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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. July 11, 1907

English Obduracy and Its Reason

We seriously invite our Moderate friends to ask themselves for a reason as to why Englishmen should invariably meet all their demands for political reforms with the one unalterable answer that they are not fit to receive them. Why should John Morley whose writings and sayings are so instinct with an ardent love of liberty, so lightly flout their prayer for some concessions of a democratic nature? He not only denies the Indians the least measure of liberty, but shuts the door of any possible hope abruptly in their face by telling them that as long as his imagination can travel into futurity so long must India remain under personal rule. In his last Budget speech also he took the opportunity to reiterate his faith in the efficacy of personal rule for India and even went a step further and indulged in the paternal prophecy that if the English left India today, she would plunge back into rapine, bloodshed and chaos within a week. Naturally a Secretary of State who entertains such a low opinion of the Indian character would consider it the maximum of human folly to give Indians any control over the government of their country. And the opinion of Mr. Morley only too truly represents that of the general body of the Europeans who have ever come into contact with India or thought about the problem she presents before humanity. The question is why should they all have arrived at this poor estimate of the Indian's political capability? The answer, however, is not far to seek; we have only ourselves to thank for this cosmopolitan contempt into which we have brought our country. The European remains today essentially as he was in the time of Aristotle, “a political animal”. His nature has retained throughout history its ingrained and inalienable political bent; polity has played the greatest part in the moulding of his life and destiny; the ideas that have irresistibly moved him to heroic strivings, passionate hopes or death-defying sufferings have been mainly those of independence, freedom, liberty; the greatest names in his history are those of political heroes or governors; the one call that has ever sung truly in his ears and commanded his unquestioning obedience is the call to the service of his country; the courting of death for the fulfilment or the upholding of the above ideas has been as natural to him as breathing; the history of his country is the history of the increasing consummation of those ideas, in which faith and intellect have filled a subsidiary place. Such is the European by constitution. To him India is an insoluble riddle. How a country of three hundred million men can consent to be governed by a handful of foreigners he simply cannot understand. He thinks of the Indian as the1 member of a sub-human race, outside the pale of his privileges, his code of morality, his civilisation. And that new-fangled specimen of the Indian race, the educated Indian, only intensifies his contempt. That a man who has been nurtured in2 the literature of England, and has read the history of Europe, can still have failed to be touched by the European ideal, to be visited by an insatiable longing for liberty, and can continue, on the other hand, in a life of contented acquiescence in foreign rule, and feel happy and proud merely to serve under it and ensure its continuation, strikes the native of Europe as a most monstrous mockery, as some unimaginable and unaccountable perversion of human nature. He gradually gets to believe that whatever may be the excellence of his domestic life or the greatness of his philosophy, the Indian is by birth fit only to be a slave, and education succeeds in perfecting him only in the art of slavery. And as slavery means to the European the permanent extinction of all the nobler possibilities that lie before man, servile India ceases altogether to engage his least consideration or enlist his sympathy; let her alone with her slave's philosophy and art, thinks he, she can be of no service to the future of the human race.

And the politics and politicians of India heighten further his convictions about the lowering nature and effect of slavery, and the impossibility of India ever lifting herself to the level of civilised humanity. Her politics are the slave's politics whose method is prayer and petition and whose resentment or disapproval can find expression only in weeping and sobbing. And rebuff merely urges the Indian politician to greater efforts of supplication and to higher feats of wailing. And by such persistent mendicancy alone he aspires to win his country's liberty liberty to which Europe has wilfully waded her way through a welter of blood after her struggles of centuries. No, cries the irritated European, India can never be fit to govern herself. This is the secret of John Morley's point-blank refusal to satisfy Moderate aspirations; he has thrown to them a plaything or two, for they deserve nothing better. And because Mr. Morley loves and prizes liberty more highly than the average man, therefore has he been the more intolerant of the Moderate's pretensions, the more merciless in felling to the ground all his cherished delusions based on his inverted conception of liberty. The Partition of Bengal Mr. Morley admits to be a wrong, but he will not undo it because it is a settled fact; in other words, in dealing with dependent India he refuses to observe the rules of political morality which he has himself so clearly enunciated; in enunciating them, he would say, he had in contemplation only the rights and obligations that arise between one free people and another, and not the relationship between a ruling race and their abjectly servile subjects. All his other pronouncements point to the same moral. And have we not heard of the common English labourer who on being harangued eloquently by a Moderate Missionary about Indian grievances asked him bluntly if he was really relating the true state of affairs, and on being answered in the affirmative told the Missionary without much ceremony that a people who could submit to such wrongs and could think of nothing better than the sending of representatives to England to plead for their removal, fully deserved to be ruled by an arbitrary despotism? Unknowingly perhaps he was summarising the verdict of the civilised world on Indian politics. The money-making middle class in England say the same thing, and further strengthen their argument with the interesting inquiry, “What is to become of our boys if we leave the management of India in your hands?” The man from the Continent or America asks plainly, “How can the whole three hundred million of you be kept under by 70,000 tommies?”

Ought not all this to give our Moderate friends furiously to think? We can appreciate the humanity of their desire to emancipate the country without dragging her through the red horror of a revolution. But let them reconsider how best to achieve this end. Surely their failure to obtain anything worth having after thirty years of patient supplication culminating in the supreme tragedy of the refusal of John Morley, the one man of whom they had expected more than of any other even to listen to their prayers with any seriousness, ought to impel them to some introspective inquiry regarding the soundness of their political faith. We also invite their thoughts to the changing attitude of England and of the whole world towards India since the declaration of the Boycott and the rise of the New Party. We conjure the Moderate to spend his best and sincerest thoughts on these two most vital topics; and once he has begun to think, we know the days of his creed are numbered, and there can be but one party in India, the Nationalists.

 

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: a

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

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