Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. May 20, 1907
The “Statesman” on Mr. Mudholkar
Nothing can be more instructive than the way in which recent events have arrayed all Anglo-Indians, “liberal” or reactionary, on one side and on the other hand brought all Indian politicians, moderate or “extremist”, nearer to each other. It shows that the profound division of interests creates an unbridgeable gulf between the aliens in possession and the people of the country in their different degrees of aspiration.
Apparent alliances between Anglo-India and any section of the people can only be temporary adjustments of self-interest or of policy. When the crucial moment comes, each must return to his own camp and stand in sharply-defined opposition to his recent ally. We have had occasion to comment strongly on the recent unmasking of the Statesman. It was emphasised yesterday by the bitter and unscrupulous attack of that paper on Mr. Mudholkar. Mr. Mudholkar is the leading Moderate politician of the Berars, a man almost timid in his caution and one of the chief opponents of the new Nationalism. One would have thought therefore that the Statesman would have the decency at least to treat him with some affectation of respect. But Mr. Mudholkar is handled as roughly and hectored and lectured as insolently as if he had been a Tilak or a Bepin1 Pal. The attack is not only insolent; it is unscrupulous. The Statesman does not hesitate to misrepresent Mr. Mudholkar in order to serve its own ends. This is how it distorts Mr. Mudholkar's letter in one instance: “We read at the outset the2 theory of provocation is ridiculous and absurd; but in the succeeding sentence Mr. Mudholkar impliedly admits that it was the conduct of a few indiscreet young men that furnished the immediate occasion of the riot. This, we believe, has now been definitely established.” Anyone who takes the trouble to read Mr. Mudholkar's letter will see at once that he does not admit either impliedly or directly that there was provocation. He says, “Assuming, what has yet to be proved, that the impassioned advocacy of Swadeshi goods by the National Volunteers was distasteful to the Mahomedans, how could it possibly serve as a provocation?” And proceeding with this assumption, he asks in the next sentence how this alleged indiscretion of a few young men at the Mela could produce so fearful a riot? We cannot credit the Statesman with sufficient dullness or ignorance of the English language as to suppose that its distortion of Mr. Mudholkar's argument is not deliberate.
And when, may we ask, was it “definitely established” that the indiscretion of a few Volunteers was the cause of the riot? We know that it is so stated by the correspondents of Anglo-Indian papers whose evidence, being mere hearsay, has no value whatever, and we presume that this is what they have been told by the police officials who are accused of complicity in leading the Hindus into a carefully-prepared trap. But the statements of the Hindus, who were attacked, stand as yet uncontroverted by independent evidence and unrefuted by any reliable enquiry. The Statesman, feeling the weakness of its case, tries to justify the action of the Mahomedan rowdies by saying that there has been a rise of prices round about Jamalpur as the result of the Swadeshi agitation. This is, in the Statesman's view, sufficiently grave provocation! Well, possibly so. There has been, we know, an immense rise of prices all over India owing to the British occupation, to which the present rise of prices is absolutely nothing. Would that, in the Statesman's view, be sufficiently grave provocation for the whole of India to rise in riot of3 rebellion?
The Statesman has no real answer to Mr. Mudholkar's arguments. Its answer to him consists merely of a prolonged charge of exaggerated language. Mr. Mudholkar described the state of things in East Bengal by the words “anarchy, rapine, desecration, bloodshed”. These words the Statesman stigmatises as “ludicrously inappropriate to the facts”. Indeed? The facts are that for the space of several weeks village after village was plundered and property to the value of many lakhs looted; yet this is a state of things which we are not to be allowed to term rapine. During the same time images were destroyed, temples attacked and desecrated, a religious celebration forbidden by armed rowdies; yet all this did not amount to desecration! Life and person were unsafe, numbers of men were hurt, some so seriously as to be sent to the hospital, two or three were brutally murdered, yet the Statesman thinks there was no bloodshed. For this space of time life and property and the honour of women were unsafe over a large area, the Hindus had to flee from Jamalpur and in all neighbouring places to organise their own defence, panic and riot and outrage reigned supreme while the constituted authorities busied themselves repressing the community attacked and threatened, leaving a free hand to the rioters; but this is not to be called anarchy! No, all this4, says this miraculous Friend of India, were mere ordinary local disturbances which would scarcely have attracted notice but for the profoundness of the Pax Britannica. Mark the opinions of your friend, people of India. The desecration of your temples, the violation of your women, the wholesale plunder of your property are to him things that scarcely deserve to attract notice.
The Statesman again rebukes Mr. Mudholkar for exaggerating the riot at Rawalpindi which it holds to be a very ordinary affair, and thinks that because Mr. Mudholkar has exaggerated this and other matters, therefore Indians are unfit to be entrusted with the administration of their own affairs. Yet in the same article the Statesman justifies the deportation of Lala Lajpat Rai, even if he were innocent, because the occurrences in the Punjab were considered by the Government so serious that his removal was a necessity. Here is a consistent Friend of India! But if Mr. Mudholkar's exaggerated ideas of the Rawalpindi disturbances unfit his countrymen for self-government, still more do Sir Denzil Ibbetson's and the C. M. Gazette's yet more exaggerated ideas of the same occurrences show that Englishmen are unfit to rule India.
The only point that the Statesman successfully makes against Mr. Mudholkar is when it disproves his belief that such arbitrary and tyrannical proceedings are subversive of the principles of British law. This delusion of the Moderates ought now to be renounced. They have always laboured under the delusion that because the British Government, as apart from its local instruments, acts within the law, it is therefore incapable of oppression. On the contrary, as the Statesman points out, the British laws give ample room and provide adequate weapons for methods of despotic repression which are often indistinguishable in kind, though less direct and brutal than Russian methods.
None, says the Statesman sanctimoniously, has laboured more devotedly than ourselves in the case of India's political emancipation. We have heard legends that have come down to us from the times of our fathers of occasional active help given by the Statesman to their constitutional agitation, but we do not know what it has done recently beyond promising reforms which never come and thriving on the support of the Indian public. Certainly this is not enough to entitle it to lecture one of the leaders of public opinion and revile him as a “ranter”. We hope that Mr. Mudholkar will learn his lesson, cease to appeal to English rulers and English journals and address himself in future to his own countrymen. Let him join hands with us in training them into a strength which will be a far greater security against “anarchy, rapine, desecration and bloodshed” than the protecting arm of the bureaucracy or the friendship of the Statesman.
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: outset that the
3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: or
4 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: these