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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. December 14, 1907

Reasons of Secession

We have now placed all the facts of the Midnapur1 Conference before the public and the reasons which made a Nationalist secession inevitable are sufficiently obvious. The Loyalist legend that the Nationalists came prepared to break up the Conference by force, but were either baffled, say some authorities, by the “mingled tact and firmness” of Mr. K. B. Dutt, or overawed, say others, by the presence of the President's bureaucratic friends and allies, and in their rage and disappointment seceded and held a separate meeting, is too contemptible a lie to be treated seriously. “Why should they secede? What was the necessity of a second Conference?” ask our opponents with a holy simplicity, “Did we not pass the same resolutions? Was not a translation of the President's marvellous address offered to the audience? What does it matter if the President broke his word? As for the interpretation of Swaraj as colonial self-government, it is an unimportant matter, a prejudged matter, no Conference pretending to be a branch of the Congress organisation has any right to pass a resolution for Swaraj pure and simple and no responsible politician can support such a resolution. The Police Superintendent? Well, he was there only to see that the train wrecking outrage was not repeated by the Nationalists in the Conference Pandal!”

Let us clear the matter of this jungle of irrelevancies. It was not over the resolutions passed by the Moderate Subjects Committee and Conference that the secession took place. When the Moderates saw that they had succeeded in disgusting and tiring out their opponents and had the field themselves they quietly adjourned to the Bailey Hall and held their own Committee and passed their own resolutions this is a favourite trick with this party which they perform in the full confidence that their opponents will in the end acquiesce in the accomplished fact for the sake of “unity”. We are informed that two resolutions were seriously modified in Committee at the command of the President, but whether these modifications stood, or repentance came with the morning, does not matter: for the resolutions were not the cause of the secession. The question of the language in which the President's speech should be delivered was a detail on which the Mofussil delegates felt strongly and it is obvious that if these Conferences are to serve the purpose for which they are created, the vernacular must be the medium employed. It is absurd to have the President's speech in English and then to patch up matters by offering a translation, when the audience is already wearied out by listening to a long address in a foreign tongue which they do not understand. If Mr. K. B. Dutt had to address all India, though no one asked him to, he could have delivered a lecture in the British Indian Association or published a pamphlet or written an article in the Bengalee; the Conference Pandal was not the place for his dissertation. But in any case the question of language was not a determining cause of the secession. Again we do not think it a light thing that a gentleman who fills the important and dignified position of the President of a District Conference, should, after he has been nominated without opposition on the strength of a clear promise, go back upon his word and yet cling to his post. Honour is not a light thing, a public undertaking is not a light thing, and that the President did promise, has been testified to by honest Moderates as well as Nationalists who were present on the occasion. But the seceders did not take this ground for secession, for they had consented, on the strength of Srijut Surendranath's qualified assurance, to the election which, once made, could not be unmade. As to Swaraj, we do not think it an unimportant matter, nor can we see that a District or Provincial Conference is debarred from passing a resolution in its favour; for by this rule several District Conferences, including the Bhola Conference, presided over by Srijut Ambica Charan2 Mazumdar3, have forfeited their right to be considered branches of the Congress organisation4. But we will let that too go, for it was not to pass a resolution on unqualified Swaraj that a second Conference was held. The secession took place because of the arbitrary conduct of the President supported by his party in evading the right of the whole body of delegates to express its opinion effectively on disputed matters and because of the use made by him of his alliance with the Police to support his arbitrary authority.

The emergence of two distinct parties in Indian politics has altered the whole nature of our political problems and our political activity and it is absolutely necessary that the constitution, methods and procedure of the Congress and the subordinate bodies should be constructed accordingly. Formerly it mattered nothing how the Congress was conducted, because there was no overt difference of opinion and whatever the Congress chiefs did or thought good was accepted without question or murmur. If there were dissentients they were easily silenced. But now there are two distinct parties with different ideals, different methods of work, a different spirit and standpoint, each struggling to get the ear of the country and the control of our public activities. It is clear that if these two parties are to live together in the Congress, there must be some procedure which both can recognise as just, some means of determining their relative strength and giving each a means of influencing the course of Congress work in proportion to its strength. This can be done by constituting the Subjects Committee so that each party shall be represented according to the strength it can muster or by allowing each section of the delegates to choose by vote its own representatives; the representatives of both sides can come to an agreement in Committee on disputed points and where agreement is impossible, the majority of votes will decide the matter, subject always to an inalienable right of appeal by amendment to the whole body of delegates. With such rules of procedure there would be no reason why two parties should not exist side by side and the deliberations of the Congress and Conferences be conducted with decorum, order and dignity. But if one side refuses to acknowledge the existence of the other, if it tries, when it cannot ignore it, to put it down by bullying or by the personal authority of its own leaders, and when even that is not possible by what it calls a combination of tact and firmness but the other side calls a mixture of trickery and arbitrariness, when it keeps procedure vague and disregards the rules common to all public assemblies, then to live together seems almost impossible. This is the reason why the fight over the nomination of the President is so unnecessarily bitter. One side feels that it cannot allow the election of a Nationalist President because that would mean official recognition of the right of the other to share in influencing and guiding the Congress work. The other side feels that a Moderate President will simply be an instrument for Moderate tactics, not an impartial speaker of the House. He will rule Nationalist proposals and amendments out of order, refuse to take the sense of the House when called upon and by other arbitrary exercise of his authority serve his party. The rowdiness of which the Moderates complain is simply the clamorous persistence which is the sole means left to the other party to compel justice and a hearing. All this the Nationalists have again and again endured in the hope that by sheer persistence they might get their existence recognised and such rules formulated as would permit of differences being automatically settled. But when the Moderate5 goes6 so far as to call in a third party to7 weigh down the balance in his8 favour, and that third party the common enemy, the bureaucrat and his police, the limit of sufferance is over-passed and nothing is left but to separate before difference of opinion degenerates into civil war. This was the stage which by the grace of Mr. K. B. Dutt was reached at Midnapur9. We bring no charge against the Calcutta leaders except that of supporting a man instead of considering the interests of the country; we prefer to believe that they had nothing to do with the underhand methods of their local lieutenant; but the support they rendered him made him impervious to reason and left the Nationalists no resource10 but secession. The Nationalist Conference, the Nationalist organisation is now an accomplished fact. If the local Moderates come to their senses, a modus vivendi may in future be found, but in any case our Conference and Association will remain and work. Midnapur11 has taken the initiative in giving Nationalism an organised shape and form.

 

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: Midnapore

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

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

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

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

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

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7 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: party is to

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

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

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10 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: recourse

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11 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Midnapore

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