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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. June 4, 1907

Regulated Independence

Never before were the utter helplessness and the deplorable demoralisation of the Native Princes of India more clearly demonstrated than at the present moment, when our political ideas and ideals are undergoing such a change. Writes the Daily News: “It is gratifying to learn that some of the Native States are following in the wake of the Government of India for the suppression of sedition, if not political agitation altogether. News comes from Srinagar that His Highness the Maharaja of Kashmir is about to issue a proclamation warning his subjects against the pitfalls of the so-called nationalist agitation. We do not doubt that his brother rulers in the Punjab will emulate so good an example.” Some of us were at a loss to understand the cause of the Daily News's jubilation. Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code runs as follows: “Whoever by words either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards His Majesty or the Government established by law in British India, shall be punished with transportation for life.” So sedition in Kashmir is not sedition in British India; and by the attempts of the Kashmir Darbar1 to suppress sedition one naturally understood attempts to suppress the endeavours of Kashmir subjects to bring into hatred and contempt or excite or attempt to excite disaffection towards the Kashmir Darbar2. But the Proclamation removed our doubt. We are asked to believe that the Maharaja of Kashmir, with a wonderful tact for self-effacement, was anxious only to protect the Government established by law in British India. The Maharaja's tender solicitude for the safety of the Power which had sold Kashmir to his ancestor and had, only the other day, condemned him unheard, was amazing indeed. But the matter did not end here. Following close upon the issuing of the Proclamation a Darbar3 was held in Kashmir. Sir Francis Younghusband made a speech and the thanks of the British Government were conveyed to the Maharaja. The Maharaja, we are told, was so greatly affected that he could hardly find words to express his feelings, which is hardly wonderful considering the circumstances. He was able only to say that the tradition of his house was one of loyalty to the British Government. “This,” says the Hindu Patriot, “is as it should be.”

We cannot understand the logic of the “oldest native paper in India”. Why should it be so? Did not the founder of the Kashmir house pay a very heavy price for Kashmir? True to a disgraceful understanding with the British Government, of which both parties ought to have been ashamed, Golab Singh to quote Sir Thomas Holdich “deserted his Sikh masters and paid for Kashmir with money looted from the Lahore treasury”. So it was only “give and take”.

But these pathetic and miraculous happenings appear more intelligible and less pathetic when we realise that though the voice is the voice of Jacob, the hands are the hands of Esau. And this fact becomes patent when we find that Kashmir does not present an isolated instance of such zeal on the part of Native Chiefs to safeguard the interests of the bureaucracy. If Kashmir can be made useful to suppress sedition, the Maharaja of Coochbehar can at least help in putting down the boycott. On the occasion of the distribution of prizes to the students of the Jenkins School the Maharaja of Coochbehar said that “schoolboys were ciphers in politics”, and warned them against the danger of rushing into the whirlpool of politics, or joining in any political movement. Boys must read and play and ought never to concern themselves with matters beyond their grasp, and about which, on account of their age and inexperience, they have not the capacity to form sound, mature and correct opinions. With Swadeshism His Highness declared his full sympathy but he “was totally, entirely and absolutely against boycott”. If anything approaching the boycott movement was seen in his territory His Highness gave in clear, emphatic and unequivocal language to understand that he would adopt very stringent measures to put it down. It is a pity that it should have been made necessary for the Maharaja to be so clear, emphatic and unequivocal and we can only extend to him our heart-felt sympathy.

But we cannot hold these Indian princes responsible for all they do or say. Their so-called independence is nothing more than a mere name. Though Lord Curzon called them his “colleagues and partners in the task of Indian administration”, the truth was better expressed by Lord Dufferin who characterised the independence enjoyed by them as a “regulated independence”, regulated by whom and to what extent it is superfluous to say. The incubus of the British Resident is always there. And the results of his intervention often disastrous to the Chiefs were thus summed up by the Gaekwar of Baroda in the Nineteenth Century in 1901: “Uncertainty and want of confidence in the indigenous Government is promoted. The influence of the Raja, which is indispensable for the individuality of the State4, is thereby impaired. The ruler, being discouraged, slackens his interest in the continuity of his own policy.” Then, of course, there are the annual visitations to relieve the States of their superfluous wealth and prove to the people that their Chief is no better than a pigmy before the viceregent5 of the King of England.

The attitude now taken by these Chiefs towards the spirit of Nationalism that is re-creating India, shows merely the degree to which the bureaucracy is determined directly and indirectly to stamp out the spirit. They have greater advantages in the States than in their own territory, for they can make the measures more thoroughgoing and rigorous than in British India and they can at the same time, through the Anglo-Indian Press, point to this rigour as a proof of the superior liberalism of British bureaucracy as compared with a native rule. This is indeed killing two birds with one stone.

 

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: durbar

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

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

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

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

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