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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. November 16, 1907

Nagpur and Loyalist Methods

The decision of the All-India Congress Committee, holding its session appropriately enough not in any place of meeting suitable to its character as a public body but in “Sir Pherozshah Mehta's bungalow”, has put the crown on one of the most discreditable intrigues of which even Bombay Loyalism is capable. We held our peace about the real meaning of the Nagpur affair so long as there was the remotest possibility of the sense of shame and decency reawakening among even a section of the Nagpur Loyalists, lest a too trenchant exposure of the whole intrigue might imperil that slender chance. Now that the die is cast, it is time for us to speak our minds. From the whole course of the Loyalist manoeuvres in Nagpur since the strength of the Nationalist Party in the Central Provinces became apparent, it was quite evident that from the first the Loyalists had made up their minds under inspiration from Bombay to prevent the holding of the Congress at Nagpur. To effect this object they were prepared to bring about a public scandal of the most shameful kind and bring discredit on the Congress if only their party might win a tactical advantage and, as the chief Moderate organ in Bombay frankly put it, keep the Congress out of the hands of the Extremists. It was in order to keep the Congress out of the hands of the Extremists that the session was originally arranged to be held at Nagpur and the prior claims of the Punjab ignored. For Nagpur was then supposed to be a sleepy hollow of politics, a happy hunting-ground of Rai Bahadurs and Government pets and tame patriots with the official collar round their necks, where there was no fear of Mr. Tilak's nomination becoming even a remote possibility and Sir Pherozshah Mehta might safely hope to retrieve the crushing blow his dictatorship had received at Calcutta. The Congress cabal had, unfortunately for themselves, reckoned without the fiery energy and indomitable self-confidence which have always been the characteristics of Nationalism in every country and every age of its emergence. The Nationalists of the Berar and Central Provinces took the work of proselytisation in hand and as the result of several tours undertaken by leading members of the party from town to town and village to village the sleepy hollow awoke to life, a great revolution of opinion was effected and Nationalism became in a few months a power to be reckoned with. It soon appeared that in Nagpur there was on one side the small body of wealthy, respectable and successful elders with their dependents, hangers-on and satellites and on the other side, behind a growing body of true patriots among the men of name and standing, the great bulk of the young men and the poorer middle class. When a trial of strength came over the question of Mr. Tilak's nomination the Loyalists could muster a large body of votes on the Reception Committee only by the wealthy men paying for the admission of their dependents and hangers-on, while even so against the Rs. 21,000 they could muster, the Rashtriya Mandal1 was able to show a total of more than Rs. 30,000 representing what would have been a substantial majority of votes if the rule of a three-fourths majority had not been in force. It thus became apparent that the Nationalist Party might easily command a majority of the local delegates and, since the place of session was within easy reach of Bengal and a strong body of Nationalist votes from the North, from Madras and from the Deccan might be expected, Loyalism was evidently in danger of a serious reverse compared with which its experiences at Calcutta might sink into insignificance. Nor was the outlook made rosier by the fact that there was on the Nagpur Executive Committee an active Nationalist majority led by a strong and fearless stalwart. It had become imperative, if the primary object of loyalist politics, “to keep the Congress out of the hands of the Extremists” and so avoid a rupture with the bureaucracy, was not to be hopelessly frustrated, either to drive the Extremists out of the Executive Committee and turn it into a convenient instrument for Sir Pherozshah Mehta's masterly manoeuvres or to transfer the Congress to a less central and thoroughly Loyalist locality where the Dictator's will could reign supreme.

From this point onward the hand of the great wire-puller behind the scenes can be observed in all the developments on the Nagpur stage. Left to themselves there is little doubt that the two local parties would have come to some understanding; nor can it be for a moment supposed that the audacious and high-handed attempt at a shamelessly unconstitutional coup d'état on the 22nd September was conceived in the brain of so harmless and insignificant a personality as Mr. Chitnavis. The attempt to expel Dr. Munje and his Nationalist colleagues from the Executive Committee was a failure because leonine tactics require a leonine personality to carry them through and Mr. Chitnavis was trying to wear the giant's robe without possessing the bulk and sinews of the giant. But their failure and the disturbance that followed it served the alternative plan of the Loyalists. That disturbance was obviously not engineered by the Nationalist leaders since, their point having been gained, it could serve no purpose whatever and on the contrary might do them harm, as it was bound to give and did give the Loyalists a handle for discrediting the Nationalists and stood them in good stead as a convenient and always serviceable pretext for breaking the Nagpur session if every other trumped-up excuse should fail. The same guiding hand is seen in the skill with which the very success of the Rashtriya Mandal2, was turned to the uses of the intrigue by the preposterous and cynical demand that the condition under which money had been paid in to3 it should be disregarded and a breach of faith with the public committed. Neither can we regard seriously the much advertised visits of Moderate leaders to Nagpur to effect a reconciliation, followed as they were by ostentatiously sorrowful and misleading telegrams to the effect that both sides refused to accept any compromise while the simple truth was that the Nationalists in their eagerness to have the session at Nagpur were making every time larger and larger concessions and it was the Loyalists who throughout showed themselves intractable. It is not to be believed that if such influential peacemakers had been in earnest, the Nagpur Loyalists would have showed this spirit of inflexibility; it was obviously not a local product but made in Bombay, and all these attempts at conciliation were simply meant to prepare the public mind for the transfer to Surat which had already been decided on by the master mind in Bombay. Meanwhile the wires were pulled at Surat and Madras and the Surat respectables and Mr. Krishna Swami4 Aiyer5 and his Mahajan Sabha danced to the skilful manipulation. We do not believe the Madras offer was anything but a feint, for Madras is much too near to Bengal and there is already a strong Nationalist Party in the northern parts of that province; but to have only the single offer from Surat would have been to leave the whole intrigue too bare to the public eye. Our belief is confirmed by the Bombay correspondent of the Bengalee, who openly says that Madras was not chosen because there were men in Madras pledged to Extremist views. Finally, the last act of the farce supplies the key to all that has gone before. An informal and unofficial representation from a minority of the Reception Committee is precipitately seized upon by the All-India Congress Committee, a meeting is announced not at Nagpur where the members might have gone into the matter on the spot and arranged a working compromise, but in Bombay and at Sir Pherozshah Mehta's bungalow, as if the Committee and the Congress itself were Sir Pherozshah's personal movable property; and instead of calling for a report of the Reception Committee or taking cognisance of the fact that there were citizens of Nagpur willing and able to reconstitute the Committee and hold the session as arranged at Calcutta, the Moderate majority records a predetermined decision to transfer Sir Pherozshah's movable property to Surat at a safe distance from Bengal where the Loyalist position is as yet unbreached and there is no time for the Nationalists to instruct public opinion before the holding of the session.

The intrigue is now complete, to the huge delight of the Englishman, and officialdom is full of hope that Sir Pherozshah will this year save the British Empire. For the Nationalists it should be a spur to redoubled efforts to spread their creed into every corner of the country so that Loyalism may nowhere find a secure resting place for its footsoles. As to the Surat Pherozshah Congress it would be the logical course for us regarding the decision of the All-India Committee meeting as a misuse of the powers of that body, to abstain and allow the Loyalists to hold a purely Moderate Congress of their own. The other alternative is to arrange forthwith6 the organisation of Nationalist propaganda in Gujerat and make full use of the opportunity such as it is which the session will provide. In either case, a conference of our party is necessary, for, in view of the bureaucratic campaign on one side and the danger of a retrograde step on the part of the Congress on the other, the times are critical and concerted action imperative.

 

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: Mandali

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

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3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: paid into

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

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5 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Aiyar

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6 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: forth with

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