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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. June 27, 1907

“Legitimate Patriotism”

Lord Minto has given us the historic expression “honest Swadeshi”, and it was reserved for an Anglo-Indian publicist to startle the English-knowing world by an equally significant expression, “legitimate patriotism”. Honesty, legitimacy and other kindred words of the English vocabulary are being newly interpreted by the Anglo-Indian bureaucrats and publicists. The natural sentiments and aspirations of men are to be regulated according to their convenience and notions.

If you give preference to the indigenous products of the country and ask your friends, relatives and countrymen to do the same, you are dishonest. This is stretching the meaning of honesty to suit the moral sense of our alien and benevolent despots. Today we hear from another Anglo-Indian Sir Oracle, the Daily News of Calcutta, that there is such a thing as legitimate patriotism. We have looked up the dictionaries to profit by the enlightenment so kindly vouchsafed to us, but we have failed in our efforts. According to Webster, patriotism covers all activities to zealously guard the authority and interest1 of one's country and we are at a loss to understand how what the Indians have hitherto done or proposed to do to ensure the authority and interest2 of their country can be stigmatised as illegitimate. We on the contrary believe, and that according to the best authority, that the patriotism which has hitherto wrested from Mr. Morley only an expanded Council with an official majority and a comic advisory Board of Notables, falls far short of the standard of lexicographers. Patriotism will never rest satisfied till it has recovered the authority of the country, however much the Anglo-Indians try to twist its meaning and implications.

If it is patriotic for an Englishman to say, as their greatest poet has said, that this England never did nor shall lie at the proud feet of a conqueror, why should it be unpatriotic and seditious for an Indian to give expression to a similar sentiment? If it is highly patriotic for a Roman “to die in defence of his father's ashes and the temples of his gods”, why should it be madness and senseless folly for an Indian to be stirred by a similar impulse? If “self-defence is the bulwark of all rights”, as Lord Byron has said, why should an Indian journalist be charged with an attempt to incite to violence when he asks his countrymen of East Bengal to defend the honour of their women at any cost? If Campbell is right in saying that virtue is the spouse of liberty, why should an Indian be exposed to the menace of siege-guns when entering on a legitimate and lawful struggle for the recovery of his lost freedom? If each noble aim repressed by long control expires at last or feebly mans the soul, why should not our countrymen benefit by the advice of Goldsmith and begin to chafe at the attempt to prolong this alien control? If Tennyson is justified in taking a pride in his country which freemen till, which sober-suited Freedom chose, where girt with friends or foes, a man may speak the thing he will, where freedom slowly broadens down from precedent to precedent, why should it be criminal on the part of an Indian to imagine a similar future for the land of his birth? It will not do to fling in our face the mockery of glittering generalities or blazing ubiquities of natural right with which they ridiculed the Declaration of Independence by the American colonists in 1776. Man cannot escape the influence of these glittering generalities and blazing ubiquities; the literatures of peoples who struggled for independence in former ages have always abounded with them and the awakened East must also talk in the same language. When some mighty sentiments dominate the human breast, they give rise to language which runs the risk of being scouted as mere platitude, they give rise to activities and demonstrations which are in danger of being traced to illegitimate sources. The students of Rajahmundry3 wore “Bande Mataram” badges, shouted “Bande Mataram” in the streets, gave a grand reception to a Nationalist speaker, formed themselves into a Balabharat Samiti, and the Daily News thinks all these to be the outcome of a patriotism hardly legitimate. What is then legitimate patriotism, pray? Our contemporary has given us no light on the point. We suppose it means a blind loyalty to the alien government, a helpless acquiescence in its most despotic measures, bowing our knee to every Anglo-Indian, especially to the dicta of the Editor of the Indian Daily News and the Englishman. If we do not accept the ethics of the British and Anglo-Indian Press which calls the present patriotic movement immoral and ascribes it to the want of moral training in our schools and colleges, we may be guilty according to Anglo-Indian jurisprudence but the higher tribunal to whom alone all oppressed peoples look up, knows their hearts and shapes their destinies accordingly.


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: interests


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


3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Rajamundry