Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. August 31(?), 1907
The Three Unities of Sankharitola
Mr. N. N. Ghose has again attempted to answer us in his issue of the 26th August. As usual the bulk of his answer is composed of irrelevant abuse, but we are glad to note that except towards the end where his passion of spite and wounded vanity has broken out in a furious yell of hatred, he has tried to curb his natural inclination to couch the logic of Billingsgate in the language of the gutter. We pointed out that Mr. N. N. Ghose's “historical facts” – which he had brought forward to prove his theory that Nationality was possible everywhere except in India, were all blunders of which a schoolboy would have been ashamed, and we drew the inevitable conclusion that the sage of Sankharitola1 was an ignoramus in history. That was exceedingly plain language, no doubt, but it was relevant to the issue. A man who knows nothing about history, has no business to argue from history and foist on the public conclusions drawn from his own imagination or from others and distorted in the borrowing under the disingenuous pretence that they are the “laws of national growth” as ascertained from an accurate study of the world's past experience. And what is Mr. N. N. Ghose's answer? His answer is that Srijut Aurobindo Ghose is a coward and had not courage to ride a horse and that he would never have been a patriot if he had not failed in the Indian Civil Service. Even if that be true,– and we can hardly blame the Principal of the Metropolitan College for judging others by his own standard of courage and patriotism,– we do not see how it helps his case or goes to prove that his bad premises do not vitiate his conclusions or that Nationality is impossible in India. The question is not whether Srijut Aurobindo Ghose is a coward and a self-seeker but whether Mr. N. N. Ghose is wrong in his facts and in his conclusions. With regard to the facts he has practically admitted defeat. He admits that he is an ignoramus, he admits that the depths of his ignorance have been proved to be unfathomable. We can therefore leave him alone in the future and confine ourselves to his opinions. An ignoramus who pretends to a monopoly of knowledge and wisdom, and is always questioning other people about their educational qualifications, makes himself offensive and deserves to be exposed but an ignoramus who confesses that he is an ignoramus is harmless and even an object of kindly pity.
Mr. Ghose argues that though his facts were wrong, that does not prove that his conclusions were not right. Perhaps not, but it at least creates a presumption in that direction. We shall however leave his self-justification on this point for future treatment and deal with the more substantial issues he has raised in his defence.
Mr. N. N. Ghose's position – and we notice it only because it is the position of better men than he – is contained in the following luminous sentence: “The bookish politician is not able to cite a single instance where a nation was made by boycott or under any conditions other than the unities we have more than once referred to.” Here there are two propositions, one, that boycott never made a nation, the other that in every case of the building up of a nationality there have been present as indispensable conditions and the only causes of the growth of nationality Mr. Ghose's three precious unities,– viz., a single language, a single race, a single religion. A more shallow, ignorant and unfounded brace of assertions it would be difficult to imagine. We pointed out in the first article in which we condescended to notice Mr. Ghose's flounderings, several instances of nations which have been welded into unity and maintained their unity without possessing a single one of these indispensable “unities”. As for unity of race there is not a single one of the European nations which is not a compound of several races, except, possibly, the Scandinavian peoples. In England up to the present day the Celtic races preserve their separateness and distinct individuality: in Austria there are a superfluity of different races and languages: Russia is a congeries of peoples: Italy was built up out of various races and even after the accomplishment of national unity the Gallo-Lombard of the North and the Latins, Oscans, Umbrians, Tuscans of the Centre find it difficult to understand and live with the Graeco-Italians of the South: in Germany the Prussian, the Slav, the Pole, and the South German are of different race-types and temperaments: in Spain the Iberian, the Goth and the Moor have mingled their blood: in France there are the Breton, still a distinct race, the Provençal and the Frank as well as the Celts of the Centre and the Aquitanian, each with noticeable marks of their separate origin: in Switzerland there are three races speaking three different languages. Does Mr. N. N. Ghose want any more instances? We can give him plenty if he does. If he had even the most insignificant knowledge of common facts, he would not have needed our assistance to enlighten him on the subject. Every one knows, except the Shankaritola2 sage, that race and nationality are two totally different things which have no necessary relation to each other, since one depends upon common descent while the other is a geographical and political unity. One might just as well say that different chemical elements cannot combine into a single substance as that different races cannot combine into a single nation. There is no such irreconcilable divergence between the races in India as to make their union an impossibility. If we turn to unity of language we find a respectable number of nations which do not speak a single language. Three languages are spoken in Switzerland, the same number in France, while Welsh holds its own in Great Britain. Unity of language, therefore, is not necessary to nationality, only the recognition of one prevalent language as the State language is required. If America, needing to be addressed in fourteen languages by her would-be Presidents is a nation, if the Swiss speaking three different languages on equal terms are a nation, what reason is there that the people of India should not federate into a single political unity? As for the religious difficulty, it is an old bogey. We do not deny the difficulty created by the divisions between the Mahomedans and Hindus, but it is idle to say that the difficulty is insuperable. If the spirit of nationalism conquered the much fiercer intolerance of the religious struggles in Europe after the reformation, it is not irrational to hope as much for India in the twentieth century. We have not seen in Mr. N. N. Ghose's polemics a single argument or favourable instance for his pretentious theory of the three unities of nationalism. We do not deny that it would be a great help to us if we had a single language or professed a single religion. But we do deny that these “unities” still less the unity of race, are indispensable. There is no warrant for such a view in history or in reason.
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 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Sankaritola
2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Sankaritola