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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. October 23, 1907

The Nagpur Affair and True Unity

The Nagpur Nationalists are now being run down in every quarter for having failed to work in unison with the Moderates. The cause of rupture as disclosed by the Indian Social Reformer, a hostile critic of the Nationalist Party, will convince every right-thinking man that the Nationalists had ample provocation for what is being denounced as a highly reprehensible conduct on their part. They had a Nationalist majority in the Executive Committee and the Moderates were arranging for a fresh meeting of the Reception Committee to alter this state of things. This unconstitutional step led to the subsequent unpleasant development. It is very difficult to disentangle the truth from the apparently exaggerated reports of “Nationalist rowdyism” of which so much has been heard of late. But we have a suspicion that it is the wonted game of the Moderates to have it all their own way and then to try to discredit the opponents by making them responsible to the country for the disunion and dissension in the camp. Why do they not adopt a straightforward course from the very beginning? It is they who stand in the way of a united India by denying a fair representation to those who hold advanced political views. They always want the Nationalists to compromise their principle by an appeal in the name of unity. But their selfishness and autocracy never allow them to reflect on the true way of achieving unity.

There is a cant phrase which is always on our lips in season and out of season, and it is the cry for unity. We call it a cant phrase because those who use it, have not the slightest conception of what they mean when they use it, but simply employ it as an effective formula to discourage independence in thought and progressiveness in action. It is not the reality of united thought and action which they desire, it is merely the appearance of unity. “Do not let the Englishman think we are not entirely at one on any and every question,” that is the bottom idea underlying this formula. It is a habit of mind born of the spirit of dependence and weakness. It is a fosterer of falsehood and encourages cowardice and insincerity. “Be your views what they may, suppress them, for they will spoil our unity; swallow your principles, they will spoil our unity; do not battle for what you think to be the right, it will spoil our unity; leave necessary things undone, for the attempt to do them will spoil our unity;” this is the cry. The prevalence of a dead and lifeless unity is the true index of national degradation, quite as much as the prevalence of a living unity is the index of national greatness. So long as India was asleep and only talking in its dreams, a show of unity was possible but the moment it awoke and began to live, this show was bound to be broken. So long as mendicancy was our method and ideal, the show was necessary, for a family of beggars must not vary in its statements or in the nature of its request to the prospective patron; they must cringe and whine in a single key. Under other circumstances, the maintenance of the show becomes of less paramount importance.

There is another idea underlying the cry for unity and it is the utterly erroneous impression that nations have never been able to liberate themselves and do great deeds unless they were entirely and flawlessly united within. History supplies no justification for this specious theory. On the contrary when a nation is living at high pressure and feelings are at white heat, opinions and actions are bound to diverge far more strongly than at other times. In the strenuous times before the American War of Independence, the colony was divided into a powerful minority who were wholly for England, a great hesitating majority who were eager for internal autonomy but unwilling to use extreme methods, and a small but vigorous minority of extremists with men like John Adams at their head who pushed the country into revolt and created a nation. The history of the Italian revolution tells the same story. We are fond of quoting the instance of Japan, pointing to its magnificent unity and crying shame on ourselves for falling below that glorious standard; but those of us who talk most of Japan often betray a sovereign ignorance of its history. Nowhere was there a more keen, determined and murderous struggle between parties than in Japan in the days of its preparation, and the struggle was not over the ultimate ideal or object the freedom and greatness of Japan, on which all parties were agreed, but on questions of method and internal organisation. Until that question as between the moderate Shogun Party and the extremist Mikado Party had been settled, it was felt by all that the approach to the ultimate ideal of all could not be seriously attempted.

True national unity is the unity of self-dedication to the country when the liberty and greatness of our motherland is the paramount consideration to which all others must be subordinated. In India at the present hour there are three conflicting ideals; one party set1 the maintenance of British supremacy above all other considerations; another would maintain that supremacy in a modified form; a third aspires to make India a free and autonomous nation, connected with England, if it may be, but not dependent on her. Until one of these conflicting ideals is accepted by the majority of the nation, it is idle to make a show of unity. That was possible formerly because the ideal of a modified British supremacy was the prevailing ideal, but now that new hopes and resolves are entering the national consciousness, these must either be crushed or prevail, before true unity of a regenerated nation can replace the false unity of acquiescence in servitude.


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: sets