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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. December 5, 1907

By the Way

The Scots wha hae1 not with Wallace bled but emigrated from the land of Bruce and his spider to exploit and “administer” spider fashion the land of Shivaji and Pratap, met again this year for their great national feed. The menu began with relishes and proceeded through the wedded delights of ice-pudding and liqueurs to a regale of confidences and confessions by Sir Harvey Adamson which was perhaps the most enjoyable dish of the evening. The inventive Briton has discovered the great truth that out of the fullness2 of the stomach the heart speaketh and the result is that great British institution, the after-dinner speech. So the clans gathered and Sir Harvey of the clan of the sons of Adam spoke from “beneath the spreading antlers of a Monarch of the Glen”, (so at least the Englishman dropping into poetry in its fervour assured us in sonorous blank verse) and behold! even as was the state of his stomach, so was the speech of Sir Harvey full-stomached and packed with choice titbits, comfortable, placid and well-pleased.

*

Of course Sir Harvey talked of the unrest, but his speech was eminently restful; it had all the large benevolence, sweet reasonableness and placid self-satisfaction of a man who had legislated as he had dined, wisely and well. It reeked of the olives and turtle soup and bannocks o' barley meal, it had the generous flavour of the liqueurs and the champagne. He first assured the assembled clans that the unrest was not purely a seditious movement nor an anti-partition movement, Sir Harvey has found out that, and we congratulate him on his statesmanlike perspicuity. But he has found out other things too. He has not only found out what the unrest is not, he has also found out what it is. It is simply this, that the educated classes are learning to realise their own position and to aspire to “a larger share” in the government of their own country. Now at last we see this luminous reading of the situation has shed a flood of light on Mr. Morley's policy. The educated classes want their present share in the government enlarged. Most natural, most laudable! A benevolent Minto, a Radical Morley are not the men to stand in the way of such admirable aspirations. The present share of the people in the government of their own country is nothing; they want more of it; very good, we will give them a larger share of nothing. The Legislative Council is a nothing; go to, we will enlarge that nothing; we will add fresh nothings in the shape of an Advisory Council of not-ables to assist the educated class in doing nothing; and lest the burden of such an arduous task should be too heavy for their educated shoulders, we will give them upon the Councils plenty of capable helpers some of whom have been doing nothing all their lives and ought by now to be experts. If after that the educated class does not feel satisfied in its aspirations, if it does not feel as full-fed and happy as Sir Harvey after his haggis, well, they are ungrateful brutes and there is an end of it.

*

Unkind people have said that the intention of the Government was not to satisfy the aspirations of the educated class but to exclude them from the Councils under the cover of a misnamed “reforms”. Sir Harvey is naturally shocked at so gross an imputation against his benevolent Government. All that the Government desires is to make the representation of the lawyers and educated men a “fair” representation. It does not want to exclude educated men, but only to swamp them with Zemindars3, Mahomedans and Europeans; and it does not want to “suppress the middle class” but only to reduce them to a nullity. And this because they will not have “what is scornfully known in the East as a vakil-ridden country”. It was evidently the generosity of the champagne that made Sir Harvey expand all India into the East. We are not aware that the vakil class as it exists in India is to be found anywhere except in India. It is the happy result of British rule in this favoured land that the nation now consists of a huge mass of starving peasants, a small body of dumb Government servants, and sweated office clerks, a landed aristocracy habitually overawed, fleeced and for the most part well advanced on the road to ruin, a sprinkling of prosperous middlemen, and as the only independent class, a handful of lawyers, journalists and schoolmasters. That is what Sir Harvey calls a vakil-ridden country. We have heard the expression Vakil-Raj, but we have not heard it used “scornfully” except by Anglo-Indians. But no doubt when he talks of the East, Sir Harvey means himself and his brother Scots out to make money in the East, just as by Indian trade is always meant Anglo-Indian trade and by Indian prosperity the prosperity of Anglo-India. This is a sort of official slang which has become a recognised idiom of the English language. Anglo-India is equal to India, India is equal to the East, therefore Anglo-India is the East. The Anglo-Indian has mastered the practice of the Vedanta, for, he sees himself as the whole world and the whole world in himself; why should he then make any bones about attributing his own sentiments to a whole continent?

The government, we are gratified to learn, have4 no intention of stemming the flowing tide. It wants instead to cut a new channel for the tide and divert it into a lake of not-ables, where it will cease from its flowing and be at rest. As for the old channel of Swadeshi and Swaraj, it will be carefully stopped up with a strong compositive5 of sedition laws, Goorkhas6 and regulation lathis. But meanwhile what does the tide itself think about this neat little plan? Well, says Sir Harvey, Moderate politicians are delighted, but the native press dissatisfied. We had to look twice at this remarkable assertion to make sure that the champagne (or was it good old Scotch) which Sir Harvey had drunk to the health of the unrest, had not missed its way and wandered into our eyes instead of Sir Harvey's legislative cranium. All the native papers then are Extremist organs! What, all, Sir Harvey? The Bengalee no less than the Bande Mataram, the Indu Prakash in the same boat with the Kesari? All Extremists, for have not all expressed dissatisfaction with reform7, which would have been received two years ago with an unanimous shriek of infantine delight? Who then can be Moderates? Sir Harvey was right after all. It is the virus of extremism which has entered secretly into the unsophisticated Congress mind and taught it to ask for something more than its long-cherished baubles. But in that case who are the Moderate politicians who are satisfied with the new playthings? Why, of course, Mr. Malabari and the Maharaja of Burdwan and Nawab of Dacca. For at this rate even Sir Pherozshah is suspected of extremism.

*

Sir Harvey has much to say about sedition and what he says is very interesting. He explains what sedition is and the explanation is of course authoritative, since it comes from the Law Member. First, the preaching of active rebellion against the British Government. To that of course there can be no objection. Whoever preaches an armed rebellion, does it with the gaol and gallows before his eyes, and is not likely to complain if he is punished. Secondly, efforts to reduce the native army from its allegiance, and then we get a remarkable sentence. “The Government has been publicly charged with instigation of dacoity and sacrilege,” etc. As we all know, a charge was made by the whole press, Moderate, Extremist, and Loyalist, against local officials, of having given a free hand to Mahomedan hooliganism, and the charge was never refuted and now Sir Harvey identifies the Government with these officials and lays down the law that whoever brings a charge against any official is guilty of sedition! “I and my Father in Simla are one,” the local official may now say, “and he who blasphemeth against me blasphemeth against him.” Secondly the Government has been charged with “propagating famine and plague”. We note therefore that it is sedition to say that the economic conditions created and perpetuated by the present system of government are responsible for famine and poverty and the diseases which thrive on poverty! Thirdly, the Government is seditiously charged with draining the resources of India for the benefit of England. So it is sedition too to talk of the drain or refer to Lord Curzon and his luminous remarks about administration and exploitation! These are, it seems, “turgid accusations which are made to sell and do not influence sober-minded men”. So Mr. R. C. Dutt is not a sober-minded man, nor Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji, nor Mr. Gokhale, nor even the knighted Bombay Lion. They are all turgid seditionists whose utterances are “made to sell”. One wonders who and where the devil are these sober-minded men of Sir Harvey's whom he warrants immune from turgidity, and again one has to fall back on Mr. B. M. Malabari, the Maharaja of Burdwan and the Nawab of Dacca. O blest and sainted trio.

*

Of course Sir Harvey is strong on the seditious press, in other words, the organs of anti-bureaucratic Nationalism. Our newspapers are “of a low class”, their editors have “discovered that sedition is a commercial success”, and so write, it is suggested, what they do not believe because it sells. Fudge, Sir Harvey! If you could be transformed from a perorating official Scot into the manager of a Nationalist newspaper for the first year or two of its existence, you would “discover” at what tremendous pecuniary and personal sacrifice these papers have been established and maintained. If Sir Harvey knew anything about the conditions of life in the land he is helping to misgovern, he would know that an Indian newspaper, unless it is long established, and sometimes even then, can command immense influence and yet be commercially no more than able to pay its way, especially when on principle it debars itself from taking all but Swadeshi advertisements. Fudge, Sir Harvey! The Nationalists are not shopkeepers trading in the misery of the millions; they are men like Upadhyay and Bepin8 Chandra Pal9 and numbers more who have put from them all the ordinary chances of life to devote themselves to a cause, and in the few instances in which a Nationalist journal has been run at a profit, the income has gone to Swadeshi work and the maintenance of workers and not into the pockets of the proprietors, while in almost every case men of education and ability have foregone their salary or half-starved on a pittance in order to relieve the burden of the struggling journal. These are your editors of low newspapers, traders in sedition, “interested agitators”, men without sense of responsibility or “matured understanding”. You say the thing which is not and know it, a licensed slanderer of men a corner of whose brains has a richer content than your whole Scotch skull and whose shoes you are unworthy to touch.

*

It is refreshing to learn that Sir Harvey thinks he has got under one chief means of sedition, the platform, by his gagging ordinance turned into law. He has stiffened it he says into a tap which can be turned on wherever his vigilant eye sees a travelling spark of sedition, so on that side the British Empire and the profits of the clans are safe. But against the press he has not been able to find an equally effective extinguisher. The Government were apparently equal to the manufacture, but they want to try those tools they have before forging others that we know not of. The British public also might turn nasty if there were too rapid a succession of such stiffenings and Morley might find the fur-coat an insufficient protection against the cold biting blasts of his friends' ingratitude. So Sir Harvey means to try a few more prosecutions first. But if Kingsford's pills prove ineffective, well, then Sir Harvey, in spite of the British public and Mr. Morley's sufferings, will be the first to recommend the smothering of the patient who refuses to be cured. After that the orator passed off into complaints about his bearer and praises of whiskey and soda and other subjects too sacred to touch. And so on the note of “whiskey in moderation” Sir Harvey closed his historic speech. And the British Empire knew itself safe.

 

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: Scots who had

Scots Wha Hae (Scots, Who Have) is a patriotic song of Scotland which served for centuries as an unofficial national anthem of the country, but has lately been largely supplanted by Scotland the Brave and Flower of Scotland.

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

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3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: zamindars

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

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

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6 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Gurkhas

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7 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: reforms

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8 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin

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9 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Pal

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