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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. September 24, 1907

Free Speech

The Nation to hand has some pertinent observations as to the true meaning of free speech. Its interpretation of free speech clearly shows that we are content with mere shadows and that we exhaust our energies in clamouring for so-called rights and privileges which when analysed prove to be mere shams that cannot at all satisfy people who are in the least serious about them. Unless politics were a mere pastime or a means of making name and fame with us we would have never deluded ourselves with the belief that we possess any political rights and privileges under an alien bureaucracy. The bureaucracy never makes any secret of the fact that its policy will always be to safeguard its own supremacy. Popular rights and such a supremacy go ill together. Right means a power which has some sort of sanction behind it and as a power it can never be tolerated by another power always over-anxious for its existence and supremacy. The power of the state is never afraid of the power of the citizen in free democratic countries because there the objects pursued by both are identical. But this cannot be the case in a subject country where the so-called state interferes for its own benefit or the pretended benefit of the people under its assumed tutelage. But no people with any pretension to self-respect and intelligence can consent to be dictated to by a small governing body whether foreign or of the country as to what conduces to their real interests. This is where the necessity of free speech comes as an essential requisite for promoting and guarding the true well-being of the people. Free speech should therefore be not only an unfettered expression of the ideas of the people as to what alone will do them good but should also be recognised as a force by the executive body. The Nation explains the true meaning of free speech in the following words:

“Free speech in any liberal and statesmanlike sense of the term means something more than the right of a subject people to perorate in vain in a free Press, to hold public meetings, and to record its hopeless aspirations at unrecognised congresses. It means, if we are sincere, the provision of facilities for the focusing and expression of public opinion.”

Judged by this standard our crying in the wilderness with the full risk of being run in whenever the bureaucracy chooses is only aimless and dangerous prattle.

 

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