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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. March 23, 1908

Sleeping Sirkar and Waking People

In commenting on the helplessness of the frontier Hindus, the Afridi raids and the callous indifference of the British authorities, the Punjabee reports the conversation between the old Chowdhury of a raided village and a high officer of the district. “Were you awake or asleep when the raiders came in?” asked the belated Heaven-born. “Sir,” was the old man's reply, “we were all asleep, for we thought our great Sirkar was wide awake. Had we known the Sirkar had gone to sleep, we would have, in that case, taken care to keep awake.” The reply carried with it a lesson which lies at the very root of all stable government. The king is king because he tries to please his people; he rules not by right of strength and power which are given to him by God to help him in his duties, but by service, because he gives protection, because he deals justice, because he helps his people in their wants and in their sorrows. That is the ideal on which kingship is based, and when the ruler wilfully falls short of the ideal, he is punished first by demoralisation, last, by loss of the strength and power which are not his but delegated. The British are in India because they had a certain mission to perform; but the condition of their tenure was justice, protection and sympathy, and if their rule has lasted for these hundred years, it was because some of them tried to satisfy the condition. Unfortunately for them, they allowed commercial greed to overcome their kingly instincts and the punishment of demoralisation has come upon them in full measure. Their sympathy exists only in Mr. John Morley's stock of liberal cant phrases, their justice is no longer believed in and their protection is now following the other virtues. Protection is vested in a corrupt and oppressive police of which the ruler of a great Province does not feel ashamed to be greeted as the friend and protector. Protection takes the form of making Afridi raids an excuse for military practice on the frontier and then quietly allowing the raids to continue. The other kingly qualities, provident wisdom, calm courage, the instinct for the right action and the right moment are already decayed. Only the power and the strength remain and that will disappear when the people are compelled to feel their own strength. The strength of God in the people has slumbered because they “thought that the great Sirkar was awake”. But they find, like the old Punjabi that the Sirkar is asleep and it is time for them to awake. Self-protection, not the protection of military exercises in the frontier; self-protection, not the curse of a police enquiry when this ideal wakes in the heart of the people, what will become of mere power and strength which has no office left but selfishness and self-aggrandisement? How long will it be before it is withdrawn as the strength of Arjuna was withdrawn when Krishna went from him; as the strength of Ravana was withdrawn when Rama beheld the Power of God protecting the Rakshasa in her arms, and prayed to the Mother?


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.