or two great orators. It has embraced the whole educated class with one unquenchable flame. If Srijut Bepin1 Chandra Pal were deported, and the Bande Mataram, Sandhya and other Nationalist journals suppressed, the fire would only become silent, pervading, irresistible. A hundred hands would catch the banner of Nationalism as it fell from the hands of the standard-bearer and a hundred fiery spirits rush to fill the place of the fallen leader. In Bengal, therefore, other measures have been adopted. But the moment the bureaucrats were sure that the fire had caught in the Punjab, they hastened to strike, hoping by the suppression of a few persons to suppress the whole movement. The first blow at the Punjabee was a disastrous failure. The second has been delivered with extraordinary precautions to ensure its success. The whole might of the British Empire has been summoned to drive it home. The pomp and prestige of its irresistible might, the tramp of its armies and the terror of its guns, the slow mercilessness of its penal law and the swift fury of its arbitrary statutes have all been gathered round two small cities, not to put down a formidable rebellion or affect2 the capture of dangerous military leaders, but to arrest a few respectable and unwarlike pleaders and barristers. Enveloped with a surge of cavalry under the mouths of British siege-guns, these fortunate individuals, most of whose names were till then hardly known outside their own province,– have been hurried to British jails and one eminent pleader whirled out of India with a panic haste. All this pomp and apparatus can evidently have no object but to terrify the New Spirit throughout India into quiescence by a display of the irresistible power of Britain. It is an emphatic warning from Mr. Morley and Lord Minto that they will not suffer the Indian to aspire to freedom or to work by peaceful self-help and passive resistance for national autonomy.
In this grave crisis of our destinies let not our people lose their fortitude or suffer stupefaction and depression to seize upon and unnerve their souls. The fight in which we are engaged is not like the wars of old in which when the King or leader fell, the army fled. The King whom we follow to the wars today, is our own Motherland, the sacred and imperishable; the leader of our onward march is the Almighty Himself, that element within and without us whom sword cannot slay, nor water drown, nor fire burn, nor exile divide from us, nor a prison confine. Lajpat Rai is nothing, Tilak is nothing, Bepin3 Pal is nothing: these are but instruments in the mighty Hand that is shaping our destinies and if these go, do you think that God cannot find others to do His will? Lala Lajpat Rai has gone from us, but doubt not that men stronger and greater than he will take his place. For when a living and rising cause is persecuted, this is the sure result that in the place of those whom persecution strikes down, there arise, like the giants from the blood of Raktabij, men who to their own strength add the strength, doubled and quadrupled by death or persecution, of the martyrs for the cause. It was the exiled of Italy, it was the men who languished in Austrian and Bourbon dungeons, it was Poerio and Silvio Pellico and their fellow-sufferers whose collected strength reincarnated in Mazzini and Garibaldi and Cavour to free their country.
Let there be no fainting of heart and no depression, and also let there be no unforeseeing fury, no blindly-striking madness. We are at the beginning of a time of terrible trial. The passage is not to be easy, the crown is not to be cheaply earned. India is going down into the valley of the shadow of death, into a great horror of darkness and suffering. Let us realise that what we are now suffering, is a small part of what we shall have to suffer, and work in that knowledge, with resolution, without hysteria. A fierce and angry spirit is spreading among the people which cries out for violent action and calls upon us to embrace death. We say, let us be prepared for death but work for life,– the life not of our perishable bodies but of our cause and country. Whatever we do, let it be with knowledge and foresight. Let our first and last object be to help on the cause, not to gratify blindly our angry passions. The first need at the present moment is courage, a courage which knows not how to flinch or shrink. The second is self-possession. God is helping us with persecution; we must accept it with joy and use that help calmly, fearlessly, wisely. On the manner and spirit in which we shall resist and repel outrage and face repression, while not for a moment playing into the hands of the adversary, will depend the immediate success or failure of our mission.
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: Bipin
2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: effect
3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin