Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. March 4, 1908
A Great Opportunity
The release of Srijut Bepin1 Chandra Pal will take place in a few days and the bureaucracy is undoubtedly looking with anxiety to see what kind of reception the people give to this great leader and propagandist after his six months' incarceration for conscience' sake. They will do their best to prevent by a surreptitious release any expression of public feeling either at the jail doors or at the station, but it does not matter whether or not we welcome him at the precise moment and place of his release, so long as the heart of the people goes out unmistakably in some mighty demonstration of feeling. That Srijut Bepin2 Chandra Pal is one of our most powerful workers on the platform and the press, is a fact which even his opponents have acknowledged. That his services to the country have been of an incalculable value, few will care to gainsay. Among a large section of his countrymen he is recognised3 as the prophet of a great political creed. Whenever men of his type fall under the displeasure of the powers that be, they return to the field of work with greater vigour and a fresh vitality, for theirs is a mission which thrives upon oppression and gains by exile and imprisonment. Srijut Bepin4 Chandra also will come out of prison like a giant refreshed and renew his labour for his nation. But if his incarceration had been a source of strength to himself, has it or has it not been a source of strength to his country? This is the question which we must answer on the 9th of March. In what terms shall we answer it? Are we to confess that the cunning policy of mingled repression and occasional forbearance has had its effect? There are some among us who advise caution and look with fear on such demonstrations as likely to provoke fresh persecution, as if it were the outward ebullitions of sentiment and not the fact of national aspiration which it is sought to repress. Shall we by an imperfect welcome to this great tribune of the people show that these counsels of imprudent prudence have weight with us? Shall we not rather make the occasion one of universal rejoicing all over the country so that all may feel that the pulse of the movement is not slower, that the heart of this people beats as high as before the incarceration of their well-loved apostle and teacher?
How then are we to welcome Bepin5 Chandra Pal back to the scene of his labours? By illuminations, by processions, by rejoicing of every kind. We would have every town and village where the nation is awake write his welcome in letters of fire on balcony and roof of their dwellings not only in Bengal but in Madras, in Maharashtra, in the Punjab, wherever Nationalism is alive and the name of the Mother is honoured. We invite our countrymen all over India to become one with Bengal in the act of a rejoicing which is not for a man but for the cause he has served. Let us also arrange to lead him in procession from his house after his return to a place of public meeting with such pomp and ceremony as befits one who returns from a great victory to his native land; for the jail is a place of exile and the prisoner released is a soldier who has waged a great moral conflict for his country and returns triumphant carrying with him his unblemished patriotism and the unlowered flag of his courage as the trophies of the fight. And in the place of assembly let all parties unite to do him honour so that the return of this Nationalist leader may be the best answer to those who rejoice in our dissensions and seek in them the safety which they cannot hope for from the justice of their bureaucratic rule or the righteousness of their absolutist cause. And if in addition every considerable society of workers and patriots expresses separately its appreciation and respect, the welcome will be worthy of the occasion, and a great opportunity for fresh national inspiration and the upwelling of a living enthusiasm will have been nobly used. Whoever thinks that this is a time for nourishing old grudges or remembering past feuds, is wanting in patriotism and insight. The hour is one of growing national unity and there is in the heart of the people a desire to have done with barren dispute and set themselves to the sacred work to which this generation has been called. Whoever stops now to weigh and consider whether he is at one with Bepin6 Chandra in the views of which he is the chief exponent or can entirely appreciate the reasons of his refusal to give evidence, is allowing trifles to obscure the greatness of the thing which Bepin7 Chandra for the moment represents. It is not the man or the action which will be honoured by a public demonstration. The man is nothing but the cause is everything. The action is nothing, but the sacrament of suffering is everything. This sacrament of suffering has been in this instance the privilege not of the rank and file of the national army but of a great leader and captain, whose name is honoured in every part of India. Such an occasion is one of rare occurrence, for it is usually the private soldiers who are food for powder and the leaders stand out of range for the better safety of the work. Yet when one is struck down, it is a matter for national rejoicing, that so illustrious a name has been added to the roll of those who have been chosen to give proofs of the noblest patriotism and courage.
We therefore invite all to join in this demonstration. We do not wish this occasion to be marred by the memories of past dissension but to be ennobled by the growing hope of a great united movement forward in the future. In the person of Bepin8 Chandra let the present impulse towards a better understanding find a consummation which all the world cannot fail to understand. Let it be the seal of reconciliation9 which began at Pabna, and the beginning of united action for the better organisation of the work to which all Bengal without distinction of parties is now irrevocably pledged.
Later edition of this work: The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo.- Set in 37 volumes.- Volumes 6-7.- Bande Mataram: Political Writings and Speeches. 1890–1908 .- Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2002.- 1182 p.
1 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin
2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin
3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: recognized
4 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin
5 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin
6 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin
7 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin
8 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin
9 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: of the reconciliation