Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. June 7, 1907
By the Way
When shall We Three Meet Again?
The Statesman, which seems now to be the mouthpiece of the bureaucracy, published a semi-official communique to the effect that prosecutions are being launched against three of the journals in Bengal which have been the most violent in their recent utterances. This pleasant news opens the way to a most interesting line of speculation and we would suggest that one of our contemporaries, say, the Sandhya, might start a plebiscite or a prize competition for the correct list of the unfortunate1 victims. The prize would of course be given to the competitor who got the right names in the right order. It would be interesting to know whether the impressions of the people and of the Bengal Government tallied on this knotty question. If we ourselves are to be one of the recipients of this Government distinction, we must petition the authorities beforehand – even at the sacrifice of our principles – that the three editors may be allowed to share the same cell and assist each other at the same oakum picking or other exhilarating occupation in store for us, so that we may support each other “under the burden of an honour into which we were not born”. Always provided that the editor of the Indian Nation is not one of the three.
The Empire is very much hurt that the Indian papers have not taken any notice of the Viceroy's magnanimous though somewhat belated refusal to sanction the Punjab Colonisation Bill. Our contemporary thinks that we kept silent out of pure cussedness. This is unkind. Could not our dear white brother – or, our dear green brother, we should say – realise that there were other reasons, honourable or natural – for this unanimous hush. It might have been out of sheer awe, it might have been out of a choked emotion. Some scruples of delicacy, some feelings of the “sorrow rather than anger” sort, perhaps even excessive loyalty may have stopped the flow of utterance. For instance, supposing in the rush of our gratitude one were to let slip unpleasant hints about the relations2 between the Rawalpindi row and the Viceroy's sudden and stupendous magnanimity! Who would like to hurt our sympathetic Viceroy's feelings by such ungracious truths! Or again, supposing the Bengal papers were contrasting silently events in the Punjab and Bengal? They do present a remarkable contrast. In Bengal we have agitated for two years; – first with repeated petitions, with countless protest meetings, with innumerable wails and entreaties from press and platform; but that could not help us, insult and ridicule were our only gain. Then we tried every lawful means of concrete protest, every kind of passive resistance within the law to show that we were in earnest. Result,– nil. But in Punjab they petitioned and protested only for a few weeks and then – went for Europeans, their persons, their property and everything connected with them. Result – the water tax postponed, the Colonisation Bill cancelled. Of course, as loyal subjects such as the Empire wants to3 be we must regard the contrast with sorrow rather than with anger. But if we were publicly to mention these matters, might not our feelings and even our motives be misunderstood? Might it not even happen that Police-Constable Andrew would run us in, under his new-old powers for sedition? And how could a loyal Press expose itself to such misunderstanding? The Empire will surely agree with us, on reflection, that silence was best.
It is a new and gratifying feature of present day politics to find the Englishman reporting Bengali meetings in the Calcutta squares with a full appreciation of their importance. The meeting in College Square at which Srijut Krishna Kumar Mitra presided has been favoured as well as Srijut Bepin4 Chandra Pal's meeting at Beadon Square. As to the accuracy of the reports we have our doubts, for the Bengali gentleman who reports for our contemporary is afflicted with the idea that he is very humorous, and there is nothing so fatal to accuracy as a sense of humour. We would not object to this amiable delusion, or the particular style of the reporter's wit, if it did not so persistently recall to us the imperial citizen of the British metropolis out on a spree who thinks it is a5 huge joke to tickle his fellow citizens with a peacock's feather or to comment on their possession of hair or the origin of their headgear with other light and cutting sarcasms. However, we note with satisfaction that teachers and students attended the meeting, that a teacher presided, another spoke and a student seconded a resolution. We too await with interest the action of the authorities in the matter.
Our venerable friend the Indian Mirror has solemnly assured us that it should be understood that no Government, Conservative or Liberal, will countenance violent methods, such as the Extremists have hitherto employed. For this surprising information, drawn no doubt from occult sources, much thanks. But still we cannot help inquiring, who the devil ever asked them to? No one in his senses, or out of them, either, ever dreamed of calling upon any Englishman to support the Extremist policy. We note with interest that the Mirror considers Boycott, Passive Resistance, National Education, Arbitration and Physical Training to be “violent” methods. On the other hand we find Srijut Narendra Nath Sen's signature affixed to the recently-issued statement in which the use of violent methods in Bengal is denied. Hail, holy light, divine re-effective6 Mirror!
The breathless speed with which the Statesman is legislating and administering the affairs of the nation, makes one's head whirl. One day the Simla Government, no doubt laying heads together with Mr. John Morley, issues a notice handing the Press over to the tender mercies of the local administrations, but with a rider that this is in the nature of a warning to the Press to behave itself and the effect will be watched before action is taken. After watching the effect for the space of twenty four hours the Statesman issues an order from Darjeeling to prosecute any three papers out of the long list of English and vernacular publications in Bengal, the selection to be made on the principle of the loudest first. Before the Press has recovered from this shock, while everybody from the Englishman down to the Mihir Sudhakar is brooding over his past sins and preparing for the arrival of the police with handcuffs, while even the Mirror and the Nation are trying to banish uncomfortable memories of an indiscreet article or two on the Jamalpur outrages, lo and behold, the Statesman in its Viceregal Council at Simla is forging a new Act which shall provide for the gagging of the Press without the trouble of a prosecution. We know that these are the days of the electric tram and the motor car, and telepathy and wireless telegraphy, but really this is overdoing it. A little slower, please.
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: fortunate
2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: relation
3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: wants us to
4 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin
5 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: it a
6 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: reflective