Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. November 30, 1907
The New Faith
The political struggle in India is entering on a new phase; and now that the Nationalists have been given a foretaste of its persecuting ability, the bureaucracy is making an awkward attempt to patch up a reconciliation with the Moderate leaders. The olive branch has been already held out; Lala Lajpat Rai and Sirdar Ajit Singh have been released, and vague rumours of other conciliatory measures are in the air. Press prosecutions, deportations and police hooliganism have done their work. It is now fondly believed that Nationalism is crushed and what remains is but to exchange a complimentary smile with Moderate politicians and swear eternal peace and good will. The bureaucracy has acted its part well; and in fact we expected from it no less, no more. But what the country is eagerly waiting to see is, whether those who profess to guide public opinion will forfeit their leadership and swallow the bait. They may hail with delight the relaxation of stringent measures and offer loud assurances of good will but they will have lost the authority of doing it in the name of the people.
The centre of authority has been shifted during the recent popular upheaval. The nation has become self-conscious and knows its mission, and individuals, however gifted and influential, will not be allowed to pass off their own opinions for those of the people. The real issue at stake has been revealed. All compromise is now out of the question, and Freedom's battle once begun must be carried on to the bitter end. The tortures undergone by the people have been for them an initiation in the worship of liberty, and if their sufferings have been great, the energy of their rising will be equally so. They have now learnt a truth with every tear and every month of their suffering has been for them a preparation for complete redemption. Will they now tolerate men who have no faith in popular strength and who have never understood the genius of the country to trifle with their sorrows and act as their spokes men before the alien bureaucracy? These leaders have never had sufficient insight to perceive that it is not strength but the consciousness of strength that we lacked in the past; and now that the struggle with opposing forces has evoked the national consciousness, it is too late to talk of a compromise. Compromise here cannot be from the very nature of the case, for it is not a question of removing particular grievances and setting the machinery of government in order, but of changing our political status as a nation. Decentralisation Commissions and Advisory councils can help us no longer. Even in the midst of the din and bustle of the struggle, the people have caught a glimpse of the glorious future and they will not be easily accessible to discouragement.
The bureaucracy will not have to reckon this time with a few self-styled leaders who are only too eager to fall down and worship the idol of the hour, but with a newly-awakened people to whom the political freedom of the country has been elevated to the height of a religious faith. The mist that clouded their intellect for ages has at least partially cleared away; and they have begun to feel that if only they will, they can and therefore ought to make themselves in their own country what other nations are in theirs. The political strife has assumed a religious character, and the question now before the people is whether India – the India of the holy Rishis, the India that gave birth to a Rama, a Krishna and a Buddha, the India of Sivaji and Guru Gobinda – is destined for ever to lie prostrate at the proud feet of a conqueror. Are we going to sacrifice our national destiny to the whims and interest of the foreigner or are we again to take ourselves seriously and struggle for the right to live that we may fulfil in this world our Heaven-appointed mission? It is well to state clearly the real nature of the issue, for no nation has been regenerated by a lie. Those who want liberty must buy it for themselves, and it is poor statesmanship to try to hide the real nature of the struggle by a falsehood which, after all, deceives nobody and least of all our alien lords. Plain speaking may be unpalatable and persecutions may follow, but persecutions have never yet killed a religious faith, and a self-conscious India is too mighty a power to be put down by a despot's rod. Persecutions do not crush but only fortify conviction and no power on earth can exterminate the seed of liberty when it has once germinated in the blood of earnest and sincere men.
The days of timid dabblers in politics are over and men who have no faith in enthusiasm and who cannot believe in anything beyond the cold calculations of diplomacy by which they have been a thousand times bought and sold and who cannot believe in the possibility of uniting the people in a single aim and purpose have no more business to loiter in the political field. They have no right to assume the direction of an enterprise they are incapable of grasping or conceiving in its entirety. Those hugely credulous worthies who have still the heart to lend their ears to the siren voice of a Morley, have never understood the true way to salvation, and dismayed by the greatness of the undertaking, have contented themselves by scoffing at an enthusiasm they extinguished by their timidity and hesitation.
But every error they have committed has served as a stepping-stone to truth. The effect of their accumulated errors has been to dispel the illusion, and new circumstances today have called forth new men, men untrammelled by old habits and systems, men in whom the great Idea is incarnate, who have realised that the true secret of power is faith, who know that true virtue is sacrifice and that the true policy is to prove one's self strong.
To them belongs the future. The line of work is to mix with the masses and to organise and reduce to a system the ideas and aspirations now scattered and disseminated. They will put their trust in the nation and they will make all compromise impossible till the Indian soil is free.
This work was not reprinted in the CWSA and it was not compared with other editions.