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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. June 5, 1907

Wanted, a Policy

A silence has fallen on the country since the inauguration of a new repressive policy by the bureaucracy, a silence broken only by Cocanada1 riots on one side and talk of a special Congress session on the other. Srijut Surendranath Banerji has gone to Simultala to think over the situation and other leaders are thinking over it wherever they happen to find themselves. The only gentleman in authority who has come forward publicly with a policy is Srijut Bhupendranath Bose and we are grieved to find that the country has received this honourable and legislative gentleman's proposals with the supreme contempt of neglect. It is natural that our adversaries should exult over this silence and point to it as an evidence of complete demoralisation, and it is natural that those of us who are not in constant touch with the mofussil should also feel the silence burdensome and talk of demoralisation. We do not believe that the country is demoralised. On the contrary we believe that circumstances have taken an extremely favourable turn. There is, to begin with, an immense revolution of opinion all over Bengal which has brought all but the inveterate loyalists to understand the situation and face realities. Secondly, if our information from the mofussil is correct, the people, the rank and file, are by no means cowed down, but rather from every part we hear news of men girding themselves for real work, now that the outer expression of our feelings is hampered and our hopes and aspirations driven in upon themselves. We are especially glad to find in West Bengal, so long apathetic, new stirrings of life and resolution. Nevertheless, in a certain small section there is undoubtedly bewilderment, hesitation and something like panic and we would be glad to believe that these feelings are not shared by any of our leaders or at least by those who have hitherto arrogated to themselves leadership and the credit for all the work that has been done. One cannot help thinking that they are, some of them, in the predicament of the Homeric heroes: “They feared to take the challenge, to refuse it they were ashamed.”

If they are not demoralised, if their hearts and hopes are as high as ever, they should take some trouble to show it. On the other hand, if they are demoralised, if they are suffering from sinkings and searchings of the heart, they ought to take some trouble to hide it. The words of the Mahabharata apply with particular force:

“Never should a prince and leader bow his haughty

head to fear,

Let his fortune be however desperate, death however

near.

If his soul grow faint, let him imprison weakness in

his heart,

Keep a bold and open countenance and play on a

hero's part.

If the leader fear and faint, then all behind him faint

and fear.

So a king of men should keep a dauntless look and

forehead clear.”

What the country wants is a pronouncement of policy it need not be a detailed or indiscreet pronouncement, but at least a lead is wanted. The bureaucracy has altered its front and changed its plan of campaign. Will it be enough to modify our old policy to meet a new but surely not unexpected situation or will it be necessary for us also to change our plan of campaign? One thing at least is certain, we in Bengal have no intention of giving up Swaraj, no intention of giving up Swadeshi, no intention of giving up Boycott; to this the Bhupendranaths and the others must make up their minds2. If any leader tries to lower this triple banner of the cause, he forfeits his reputation and his position from that date. The country has no intention of withdrawing from a single essential position that has once been occupied.

Although we can make no claims to leadership, we have, as a responsible organ of public opinion, the duty of laying our views before the people and we have not failed to do so to the best of our ability. The policy we advocate now is the policy we have always advocated, the policy of the organisation of Swaraj and passive resistance. To push forward Swadeshi, to push forward National Education, to take up Arbitration in earnest and for the effective working of this positive side to create what we have not up till now created except in certain districts, a compact, well-managed, earnest organisation; on the other hand, to follow a rational, effective and steady system of Boycott, and passively to oppose Government repression at every turn, to disregard the Risley Circular, to disregard the bureaucratic intimidation of the Press, to disregard or circumvent if we cannot disregard the Coercion Ordinance, to meet with silent contempt the danger of deportation and the threat of imprisonment; this is the policy we would favour if there are men in Bengal bold enough and steadfast enough to carry it out. Doubtless there are other dangers more serious than any that have yet threatened us, but if we lower the tone of the movement on account of anticipated calamities which may never happen, we may stand charged before posterity with the crime of sacrificing the future to vain and timid imaginations. Here again the wisdom of Vidula has a word in season for us: “Make not great thy foeman by thy terrors, panic eyes behind.” The bureaucracy will use every method to kill the movement, guile as well as terrorism, they will try to bribe us with remedial measures as well as to bludgeon us with ordinances; they will wave the sword at us whenever we make the slightest movement and use it on occasion. Our future depends on our surmounting both inducement and intimidation. Let us take possible dangers into consideration, by all means, and provide against them, never run our heads against them wantonly and without occasion; but to be turned from our path by possible dangers is neither true manhood nor true prudence. The path to Swaraj can never be safe. Over sharp rocks and through thick brambles lies the way to that towering and glorious summit where dwells the Goddess of our worship, our goddess Liberty. Shall we dare to aspire to reach her and yet hope to accomplish that journey perilous with unhurt bodies and untorn feet? Mark the way; as you go it is red and caked with the blood of those who have climbed before us to the summit. And if that sight appals you, look up and forget it in the glory of the face that smiles upon us from the peak.

 

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: Coconada

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

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