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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. May 15, 1907

How to Meet the Ordinance

When we come to look at it closely, the new policy of the British Government in India is a real blessing to the country. We find ourselves in unexpected agreement with the Anglo-Indian Press in this matter. The Anglo-Indian Press is full of joy at these departures from pre-established policy and assevers in one chorus though in many keys, ekam bahudhā, that it is the very best thing the bureaucracy could have done in the interests of its own continued supremacy. We will not question their authority in a matter in which they alone are interested but we can certainly add that it is the very best thing the bureaucracy could have done in the interests of the country. Lord Minto ought therefore to be a very happy man, for it is not everyone whose actions are so blessed by Fate as to command equal approbation from the Englishman and the Bande Mataram.

Our reasons for this approval are obvious on the face of it. The great strength of British despotism previous to Lord Curzon's regime was its indirectness. By a singularly happy policy it was able to produce on the subject nations the worst moral and material results of serfdom, while at the same time it never allowed them to realise that they were serfs, but rather fostered in them the delusion that they were admirably governed on the whole by an enlightened and philanthropic people. We pointed out the other day that the relics of this superstition still lingered even in the minds of many thoroughgoing Nationalists of the new school. We did not indeed believe that the bureaucratic Government was a good government or the British people guided in their politics by enlightenment and philanthropy, but many of us believed that there were certain excesses of despotism of which they were not capable and that the worst British administration would not easily betray overt signs of moral kinship with its Russian cousin. We ourselves, although we were prepared for the worst and always took care to warn the people that the worst might soon come, thought sometimes that there was a fair balance of probabilities for and against frank downward Russianism. For such last relics of the old superstitions, for such over-charitable speculation, there is no longer any room. The whole country owes a debt of gratitude to Sirdar Ajit Singh and the Bharat Mata section of the Punjab Nationalists for forcing the hands of the bureaucracy and compelling them to change, definitely, indirect for direct methods of despotism. It has cleared the air, it has dispelled delusions; it has forced us to look without blinking into the face of an iron Necessity.

The question may then be asked, what farther room is there for passive resistance? A Punjab politician is said to have observed, after the arrests of Lala Hansraj and his friends and the first development of violent insanity in the Punjab authorities, “I do not see why the people should go on any longer with open agitation.” But, in our opinion, there is still room for passive resistance, if for nothing else than to force the bureaucracy to lay all its cards face upward on the table; the oppression must either be broken or increased so that the iron may enter deeper into the soul of the nation. There is still work and work enough for the martyr, before the hero appears on the scene. Take for instance the Coercion Ukase, the new ordinance to restrict the right of public meeting at the sweet will of the executive. It is obvious that the matter cannot be allowed to rest where it is. We would suggest to the leaders that the right policy to begin with is to ignore the existence of the Ordinance. So far as we understand, the Lieutenant-Governor of Shillong has been empowered to proclaim any area in his jurisdiction, but as yet no area has been proclaimed. This is therefore the proper time for the leaders to go to East Bengal and hold meetings in every District; and those who go, should not be any lesser men, but the leaders of the two parties in Bengal themselves. We are inclined to think it was a mistake to recall Srijut Bepin1 Chandra Pal from Madras at this juncture; but since he has been recalled, it should be for a joint action in East Bengal against the policy of repression. If the bureaucracy lie low, well and good; it will be a moral victory for the people. But the moment any particular area is proclaimed, the leaders should immediately go there and hold the prohibited meetings as a challenge to the validity of the ukase, refusing to disperse except on the application of force by the police or the military. The bureaucracy will then have the choice either of allowing the Ordinance to remain a dead letter or of imprisoning or deporting men the prosecution of whom will so inflame the people all over India as to make administration impossible or of breaking up meetings by force. If they adopt the third alternative, the leaders should then go from place to place and house to house, like political Shankaracharyas, gathering the people together in groups in private houses and compounds and speaking to them in their gates, advising them, organising them. In this way the fire of Nationalism will enter into every nook and cranny of the country and a strength be created far greater than any which monster meetings can engender. How will the bureaucracy meet such a method of propagandism? Will they forbid us to congregate in our own compounds? Will their police enter our houses and force us to shut our gates to the guest and the visitor? Whatever they do, the country will gain. Every fresh object-lesson in bureaucratic methods will be a fresh impulse to the determination to achieve Swaraj and get rid of the curse of subjection. All that is needed to meet the situation, all that we demand of our leaders is a quiet, self-possessed, unflinching courage which neither the fear of imprisonment, nor the menace of deportation, nor the ulterior possibility of worse than deportation, can for a moment disturb.


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: Bipin