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Sri Aurobindo

Bande Mataram

Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908

Bande Mataram. April 4, 1908

Convention and Conference

When the leaders of the Moderate Party meet at Allahabad, they will be on their trial before India and all the world. They have done much in the past for the country. Whatever we may think of the views they hold or the methods dear to them, they are the survivors of a generation which woke the nation from political apathy and helped to break the spell which British success had thrown upon the hearts of the people. They turned a critical eye on things which had been taken for granted, British peace, British justice, British freedom. Even while they lauded, they criticised, and the habit of fault-finding which they turned into a weapon of political warfare, helped to break the hypnotic power of the bureaucratic domination. This was no small or unimportant result for so abjectly prostrate a generation as the one into which they were born. If the nation is passing out of their hands, it is largely on account of the change in the popular mind which they brought about by their ceaseless attacks on the bureaucracy. But if they did so much to raise the nation, the political influence which they acquired by their services was an ample recompense. They are now losing that influence; the minds of the rising generation are widening to receive ideas which they have chosen to oppose, to envisage hopes which they are anxious to discourage, to attempt enterprises with which they are either unwilling or afraid to associate themselves. The Surat Congress failed because they desired to throw an insuperable barrier across the path of the onward march of the rising generation, because they hoped to confine the future to the formulas of the present and leave the mould of their ideas as the rigid form out of which the nation would not be permitted to grow. The Convention is an attempt to drag back the Congress out of the twentieth century into the nineteenth. It is as much a futile piece of reaction as Mr. Morley's Council of Notables. The same exclusive, oligarchical spirit of the past trying to dominate the future, of the few with wealth, position and fame for their title claiming the monopoly of political life, animates the idea of the Convention. Perhaps, if the Convention becomes a living fact, it may, who knows, be accepted by Mr. Morley as the basis for his Council of Notables? But if the Moderates of Bombay would welcome such a consummation, the Bengal leaders ought to know that the attempt to separate the Congress from the life of the people will be disastrous to the future of the movement for which Bengal stands. If they associate themselves with any such attempt to bring back the country to the footstool of the bureaucracy, they will have given the last blow to their influence and popularity. They may remain Notables, they will cease to be popular leaders. The resolution of the Pabna Conference which was accepted by them leaves them no ground to stand upon if they associate themselves with the Bombay attempt to turn back the wheels of time and put an end to the natural evolution of the Congress. The Convention was the creation of Sir Pherozshah Mehta who will leave no stone unturned to save his offspring when the Convention Committee meets at Allahabad; it will be seen whether the fear of Sir Pherozshah Mehta or the fear of the country is strongest in the hearts of the Moderate leaders. They are still, it seems, undecided as to their course, a dangerous condition of mind since the powerful will of Sir Pherozshah is likely to carry all before it, if it is not met by a settled determination to give effect to the plainly expressed wishes of the people.

Whatever happens at the Convention, the leaders of the Moderate Party will be held responsible for the result. If the Congress breaks asunder for good, the blame will rest on them and they will no longer be able to throw it upon the Nationalists who have since the break-up at Surat laid themselves open to the charge of weakness and cowardice rather than stand in the way of reconciliation. From the first meeting of the Nationalist Conference after the fracas on the second day of the session to the present moment the attitude of the party has been accommodating to a fault. They allowed the Moderates to score a seeming triumph at Pabna rather than allow a second split. At Poona in their stronghold they invited the co-operation of the Moderates at Dhulia, they even consented to the question of the Boycott being allowed to stand over, unless otherwise decided by the Provincial Conference, rather than forfeit Moderate co-operation. The public utterances of Nationalist papers and Nationalist speakers from the speech of Mr. Tilak after the fracas to the latest speeches at the Poona Conference have all been pervaded by the thought of reconciliation, the anxiety for union. The Nationalists make no stipulation except that no creed shall be imposed on the Congress from outside, no action be taken which implies that the Convention is the arbiter of the destinies of the Congress and that no constitution or change of policy shall be drawn up by anyone as binding on the Congress before the Congress itself decided on its future course. This is an attitude to which no one can take reasonable exception. The Nationalists also appointed a Committee after the fiasco, but the instructions issued to this Committee were merely to watch the results of the split, to see that a reconciliation be effected and only in the last resort to take up the work of the Congress where it had broken off, if no accommodation proved possible. The Committee has therefore taken no action beyond watching the course of events and exercising the influence of its authorised officials to bring about such resolutions as would help the reconciliation of the parties. It depends entirely on the result of the meeting at Allahabad whether the Committee is to assert its existence or quietly allow itself to cease when the main object for which it came into being has been accomplished. Convention and Conference are both mere party organisations and, if either of them affects to be the Congress, it will be guilty of a parricidal action leading to the death of the parent body.

 

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.