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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. June 18, 1907

The Rawalpindi Sufferers

The bureaucracy which has decided upon coercion as the most effective means of crushing the growing national spirit in India must necessarily turn the machinery of judicial administration also to its advantage. We have observed on previous occasions that a certain portion of the positive laws enacted by the British Government has been designed not so much to secure the rights and interests of the people as to repress their free manhood. There is a popular saying that almost every action of a man can be construed as an offence according to the Penal Code. This attempt to penalise many natural human activities in a conquered country, should have long ago convinced us of the true spirit of official-made British law but we instead have lived in a Fool's Paradise and run for safety to the institutions and professions of the foreigner, obstinately blind to the manner in which they illustrate the British genius for “ruling” subject races. Where the ordinary law does not cover all the conceivable offences against the interests of the foreigner, ordinances and ukases can easily be invented to put a stop to undesirable activities as we have lately seen. Thus the bureaucratic machinery grinds slow or grinds fast, but grinding is its object. In the ordinary course of things we do not become immediately conscious of its baneful consequence; but when the bureaucracy is face to face with an adverse force or interest it at once sets itself to the work of repression with all its demoralising consequences. Viewed in this light what is being described as unprecedented and “humanity-staggering” police violence and police licence in the alleged Rawalpindi riot case, is no more than natural and expected. The tales of police oppression while inducing the most wholehearted sympathy with the noble sufferers have not the least feature of novelty in them. The Patrika is very much affected by the severe distress of the alleged rioters now on their trial; and moved by softer feelings, it has appealed to Lord Minto who according to our contemporary is “goodness personified” to come to their rescue. The Patrika is no doubt actuated by the very best of motives but our contemporary should remember that such nervousness while doing no good to the sufferers is demoralising to our firmness and high spirit. So far as the accused are concerned the die is cast. Suffer they must; their only care now must be so to suffer that their martyrdom may be a strength and inspiration to their countrymen. If their heroic and manful conduct during the trial and their readiness to face the grim sequel of a conviction puts courage into other hearts, then only will it be said that they have not suffered in vain. Otherwise there is not much on the credit side of the account. The duty of the publicist at such a time is to seek to brace the nerves of the martyrs and not to take away from the merit of their service to the country by any advocacy humiliating in form or abject in spirit. The public attitude at such a time reacts on that of the sufferer and if we give way to weakness at the report of their sufferings, we set them a bad example. We also have been moved, and not merely by feelings of grief and pity, at the dim, but only too sinister and significant hints of what is going on behind the decent show of a fair and public trial.

But this is not a time when we should give vent to feminine emotions. To try to rouse pity in the rulers is as unprofitable as it is unworthy of our manhood and of our cause and in these rough and still only superficially civilised descendants of the old sea-robbers it can only excite a deep contempt towards us and increase their arrogance. If we must show our grief and pity, let it be in substantial help to the victims or their relatives. If we must pray, let it be not to the goodness personified of any “sympathetic” repressor, but to the goodness unpersonified of the Power that makes and breaks kings and viceroys, empires and dominations. Let us pray to Him to give our brothers in Rawalpindi a stout and cheerful heart and a steadfast courage so that in the hour of their trial they may nothing common do or1 mean upon that memorable scene, and that we too, if our turn comes to suffer such things or worse for our country, may so bear ourselves that our country may profit by our sufferings. This is the only prayer that befits us in this hour of the new birth of our nation. For all that the country suffers now or will suffer hereafter are but the natural birth-pangs of a free and regenerated India.


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: may do nothing common or