Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. June 8, 1907
Comic Opera Reforms
Mr. Morley has made his pronouncement and a long-expectant world may now go about its ordinary business with the satisfactory conviction that the conditions of political life in India will be precisely the same as before. We know now what are the much talked of reforms which are to pave the way for self-government under an absolute and personal rule and to quiet Indian discontent. Let us take them one by one, these precious and inestimable boons. They are three in number, a trinity of marvels: an advisory Council of Notables, enlarged Legislative and Provincial Councils, admission of one or two Indians to the India Council.
An advisory Council of Notables – we can see it in our mind's eye. The Nawab of Dacca and the1 Maharaja of Darbhanga, the Maharajas of Coochbehar and Cashmere2, the Raja of Nabha, Sir Harnam Singh, a few other Rajas and Maharajas (not including the Maharaja of Baroda), Dr. Rash Behari Ghose, Mr. Justice Mukherji, a goodly number of non-official Europeans, the knight of the umbrella from Bombay, etc. etc. with Mr. Gokhale bringing up the tail as the least dangerous of those whom Mr. Morley felt that he must reluctantly call “our enemies”. And what will the business of the3 illustrious assembly be? It will find out what the opinion of the country is (on which the members will be better authorities no doubt than a highly inconvenient Press) and inform the Government; they will also find out the meaning of the Government (if that is4 humanly possible) and inform the country. We suppose it would be seditious to laugh at a Secretary of State, for is he not part of the Government established by law? So we will merely say that the right place for this truly comic Council of Notables with its yet more comic functions is an opera by Gilbert and Sullivan and not an India seething with discontent and convulsed by the throes of an incipient revolution.
As to the “enlarged” Legislative Councils we can say little. Mr. Morley does not enlighten us as to their composition but he has explicitly said that the official majority will be maintained – a piece of information, by the way, which the Bengalee's “Own Correspondents” forget to cable out to Colootola. That is enough for it means that the Legislative Councils are to be precisely what they were before, only bigger. The people are not to be given any effective control of5 check on the management of their own affairs. We had gilded shams before; they will be bigger shams, with more gilt on them, but still shams and nothing but shams.
Finally, Mr. Morley says that the time has come when it will be really quite safe to have an Indian or even two (what reckless daring!) on the India Council. Really? A year or two ago, we suppose, it would have been very dangerous,– indeed, brought the Empire down with a sudden crash. So Mr. Romesh Dutt and Justice Amir Ali's expectations may at last be satisfied and we shall have two Indian tongues in the Council of India. We wish them luck; but for all the use they will be to India, they might just as well be in Timbuctoo, or the Andamans. Indeed they would probably be of much more use in the Andamans.
We find it impossible to discuss Mr. Morley's reforms seriously, they are so impossibly burlesque and farcical. Yet they have their serious aspect. They show that the British despotism, like all despotisms in the same predicament, is making the time-honoured, ineffectual effort to evade a settlement of the real question by throwing belated and now unacceptable sops to Demogorgon. We shall return to this aspect of the subject hereafter.
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: Dacca, the
2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Kashmir
3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: this
4 1973 ed. SABCL, vol.1: be
5 1973 ed. SABCL, vol.1: or