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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. June 7, 1907

Defying the Circular

It will not be long now before the Colleges open and the students begin to return to Calcutta; the moment they come the struggle for the possession of the youth of the country must begin. The bureaucracy has thrown out the challenge and there is every sign that it will be taken up. Men of all parties, except the party of Mr. N. N. Ghose which, as it consists of only one man, need not concern us, are agreed that to acquiesce in the Circular is out of the question. If there is any difference of opinion, it is as to the best method of defying it, and that is not a matter of primary importance. For our own part, we have expressed ourselves in favour of an educational strike, because that is the most straightforward, the most masculine and the most aggressive form of passive resistance of which the occasion allows. We hold that in order to rise the nation must get into the habit of offering challenges rather than receiving them and when it is behind, it must take the swiftest and most direct form of demonstration open to it. Passive resistance can be carried on in an inert and passive spirit of mechanical reaction against pressure from above, or it may be carried on in an active and creative spirit, it may take the initiative instead of being driven; it may assail the citadels of the enemy instead of merely defending its own. What India needs especially at this moment is the aggressive virtues, the spirit of soaring idealism, bold creation, fearless resistance, courageous attack; of the passive tamasic spirit of inertia we have already too much. We need to cultivate another training and temperament, another habit of mind. We would apply to the present situation the vigorous motto of Danton, that what we need, what we should learn above all things is to dare and again to dare and still to dare.

Nevertheless we recognise that to leap at once from an overpoweringly tamasic condition of mind into the rajasic, the active, restless, bold and creative, is not easy for a nation and if we can not have the best method, we will accept the second best, so long as the principle of resistance is maintained. A general defiance of the Circular will obviously make it unworkable, unless the Government is prepared to disaffiliate schools and colleges freely and give up its control of education. It is possible, of course, that they may do so in the hope of bringing the country to its knees by drawing home the conviction that it cannot take in hand its own education. But this will be a dangerous game to play; for the only thing that is needed to make the institution of a widespread and comprehensive system of national education possible and indeed eminently practicable, is the generation of an enthusiasm such as was beginning to gather force after the Carlyle Circular. A stern and bitter struggle between the people and the bureaucracy is the one thing that is likely to generate such an enthusiasm. National education is by no means impracticable or even difficult, it needs nothing but a resolute enthusiasm in the country and the courage to take a leap into the unknown. This courage is common in individuals but not in nations, least of all in subject nations; and yet when the fire is lit, it is perhaps subject nations more than any other which are found ready to take the leap.

We do not believe the bureaucracy will be willing to drive matters to such a crisis. It is more likely that they will use the Circular to harass the opposition and overcome our resistance by instituting measures of petty persecution wherever they can do it without upheaving the whole foundation of the educational system in Bengal. All that is demanded from us is therefore a persistent resolution to make the Circular unworkable regardless of loss and sacrifice. We must take every opportunity of challenging the Circular and testing the resolution of the bureaucracy and the campaign must be carried on simultaneously all over Bengal, if not in other parts of India as well. But it is Calcutta which must give the signal. Indeed, Calcutta has already given the signal. Meetings have been held in which teachers and students have attended and taken an active part; more meetings of the kind will be held and when the Colleges reopen, there must be a general defiance of the ukase. Once Calcutta leads the way, East Bengal will respond and West Bengal follow the general example. The Risley Circular must go the way of its predecessors1.


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: predecessor