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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. March 31, 1908

The Next Step

The condition of the poorer classes in this country is a subject which has till now been too much neglected, but can be neglected no longer if the blessing of God is to remain with our movement. The increasing poverty of the masses has been the subject of innumerable pamphlets, speeches and newspaper articles, but we are apt to think our duty done when we have proved that the poverty problem is there; we leave the solution to the future and forget that by the time the solution comes, the masses will have sunk into a condition of decay from which it will take the nation many decades to recover. We have been accustomed to deal only with the economical side of this poverty, but there is a moral side which is even more important. The Indian peasantry have always been distinguished from the less civilised1 masses of Europe by their superior piety, gentleness, sobriety, purity, thrift and native intelligence. They are now being brutalised2 by unexampled oppression; attracted to the liquor shops which a benevolent Government liberally supplies, bestialised3 by the example of an increasingly immoral aristocracy and gradually driven to the same habits of looseness and brutality which disgrace the European proletariats. This degeneration is proceeding with an alarming rapidity. In some parts of the country it has gone so far that recovery seems impossible. We have heard of districts in which the peasantry are so far reduced to poverty by the exactions of Zemindars4, planters and police that the sturdier classes among them are taking to highway robbery and dacoity as the only possible means of livelihood. We have heard of villages where the liquor shop and the prostitute, institutions unknown twenty-five years ago, have now the mastery of the poorest villagers. Many of the villages in West Bengal are now well supplied with these essentials of Western civilisation5. The people ground down between the upper millstone of the indigo planter and the nether millstone of the Zemindar6, are growing full of despair and look to violence as their only remedy. These conditions of the worst districts tend to become general and unless something is done to stem the tide of evil, it will sweep away the soul of India in its turbid current and leave only a shapeless monstrosity of all that is worst in human nature.

We are convinced, of course, that India is destined to rise again, we await with confidence the coming of the Avatar of strength who will follow the Avatar of love, but in order that He may come, we must prepare the atmosphere, purify it by our own deeds of love, strength and humanitarian self-sacrifice. The educated classes are now the repositories of the hope of resurgence; it is in them that the spirit has entered, to them the masses look for guidance. Their duty is to be worthy of their mission, to bring hope, strength and light into the lives of their down-trodden countrymen. We have so far been occupied with Swadeshi as the economical means of saving the people: we must now set ourselves to the restoration of the moral tone of the nation by ourselves setting an example of mercy, justice, self-denial, helpfulness and patient work for the people. The work is one for the young. It was they who made the Swadeshi movement a success and ensured its permanence; they also must set themselves to the task which now calls us and go to the succour of their suffering countrymen, point their spirits to the help which is to come, support them in their present sufferings, relieve them so far as possible and bind the educated class and the masses together by the golden bond of love and service. This is the next step in the development of the present movement. Swadeshi is fairly begun and will now go on of its own impetus; but when the work of which we speak is taken in hand, Swadeshi will receive a fresh impetus which will make it so irresistible that all the tyranny of the officials, all the police oppression, every obstacle and hindrance which man can interpose will be swept away like so much chaff, and all Bengal become the fortress of Swadeshi, its temple and its domain. This is the work to which the finger of God has been pointing us from the beginning of the present year, by the success of the Ardhodaya Yoga7 organisation8, by the call to the village which was the dominant note of the Pabna Conference, by signs and omens of many kinds which those who keep their eyes open will easily understand. We have now Samitis for spreading Swadeshi, Samitis for physical culture and self-defence, Samitis for the organisation9 of meetings, festivals and other great occasions. All these are good, but we want now Samitis for giving help and light to the masses. The Anusilan10 Samiti has given a right direction to its activities when it undertook Famine Relief, but Famine Relief is a temporary work, one which needs an immense fund to be really effective, and only a united body of the leading men of Bengal could successfully cope with it. What our Samitis can do is to take up the work which we have indicated as a permanent part of their duties, put themselves in touch with the people, lead them to hope, inspire them with the spirit of self-help, organise them and make them ready for the coming of the Avatar.

 

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.

1 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: civilized

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2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: brutalized

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3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: bestialized

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4 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Zamindars

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5 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: civilization

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6 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Zamindar

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7 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Yog

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8 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: organization

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9 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: organization

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10 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Anushilan

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