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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. February 11-15, 1908

The Slaying of Congress

A Tragedy in Three Acts

Act One

Scene I

Calcutta
Dadabhai, Mehta, Gokhale, Surendra, Tilak and others; Democracy, Congress.

Dadabhai

Much have I laboured, toiled for many years
To see this glorious day. Our Lady Congress
Grown to a fair and perfect womanhood,
Who at Benares came of age, is now
With pomp and noble ceremony arrived
In this Calcutta to assume the charge
Of her own life into her proper hands.
Mehta and Gokhale, Tilak, Suren, all,
Our anxious years of guardianship are ended.
Only is left to tell our lovely ward
The name, dimensions and exact extent
Of her estate which now in alien hands
She must recover Swaraj is the name
And the dimensions wide as all this Hind.

Congress

I thank you all, and swear to win Swaraj
Back from the hands that keep me from my own.

Mehta

I like this not. If once this girl escapes
From my supreme control, I fear that she
Will run quite wild. Look with what covert eyes
She gazes at this young Democracy,
This roistering, robustious young Democracy.
A crew of plotters seek to push us out
From our established seats, Lal, Pal and Tilak,
Extremists babbling frantic heresies,
Boycott, Swadeshi, National Control.
This scatter-brained, unripe Democracy
Goes shouting at their heels and they intend
To wed young Congress to Democracy.
But I am here to baulk their fell designs
With all Bombay behind: Gokhale, be firm;
Aiyer and Malaviya, be ready, friends,
When I shall give the word, at once to speak
Lest mischief brewing with a perilous haste
Prevent us.

Dadabhai

Now much dispute there is of late

About the means, whether to take a course
Stout and bold and by heroic war
Win Swaraj from the usurper's mighty hands
Or yet once more to his great throne repair
And sue for Swaraj. Yet I do believe
That in her heart of hearts Britain is just
And will allow our plaint. Once more then try
The ancient way. And if it fail, let then
Defiance be declared and war begin.

Pal

Defiance need not wait on your beliefs:
Bengal already with a trumpet voice
Declares defiance and her youthful sons
Banding to win Swaraj prepare their souls
To bear imprisonment, blows, stripes and bonds
Rather than bow again at the tribunal
Of British justice.

Tilak

Let this dispute be settled

By a just compromise, and while you bow
Before the throne we in Bengal, Punjab
And Maharashtra will at our own risk
Declare the boycott. Only we desire
Permission and the gracious word should fall
From Lady Congress here that bids us war
For her just rights withheld. Swadeshi, Boycott
And Education under National Control,
Swaraj, these four allow, the rest we yield.

Mehta

These four shall not be given.

Malaviya

Not one, not one.

Aiyar

Who dare give these, Madras refusing?

Gokhale

Something

May be allowed, but not the whole demand.

Democracy

My voice is for the four, and when my voice
Declares my will, there's not a man in Hind
Whose will outweighs my voice.

Mehta

I quite forbid it.

Democracy

Who art thou to forbid?

Mehta

Pherozshah I.

Democracy

Pherozshah, no Pherozshahs. I stand here
And claim the sovereignty which is my right.

Mehta

Mehta I am who rule with absolute sway
The Corporation.

Democracy

There then give commands.

This is Calcutta where I am arisen
And let no man dispute my will.

Aiyar

I speak For all Madras.

Cries

No, no!

Malaviya

I for the North.

Cries

We quite deny it.

Mehta

This is a public place,

Let us withdraw.

Democracy

My rights are not for thee

To settle; let Tilak, Gokhale and the rest
Confer together; and their just award
Shall bind this Congress.

Congress

I agree.

Scene II

The same.
Mehta, Gokhale, Aiyar and others.

Mehta

So it is settled? Gokhale, thou art weak.

Gokhale

How else can this dispute be brought to end?

Aiyar

By vote.

Gokhale

That would be shameful in the view

Of all the world.

Mehta

What care I for the world?

Mehta is Mehta whose unquestioned will
Must be supreme.

Aiyar

And Aiyar says the same.

Mehta

Now for the future. To amend our fault
We will take the Congress to some far retreat
Impregnable where we can do our will,
Binding her hand and foot, and close immure
From clamorous Democracy; what else
Must be resolved, in Bombay let it be.

Gokhale

There is the great Committee which will be
A tool to do our will.

Mehta

See that it meets

Not in a public place but in our house.
Let it be secret so that we may plot,
Not rudely censored by the public voice,
In calm security.

Aiyar

Then at Madras

Let Congress have her seat.

Gokhale

No, at Nagpore

Where all is quiet, and Democracy
Can find no entrance, we shall sit at ease
Nor anyone shall question what we do.

Mehta

It shall be Nagpore.

All

Nagpore let it be.

Scene III

Bombay.
Gokhale solus.

Gokhale

What shall I do? Mehta's inexorable
And bent on blood. If I dispute his will
What footing will I have in all Hind? Tilak
Calls me, but him I too completely hate
To take his hand. Distrust between us stands,
No friendship possible; Mehta's support
I hold quite indispensable, so must
Obey him wholly. If I take my course
Who will support me in my journeys hence
To plead at Britain's throne for India's good?
And if I do not plead at Britain's throne,
How shall poor India fare? But my heart bleeds
For Congress. Must I slay her whom I love?
No, no, there's yet some chance of saving her
From her own predilection for the love
Of wild Democracy. I will invent
A constitution forged with deftest skill
Which so shall bind her that she cannot stir
One inch from her accustomed chair of ease.

Enter Mehta.

Mehta

Well, Gokhale, have you thought the project over?

Gokhale

I have. But let not our accustomed hands
Be stained with innocent blood. Although Nagpore
Is now the home of wild Democracy,
Are there not other places in the land
Where we are safe? Surat is thine, and we
Shall carry Congress there and bind her fast,
Not interfered with. Make a constitution
Most cunningly devised to fasten down
Congress to her accustomed chair of ease.
Democracy shall be shut out from her.
Moti, Pal, Tilak, Lajpat, Aswini
May plague their heads but find no remedy.

Mehta

But if you fail?

Gokhale

I shall not fail.

Mehta

Well, then,

Do what you can.

Gokhale

I haste to see it done.

Exit.

Mehta

You are too foolish, hesitating, weak,
I will persist but will not let you know
What I intend. Surat is full of men
Bound to my will and they shall do the deed.
What then can Gokhale do? He must submit.
Suren, I can win over or deceive.
But when I have slain Congress, I will choose
Some other ward to take her place who will
Be subject to me. I will set her up
In Congress' place and give her the estate.
For Britain's might will stand behind me then
Unwitnessed. Let me then be quick, prepare
Murder and make the dagger sharp. Congress,
I reared thee up but thou, ungrateful fool,
Rebelst and choosest vain Democracy
To be thy lord. Rather than let thee wed
The protégé of Tilak, Lal and Pal,
I will put an end to thee. Mehta endures
No rival near his throne nor will he bow
This haughty head to vile Democracy.

Scene IV

Bombay.
Mehta, Gokhale, Tilak, Aiyar, Nagpore and others.

Mehta

Once more we meet. What else but to decide
Whether we choose Nagpore for the abode
Of Congress or to change her mighty seat
To Surat or Madras.

Tilak

Nagpore, I say.

Gokhale

Nagpore has forfeited her right.

Aiyar

Madras

Shall take the place left vacant by Nagpore.

Mehta

Surat is first to make the offer.

Aiyar

No,

Madras. I claim priority.

Gokhale

Aiyar,

Art thou so sure that thou art quite supreme?

Aiyar

Some few dispute it.

Gokhale

Surat's quite sure. She is

Impenetrable.

Mehta

Surat then let it be.

Nagpore

My lords, I know not by what dire offence
I lose my right, but this permit me say,
“Whatever sin committed bars my right
I will atone. Let not my name be stained.”

Mehta

Who gave thee right of entrance? Out! out! out!

Tilak

I called her.

Mehta

When Congress weds thy ward, be king.

But I am now supreme; go from this place!

Nagpore

But hear me.

Mehta

No.

Nagpore

Let me beseech thee, hear me.

Mehta

Get out, get out. Ho! Servants. Watch, Gokhale,
Turn out this wench.

Nagpore

Mehta, I will not here brawl

With thee.

Exit.

Tilak

This was not well nor wisely done.

Mehta

I need not thy advice. Let us decide.
Surat is here.

Tilak

Where Nagpore is excluded

What right has Surat to be heard?

Mehta

My will.

Surat, come in.

Enter Surat.

Tilak

Sirs, we protest.

Gokhale

Well, then,

Let Surat speak.

Surat

I am prepared, my lords,

To bear the expenses of the three days' sojourn
Of Congress all unhelped. Let me have hearing.

Gokhale

Mehta will judge.

Tilak

Surat, hast thou consent

Of all thy people?

Mehta

Who gave thee our ward?

I am the lord of Congress and decree
Surat shall be her seat.

Tilak

We still protest.

Mehta

Protest, but Surat is decided on.
It is settled. Let us go.

Exeunt.


Act Two

Scene I

Poona.
Tilak, A Friend.

Tilak

My friends are full of wrath and mean revolt,
But in my view this would be utter madness:
For if we hope to wed our Lady Congress
To bold Democracy, what better plan
Than to bear all with firm but patient love
And let proud Mehta make himself obnoxious
To every honourable man? Therefore
Let Nagpore now submit. But if he purpose
Betrayal, we shall raise so wild a storm
Of opposition that his friends shall fear
And leave him to himself. Go, friend, and speak
To Moti of these things, request his aid
To keep Bengal united. If Bengal
Make common cause then shall proud Mehta find
Congress too strongly hedged with friendly spears
For his vile plots to injure her.

Scene II

Bombay.
Mehta, Gokhale.

Gokhale

Mehta, all's ready.

Mehta

Make everything so sure,

That Tilak shall be utterly undone.
We must not suffer Boycott to be made
Part of our programme.

Gokhale

To omit it quite

Is hardly possible. The fierce revolt
Of all Bengal will shake us from our seats
And give control into the hands of those
Who favour wild Democracy. I mean
To juggle skilfully with all the four:
Swadeshi, Boycott, Education National,
Swaraj. With Congress bound, we can explain
Whatever we have done in such a light
As to keep Britain pleased.

Mehta

But when 'tis known

What you have done, what will the people say?

Gokhale

What, Mehta fears the people? When we speak,
Will not the mob accept our princely word?

Mehta

So be it. Well, Gokhale, thou art full of guile
Which makes thee useful; but thy courage, friend,
Too flimsy to support the smallest strain.
Who's there?

A Servant

What's it, my lord?

Mehta

Call in the man

Who waits outside. My mind is full of spite,
Murderous and fell, it will not be at rest
Until I have revenged myself by blood.
What will the fate be of Democracy
When Congress falls? The bold uproarious youth
Is of his strength so proud he cannot feel
That 'tis my strength protects him from the wrath
Of Britain. When she's dead, all ties are snapped
And he, grown beggared of our help, is left
To the fierce persecution of the king.
Then I shall be avenged for the insolence
He showed me at Calcutta in his den.

Enter a Surat Moderate.

Mehta

Well, are you resolute?

Surat Moderate

We are.

Mehta

Is all

Made ready?

Surat Moderate

It is. We have secured the aid

Of many ruffians from the Tapti's banks
Who for a hire will slay their mothers, wives
Or sons.

Mehta

Be sure of them.

Surat Moderate

They are stored with coin

For drink; for which they'd sell their souls to Satan
And do his fiendish will.

Mehta

Then let us go. We shall perfect

The plot when we have seen what Tilak does.

Scene III

Surat.
Tilak.

Tilak

The plot is perfect. To prepare the way
Congress is brought here where proud Mehta's lord.
When she will stand among her friends and his,
We shall be quite a handful, so he does
His will upon her; binds her in the chains
Of this strange constitution; so that she
Is utterly made helpless, bound and gagged.
Meanwhile the four great planks are sawn apart
Which we had introduced beneath her throne,
And when we are driven out, they will be broken
And Congress hurled into a dungeon deep
There to be starved to death, while in her place
Another wearing both her name and robes
Usurps her place. Oh vile conspiracy!
But let me see if we have not the strength
Of members. Nagpore and Amraoti stand
Behind me, all the Deccan's at my back,
Madras has sent a valiant band, Bengal
Some of her choicest sons, and there are some
Even from the North six hundred stalwart men
To back me. But if the Committee's packed
These numbers will not help. This Gujerat,
Untouched till now by our great National Creed,
Sends half the numbers; her unaided voice
May overbear the will of the whole land.
What then? Let us then from the first oppose
And show the people that it is a voice
Local at best which seeks to bind our Lady
And drive from her Democracy. It may be
That if our opposition is too strong
From the beginning, we may force the friends
Mehta relies on to compel their chief
To meet us and give up this fatal plot.
When Suren comes, I'll meet him and appeal
To him to save their Congress from her fate.
There's Moti too, who'll do his best, Lajpat
And others. It may be some compromise
Is possible; we would not then oppose
From the beginning, but with friendly hearts
Agree how best to keep dear Congress safe.
Meanwhile 'tis best to be prepared for worst.

(Calls)

Go, friend, and tell our party to be ready
With all its chiefs. We must be bold but calm
And let young, rash Democracy be patient,
For Congress' life's in peril.

Scene IV

Surat.
Suren, Moti, Tilak.

Suren

I am quite one with you, and mean to insist
Upon the four. But you must also yield,

Nor let our Rash Behari be opposed.

Tilak

There is the rub. Our friends are full of wrath
And if you wish us to yield up our points,
Some pledge, some plain assurance we must have
That Congress' freedom and the four supports
Of her great throne are safe.

Suren

For my own self

And for Bengal I give the pledge. Gokhale
May join us.

Tilak

So let it be. Or if another

In some authority can give the pledge
We shall be satisfied.

Suren

That too I'll try

Or try yourself.

Tilak

Well, then, try Gokhale you.

Myself will seek some other out whose word
May satisfy my friends.

Suren

That is agreed.

Moti

When Congress takes her throne, be then prepared
To give the pledge.

Suren

I am prepared.

Tilak

That is done.

I hope this day will be a peaceful day
Of friendly union, and the threatened storms
Disperse. Come, let us do our part.

Scene V

Surat.
Gokhale, Mehta, Suren, Tilak, Congress, Democracy and others.

Gokhale

I cannot give the pledge.

Suren

Why can you not?

Gokhale

Why, what am I? A humble single man
Whose voice is but a voice and nothing more.
I dare not be presumptuously bold
To speak for Congress, who alone can say
What she intends.

Suren

There's something in your plea.

Tilak

Nothing but an unreal humbleness
Concealing fell designs. But if 'tis meant
Congress to bind, then let the storm begin.

Suren

I am prepared.

Tilak

What is your single word?

Suren

Bengal's.

Tilak

But not for Gujerat you speak.

And 'tis the voice of Gujerat will stand
For India's here.

Suren

Well, I will do my part,

Whatever happens.

Democracy

We will not hear your voice.

Suren

How now? What is this boldness on the part
Of pestilential bold Democracy?
Shall I not then be heard, Suren, who lead
Bengal?

Democracy

I lead Bengal and all the world.

Suren

I know thee, upstart. When at Midnapore
I stood before the people, 'twas thy voice
Insulted me. Traitor and pestilence,
Be silent, let me speak.

(Tumult)

Democracy

'Twas thou, I think,

Traitor thyself, who broughtest the police
To sit beside thee there lest my bold hand
Should thrust thy friend from his unmerited
And misused eminence. Be silent.

Suren

I . . . . . . . . . . . .

Democracy

Be silent.

(Tumult)

Surat Moderate

Who art thou to bid him hush?

Democracy

Democracy, whose voice must be supreme.

Surat Moderate

I am supreme.

Democracy

Silence. I will prorogue

This sitting.

Suren

What, my voice will not be heard?

Who shall prevent me?

Democracy

I. Hold thy glib tongue.

(Tumult)

I here prorogue the session.

Suren

This despite

Shall be repaid.


Act Three

Scene I

Surat.
Gokhale, Mehta, Suren, Aiyar.

Suren

Now I am with you. Mehta, do thy worst.
Whatever purpose brews within thy brain,
Though it be fell as darkest Erebus,
I will support.

Gokhale

I sympathise with you,

Suren. This is the plotted spiteful deed
Of Tilak.

Mehta

He has set Democracy
Against thee so that he alone may rule.

Aiyar

Abandon them and be our first and chief.

Gokhale

It is decided then. Let Congress die,
Convention take her place.

Aiyar

And a good riddance.

Gokhale

I do not this without a deep regret.
Congress was dear to me as my own child.

Aiyar

But children gone astray are best removed.

Gokhale

Our enemies have played into our hands,
Have they not, Mehta? Suren is wholly ours.

Suren

Now what remains?

Gokhale

We must let people think

'Twas Tilak did the deed.

Mehta

Trust me for that.

Suren

Well, as you will. Though Tilak was my friend,
This wipes out every previous record. Come,
Let us prepare tomorrow's piteous deed,
So fell it is, almost I hesitate.
Democracy, Democracy, thou evil
Upstart and hooligan, 'tis thou,
'tis thou That drivest me to this crime.

Gokhale

Waver not now.

All's for the sake of Hind.

Suren

And I am hers.

Gokhale

So are we all. Who works for selfish ends?
Let Tilak do his worst, we are prepared.

Mehta

Moderate of Surat, art thou ready?

Surat Moderate

I am,

The dagger's sharp, our men are armed with sticks
And at thy word the tumult will begin.

Mehta

That's well.

Scene II

The same.
Tilak, Moti, Democracy, Aswini.

Tilak

Whatever provocation pushed you on,
You were a fool to pick this quarrel; see,
Suren is lost.

Democracy

We are too strong to care

Who stays with us or who remains.

Tilak

Imprudent.

If Congress falls, the country will be wroth
Because 'twas we who first began the strife.
Well, well, to sorrow now is vain. Henceforth
Be patient, let not thy tumultuous heart
Break out in words.

Democracy

Why should I curb myself?

Tilak

For Congress' sake.

Democracy

I would do much for her,

But not renounce my freedom.

Aswini

What a man!

Be patient now that henceforth thou mayst be
Sovereign and lord.

Democracy

I am already lord.

Moti

You will spoil everything.

Democracy

So let it be.

I will not give my right of liberty
For any sovereignty Congress can give.

Tilak

If she should wed thee, then thou getst with ease
What otherwise must be with labour got
And fierce revolt.

Democracy

Why, is it not our creed

That nations are with labour and revolt
Set free?

Tilak

That is from foreign hands,

Not from our countrymen.

Democracy

You are too subtle,

I only understand my right and strength,
Not these distinctions. But this time I'll yield.

Tilak

That's good. Now, Moti, let us do our best.
It may be even now that they will hear us.

Democracy

It is not to be hoped.

Tilak

I am more sanguine.

Moti

Well, try and if we fail the fault is theirs.

Tilak

Good, let us go about it.

 

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