Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. April 4, 1908
By the Way
The annual meeting of the European and Anglo-Indian Defence Association took place last Monday without the world being any the worse for the calamity. There were speeches and there was a report. Each of the orations was in the usual key of solemnity and the Association conducted itself with imperturbable seriousness – a feat of muscular self-control which should be put down to its credit. A sense of humour is an obstacle to success in life and the British nation has always avoided or controlled it, especially since the union with Scotland. It is, indeed, since the Scotchman became a member of the British nation that the great development of England as an Empire has taken place. Now the Anglo-Indian Defence Association hails largely from beyond the Tweed.
The first speaker who took the affairs of the Empire under his patronage, was a certain Mr. Lockhart Smith. He gave some firm but kindly advice to the leaders of Indian thought as to the best way of managing their business forgetting that his time would have been more usefully employed in minding his own. It appears that the unrest was a natural and healthy aspiration of the people, but all the same it created a natural and healthy alarm in the manly breasts of the Anglo-Indian Defence Association and it is a good thing that it has quieted down to some extent. Unfortunately the position is still far from clear or satisfactory to Mr. Lockhart Smith. This healthy unrest is still too healthily restless for Mr. Smith's nerves. He therefore calls upon the leaders of Indian thought to rise to the occasion and handle the situation with a statesmanlike reposefulness. They must learn to be quietly unquiet, restfully restless, humbly aspiring, meekly bold. If they are restless in their unrest, the Government will “put back the hands of the clock”, to the great inconvenience of old Father Time. Perhaps Mr. Lockhart Smith is in the habit of putting back the hands of the clock in his office so as to give his clerks a longer spell of work; otherwise we cannot understand his sublime confidence in the effectiveness of this trick with the clock or his evident belief that it will stop the march of Time.
On the whole the advice of Mr. Smith may be summed up as an appeal to spare his nerves. The Viceroy will recognise the position “as clear and satisfactory” if the leaders are content to ‘aspire’ without being over-anxious to get their aspirations realised1. We have no doubt he will.
After Mr. Lockhart Smith had locked up his heart from farther speech, there was a shower of sparks2. Mr. H. W. S. Sparkes chose the unrest for the theme of his eloquence. Every sentence in the report of his speech is a scintillating piece of brilliance. He said “if the wishes of the people of India, the Extremists, who are thinking of driving the British out of India were granted, they would be the first to go down on their bended knees and ask the Government to stay back and dictate any terms they liked.” That the people of India are all extremists, is the first proposition we gather from this remarkable prophecy, that they all want to drive the British out of India is the second. It appears that their wishes are going to be granted, but whether by God or John Morley the prophet does not inform us. At some psychological stage of the process of eviction – after the wishes have been granted and the British have been driven out of India,– the Government and Mr. Sparkes are to be intercepted on the Apollo Bunder by a deputation of Bepin3 Pal, Tilak and Khaparde on bended knees asking them to stay back on any terms rather than deprive India of their beatific presence. This is the first spark.
The second spark is of a somewhat fuliginous character. Mr. Sparkes hastened to disclaim this remarkable prophecy, it is his fosterchild and not his own and only4 begotten son. “These were not his own views, but of the Bengalis and men who never mixed in politics.” They are the views, it seems, of two classes of men, first, of the Bengalis, then, of men who never mixed in politics; and the opinion of the latter on a political question is no doubt exceptionally valuable, but if this is the opinion of the Bengalis, who then are the people of India who are all Extremists and want to drive the British out in order to have the luxury of asking them back on their bended knees? There seems to be a confusion of Sparkes somewhere.
It appears that “the Indians are trying to be registered as a nation of the world, but they were fools if they thought that that time had come”. Here is another brilliant classification, but we do not quite grasp the distinction between a nation of the world and a nation not of the world. It seems to savour of German metaphysics and is too deep for us. Anyway, we observe that Mr. Sparkes differs from the Transvaal authorities, he will not allow Indians to register themselves in the book of the world. What, not even their thumb impressions, Mr. Sparkes?
“The Partition wounded the people of Bengal to the quick but Mr. Morley had done well in refusing to reopen that question.” This was the last fitting coruscation of Sparkes, and yet neither the Ganges nor the Maidan was ablaze. After this Mr. Summons with his blood-curdling references to the train-wrecking incident and the Allen affair fell quite flat. He discovered a distinct attempt made to shield the wrong-doers. This is a charge against the police to which we invite the prompt attention of Sir Andrew Fraser. Mr. Summons ought to be called upon either to substantiate his allegation against the Lieutenant-Governor's friends or withdraw it.
Such was the feast of fancy and the flow of soul which came off last Monday. The end of this once potent Association threatens to be as pitiful as that of the Roman way – which began in massive dignity and ended in a bog.
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: realized
2 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Sparkes
3 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: Bipin
4 2002 ed. CWSA, vol.6-7: own only