Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. March 21, 1908
The Fund for Sj. Pal
The question of a fund for Srijut Bepin1 Chandra Pal was raised at first in a private way and without the idea of a public appeal, but as soon as it was suggested to the leaders of the Nationalist Party, they rejected the idea of any action which would seem like an appeal to the private charity of the friends, admirers and sympathisers of Srijut Bepin2 Chandra. They resolved to ask the public for funds to present to Srijut Pal as a recognition of his services to the country well knowing that he would insist on the money being utilised for further service to his country instead of for his own personal benefit. Nevertheless certain friends and fellow-workers are under the impression that the purse will be a personal gift to the Nationalist leader to be used for his personal benefit, and they have questioned the suitability of the form which the appreciation of his services has taken. Among others Sj. Rabindranath Tagore while associating himself with the appeal wrote to us suggesting that the question of the advisability of introducing this European form of material recognition into the more spiritual atmosphere of India might be publicly discussed in our columns. The question is an important one and since it is likely to recur as our political life develops, it is as well to clear the air from the beginning.
The principle of rewarding distinguished public services by material forms of recognition as well as by honours and titles is common to East and West, not only so but rank and title were usually associated with the gift of an estate or Jagir to support the expenditure suitable to the rank and the dignity of the title. Sometimes gifts of land were given by the State without any fresh rank or title either as a reward or as a security for future service. In modern times the State has no land to give and the only material appreciation it can show of great merit or distinguished services is either a pension or annuity for the former or a vote of money for the latter. An annuity serves the purpose of securing a man of ability against want and enabling him to devote himself entirely to the work which has procured him the recognition and therefore serves the purpose of securing the future services to the community once guaranteed by the State gift of land. The vote of money on the other hand is usually given to a distinguished man who is above want and is a substitute for the Jagir of feudal times. No European soldier or statesman, however great his position, his rank or his wealth, would consider it a degradation to accept such a gift from the nation.
In India the State is not the people, and the servants of the people are likely to fall under the displeasure of the State to be persecuted and even ruined by official wrath rather than to enjoy honours, dignities and rewards at its hands. It is therefore the duty of the people to show its own appreciation of their services, not because they demand such recognition, but as a duty to itself and an assertion of its own dignity and claims. Many of those who suffer for its sake are ruined by the persecution of the bureaucrats and leave their families to want or even to destitution, and in such cases the people are bound to come to their assistance. Such funds as the Basanta Bhattacharya3 Fund belong to this category, and there can be no question about their fitness, nor can any blot come to the honour of the recipient by his acceptance. But public vote of money to a leader falls under a different head and introduces new questions of propriety. There can be no question either of the right of the public to offer such a substantial mark of recognition or of this right under certain circumstances becoming a duty; and until the new movement there would have been no question of the propriety of a public leader accepting such a gift; for in those days the standard was a Western standard and whatever was held right and honourable by the Western standard, was necessarily right and honourable in Indian politics. But the new movement has abolished the Western standard and returns to national ideals and principles. The first question is whether the public ought to be allowed to give a purse, the second whether the leader should accept it. To the first question the answer is that the purse takes the place of the feudal Jagir which either secures the services of ability by placing it above want or is meant as a substantial recognition of past services. The public is entitled to adopt this form because there is no other, except such titles and honours as have been given by common consent to men like Raja Subodh Chandra Mallik or the brilliant but passing honour of a public reception. But this right is limited by the obligation not to demoralise the people's servants, not to stain the purity of their motives or lower the high ideal of self-sacrifice and self-effacement which is growing up in our midst. The new servant of the people is a different type from the old political leader. He is as often as not a man who is poor, without resources, pursued by difficulties in his private life, yet is debarred from devoting himself to earning his private bread except by such occupations as are themselves an act of service to the people. This poverty, this indigence is the glory of the man and his great honour. Such an ideal, like that of the Brahmin, is a possession of great price which should not be lightly thrown away. If the presentation of a purse destroys it, then this form of recognition should be eschewed. But how then is the public to mark its sense of appreciation, to put something in the balance against the material injuries which the bureaucracy have it in their power to inflict just as they are able to outweigh the moral stigma of the jail or legal condemnation by marks of their love and admiration? The solution lies in such rare instances as that of Sj. Bepin4 Chandra in the public exercising its right and leaving it to the representative of the New Spirit to deal with their gift in the new spirit. We expect the people of India to show by the substantial nature of the purse their high appreciation of the services of the great Nationalist leader, of his noble self-immolation and of the oppressive nature of the monstrous sentence which was inflicted upon5 him. They may safely leave it to Sj. Bepin6 Chandra to make such a disposition of their gift as will effect the purpose for which it was given and yet preserve the ideal purity of the standards which he himself has done so much to bring into public favour and acceptance.
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: Bhattacharjee
4 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin
5 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: on
6 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin