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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. July 13, 1907

From Phantom to Reality

The action of the omnipotent and irresponsible executive in obstructing District Conferences alike in the proclaimed and unproclaimed areas of Bengal ought to carry home to every mind, however persistent in self-deception, the absurdity of vaunting the rights and privileges of a subject people. There is a taunt writ large over these ukases and it is this: “Fools and self-deceivers who think that rights can be held as the gift of a superior! Nothing is a right till it has been purchased by sacrifices as great as the aspiration is high. You were allowed to speak and pass resolutions so long as speeches and resolutions were all; but now that you are breaking the tacit contract by turning your movement into a serious thing, we order you to be silent and disperse.” Māyā dies hard. Illusion is the chief obstacle to salvation, man clings to illusions by a natural impulse; but to rid oneself of them is the beginning of wisdom. Illusions have long stood in the way of our political salvation and the lingering faith of our prominent men in persistent constitutional agitation, even when the alien bureaucracy stands completely unmasked before our eyes, is an illustration of the obstinate cherishing of illusions. The Magistrate prohibits the holding of the District Conference at Khulna. The High Court is moved and the illegal ukase is precipitately withdrawn: but the withdrawal was merely a change of tactics. A bureaucracy never lacks pretexts to harass the undesirables. The promoters of the Conference are now on their trial for making seditious speeches in the Conference.

At Faridpur a local leader, whose faith in the ultimate good sense of the autocratic rulers has outlived even the recent violent strain, arranged for a District Conference on a grand scale not withstanding the protests of a section of the public against holding meetings with permission from the Police. As the recent District Conferences, though compromising our self-respect to a certain extent, have at last been justified by their results, we have preferred not to press the point of honour. We have submitted to the Ordinance by not holding meetings; Faridpur and Pabna carry their weakness a little further, that is all. And on the whole it was well that the attempt to hold the Conference was made. For the Faridpur leaders adopted to a certain extent the Nationalist programme and have, as a consequence, come in conflict with the bureaucracy. The prohibitory ukase of the Magistrate of Faridpur leaves no doubt as to the attitude of the bureaucracy towards opposition in any form. They demand a tame acquiescence in their arbitrary regulations and are determined to put down any expression of adverse opinion under the pretext of preventing the spread of disaffection and the disturbance of public tranquillity. Is further explicitness wanted? Cultivate the art of “wooing”, hold meetings to issue loyalist manifestos or celebrate the Empire Day, but if you are audacious enough to express your discontent, the British truncheon is ready for you. This is the whole meaning of these ukases; this is the moral repeatedly inculcated through the various prohibitory circulars. As the old superstitions have still their hold on some minds, we welcome the repetition of such browbeating. But in the meantime we must not fail to turn them to account. If we are not capable of offering any active opposition to the encroachment on our natural rights, the intensified sense of wrong should at least give a healthy direction to the patriotic efforts of all. From such continued rebuffs we should draw the energy and inspiration to work out our national well-being on independent lines. Every fresh blow should impart a greater impetus to the Boycott, to National Education, to the organisation of discontent, with a view to leaving the aliens severely alone. But hitherto our Moderate friends have rather been anxious to ram their heads more vigorously against the stone wall of bureaucracy than to learn by their failure the necessity of taking our own road. They still persist in trying to resurrect the dead phantom of British sympathy and good will. Henceforth they should seek rather the resurrection of our own national strength and greatness. When Lord Curzon aimed his first blow at self-government by giving his seal of approval to the Calcutta Municipal Bill, the Pratibasi published a cartoon exposing the unsubstantial nature of our rights and privileges. The Calcutta Municipality was represented as a shrouded corpse surrounded by weeping relatives to whom a padre with the physiognomy of Sir John Woodburn soothingly remarked, “The Lord hath given, the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” It drew forth from the Pioneer the following retort: “The quaint conceit might have been rounded off by some hope of future resurrection.” This false hope which the bureaucracy till now sedulously fostered, has been a curse to the country. Privileges granted as favours have no true life in them; they are mere illusions and what is the use of striving for the fitful return, of ghosts who are again bound to disappear? Let māyā pass out of us, let the illusions die; let us turn with clear eyes and sane minds from these pale and alien phantoms to the true reality of our Mother as she rises from the living death of a century, and in her seek our only strength and our sufficient inspiration.


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.