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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. July 29, 1907

The Issue

The bureaucracy as usual has over-reached itself in instituting a case under the sedition clause against the editor of the Yugantar. The Punjabee prosecution did untold harm to their prestige and helped to shatter the not overabundant remnants of their moral ascendancy; its work was negative and destructive. But the Yugantar prosecution has been a positive gain to the national cause; it has begun the positive work of building up the moral ascendancy of the people which is to replace that of the alien and nullify his mere material superiority. This momentous result the editor of the Yugantar1 has brought about by his masterly inactivity. His refusal to plead has been worth many sensational trials. It has produced an enormous effect on the public mind all over India, not only as an individual instance of moral courage and readiness to suffer quietly and simply, without ostentation and self-advertisement, as a matter of course and one's plain duty to the country, but as the first practical application in the face of persecution of the sheer uncompromising spirit of Swarajism. For the first time a man has been found who can say to the power of alien Imperialism, “With all thy pomp of empire and splendour and dominion, with all thy boast of invincibility and mastery irresistible, with all thy wealth of men and money and guns and cannon, with all thy strength of the law and strength of the sword, with all thy power to confine, to torture or to slay the body, yet for me, for the spirit, the real man in me, thou art not, thou art only a phase, a phenomenon, a passing illusion, and the only lasting realities are my Mother and my freedom.”

It is well that we should understand the real issue which is not primarily one of law or of political forms and institutions, but a spiritual issue on which all others depend and from which they arise. The question is not whether one Bhupendranath Dutt published matter which he knew to be likely to bring the Government established by law, to wit certain mediocrities in Belvedere, Darjeeling, Shillong or Simla who collectively call themselves the Government of Bengal or of India, into contempt or hatred or to encourage a desire to resist or subvert their lawful authority. If that were all, we might argue the question whether what he did was wise or what he wrote was true or mistaken, legal or illegal. As it is, these things do not matter even to the value of a broken cowrie. The real issue for us Nationalists is something quite different and infinitely more vital. It is this, “Is India free?” not even “Shall India be free?” but, is India free and am I as an Indian free or a slave2 bound to the service, the behest or forced3 guidance of something outside and alien to myself and mine, something which is anātman, not myself? Am I, are my people part of humanity, the select and chosen temple of the Brahman, and entitled therefore to grow straight in the strength of our own spirit, free and with head erect before mankind, or are we a herd of cattle to live and work for others? Are we to live our own life or only a life prescribed and circumscribed for us by something outside ourselves? Are we to guide our own destinies or are we to have no destiny at all except nullity, except death? For it is nonsense to talk of other people guiding our destinies, that is only an euphemism for killing our destinies altogether; it is nonsense to talk of others giving us enlightenment, civilisation, political training, for the enlightenment that is given and not acquired brings not light but confusion, the civilisation that is imposed from outside kills a nation instead of invigorating it, and the training which is not acquired by our own experience and effort incapacitates and does not make efficient. The issue of freedom is therefore the only issue. All other issues are merely delusion and Maya, all other talk is the talk of men that sleep or are in intellectual and moral bondage.

We Nationalists declare that man is for ever and inalienably free and that we too are, both individually as Indian men and collectively as an Indian nation, for ever and inalienably free. As freemen we will speak the thing that seems right to us without caring what others may do to our bodies to punish us for being freemen, as freemen we will do what we think good for our country, as freemen we will educate ourselves in our own schools, settle our differences by our own arbitrators, sell and buy our own goods, build up our own character, our own civilisation, our own national destinies. Your schools, your administration, your Law Courts, your manufactured articles, your Legislative Councils, your Ordinances and sedition laws are to us things alien and unreal, and we eschew them as Maya, as anātman. If men and nations are for ever and inalienably free, then bondage is an illusion, the rule of one nation over another is against natural law and therefore a falsehood, and falsehood4 can only endure so long as the Truth refuses to recognise itself. The princes of Bengal at the time of Plassey did not realise that we could save ourselves5. We were not enslaved by Clive, for not even a thousand Clives could have had strength enough to enslave us, we were enslaved by our own delusions, by the false conviction of weakness. And the moment we get the full conviction of our strength, the conviction that we are for ever and inalienably free, and that nobody but ourselves can either take or keep from us that inalienable and priceless possession, from that moment freedom is assured. So long as we go on crying “We are unfit, we are unfit”, or even doubt our fitness, so long we shall make and keep ourselves unfit. It is only the conviction of fitness for freedom and the practice of freedom that makes and keeps men fit for freedom. To create that conviction, to encourage and make habitual that practice is the whole aim of the new movement. Nationalism is the gospel of inalienable freedom. Boycott is the practice of freedom. To break the Boycott and to stop the preaching of Nationalism is the whole object of the bureaucracy. The Times saw this when it singled out the writings of Bande Mataram and Yugantar, the speeches of Bepin6 Chandra Pal and his like and above all, the Boycott as the root of all evil. Behind all technicalities this is the true and only issue in these sedition cases. The Nationalists declare that Indians are for ever and inalienably freemen and vindicate their right to preach this gospel; Mr. Morley and the bureaucrats tell us we are for ever and inalienably the property of England and would pursue our preaching as a crime. Who or what shall reconcile this fundamental and irreconcilable opposition?


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: of Yugantar


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


3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: or the forced


4 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: falsehoods


5 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: save ourselves, they thought that something outside would save us.


6 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin