Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. August 19, 1907
Barbarities at Rawalpindi1
The process of terrorism that is going on at Rawalpindi in the name of administering justice is too open and transparent to require any unravelling. Of course, every one who takes politics seriously thought that the British law and administration would at once reveal their true nature if the people were to enter on a real struggle for self-improvement and the repression that is being resorted to in the Punjab under the pretext of trial has caused no surprise to those with whom the work for the nation's future is a duty demanding enormous self-sacrifice. But the series of episodes connected with the Rawalpindi trial in which humanity has been outraged and decency defied should nevertheless be taken to heart by the people. They demand an adequate response of stern and resolute work as an atonement and recompense for the sufferings of these martyrs. No patriot would shrink even from the agonies to which the accused are being subjected during the course of their trial at Rawalpindi if he could at least faintly hope from the attitude of his countrymen that they would carry on the patriotic work undaunted and with a greater amount of determination and energy. The man of faith no doubt is never depressed. His faith is always his stay and support. But the martyrdom becomes easier if there is the prospect of some immediate benefit to the country resulting from his sufferings.
From the very beginning of the Rawalpindi trial, the bureaucratic law seems to have been whetted against the alleged offenders. The refusal of bail to the accused amongst whom there are men of unquestioned respectability and integrity testifies to the petty vindictiveness of the judiciary which ostensibly exists to diminish crimes and not to exasperate people into their perpetration. The ill-treatment of the accused can without the least exaggeration be characterised as wanton cruelty. The accused after their experience of the British law courts will find it difficult to distinguish a judge from a mediaeval executioner. The Judge could not be moved to the most elementary feeling of humanity when the accused were overwhelmed by the most painful domestic calamities. One man was not allowed to see his dying son till he actually expired and was past all help or need of help. This ferocity on the part of a tribunal, whose special study should be to abstain from writing the least punishment on a man till his guilt has been fairly established is a violation of the first principle of justice and turns a court of law into a torture chamber. A judge should not lack firmness in repressing crime but to pursue an alleged offender with implacable wrath from the moment of his arrest is an exhibition of vindictiveness and not of due judicial austerity. The trial has now extended over nearly two months and the sickening details of inhumanity practised upon the accused continue to be as distressing as ever.
Lala Hansraj and two or three others of his position have been detained in the prison without any justification. They are not the men who can even think of shirking the consequences of their patriotic actions under an alien rule. But why anti-date2 their punishment from the very time of their arrest. They are not men accustomed to privations and they have all been showing signs of failing health during this pretty long period of police custody. They have already served out a term of punishment disproportionate to the nature of their alleged offence. It is a brand new feature of British justice to go on with the trial of men stretched on their sick-bed in the court room. Our latest telegram from Rawalpindi says that on the 16th Lala Hansraj was shaking with fever and ague on a string cot borrowed from a constable. The internal pain was so intense that tears ran down his cheeks though he tried to be firm and cheerful and pretended that something had fallen into his eyes.
We need not multiply the details of the prisoner's sufferings. We have already sampled the treatment which the Pindi martyrs are receiving at the hands of the judiciary. We expect no mitigation of their sufferings. The alleged offence of rousing people to a spirit of active resistance perhaps justifies these barbarities in the eyes of the ruling class. They are innocent of all compunction and are calmly watching the effect on the people. The Englishman once opined that even the suspected offence of inciting to a riot excuses the most monstrous treatment of the offenders. But we believe their lesson will not be lost on our own countrymen. The heavy price that these men are paying for inducing3 the spirit of self-assertion in us should nerve others to greater and greater sacrifices in the service of the Motherland.
Later edition of this work: The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo.- Set in 37 volumes.- Volumes 6-7.- Bande Mataram: Political Writings and Speeches. 1890–1908 .- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2002.- 1182 p.
1 The exact date of the article is uncertain. It appeared in the daily edition on 19 or 20 August. These issues have been lost. The article were reprinted in the weekly edition on 25 August.
2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: antedate
3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: for merely inducing