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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. March 16, 1908

Charter or No Charter

We have already said what we had to say on Mrs. Besant's idea of a National University. In her speech on Education delivered at the Corinthian Theatre, she referred again to the subject of the Charter and invited the National Council of Education to get a Royal Charter to confer degrees. She gave the instance of the English Universities which have got such a Charter from the King, but “it did not follow that those Universities were under Government control, the Charter being but a guarantee for the education which the University undertook to give”. It is surprising that so acute an intellect as Mrs. Besant should not perceive the fallacy of appealing to English precedents. An arrangement which works in England for the benefit of the country, may easily be worked in India to its disadvantage, for the simple reason that in India the interests of the governing bureaucracy and the people are not identical, while in England the people and the Government are one. Socialistic State control may work well in England, in India it means the control of public business in the interests of a small and alien caste. So with the proposed Charter. Mrs. Besant gives away her case when she admits that the Charter is a guarantee for the education given in the University. Certainly, the authority having the guarantee has the right to see that the guarantee is not abused and that the education is up to a standard consistent with the dignity of a Royal Charter. This means at least potential State control. In England the control is not exercised, because no public interest can be served by interfering with the work of the educational experts who conduct these Universities, but if the Universities were to fall very much behind in their educational standard, it is conceivable that the potential right of interference might be exercised. If the National Council of Education were to get a Royal Charter, this potential right of interference would be in the hands of the authority issuing the Charter, in other words, with the King, which means, for India, with the Secretary of State, which again means with the Anglo-Indian bureaucracy; and we know how that bureaucracy would be likely to use the power. At any moment the Council might have to face the alternative of either accepting practical control by officialdom or sacrificing the Charter; this would mean a crisis which might wreck the new education altogether. Quite apart, therefore, from the sacrifice of that principle of robust independence and faith in its own future which is its true strength, the Council would be guilty of an impolitic step, if it accepted, much more if it asked for a Charter. The latter idea is indeed inconceivable. The exclusion of the Council's students from the learned professions means only exclusion from the Government service and the Law, and it is more wholesome for the new institution to be removed from these temptations till it is strong enough to make these professions seek for its students instead of its students seeking for them. The hankering after a Charter is born of weakness and deficient faith; it will be no gain to National Education and may easily be fatal to it.


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.