Early Political Writings. 1890 — May 1908
Bande Mataram. April 8, 1908
The “Indu” and the Dhulia Conference
The Reception Committee of the Dhulia Conference has fallen under the ban of the Indu Prakash because it has dared to attempt a compromise in which the views of the “Extremists” have not been completely ignored. The only “compromise” which Moderates are prepared to accept is one in which Nationalism is ignored and the Nationalists make a complete surrender. It is strange to find these irreconcilable fanatics of separatism posing as men of sobriety and moderation, these ignorers of every principle of constitutional action posing as constitutionalists. The framing of two or three resolutions of self-help and the repetition of three of the Calcutta Congress resolutions is described by the organ of Sir Pherozshah as the capture of the Conference by Extremism. The Dhulia Reception Committee have framed fifteen resolutions of which the first three are the Congress resolutions on Self-Government, Swadeshi and National Education; the fourth is a resolution for an united Congress on the lines settled at the Calcutta Congress; the fifth is for village organisation and arbitration; the ninth advocates physical culture. These six resolutions are the only ones which have the slightest nationalist tinge, and it must be remembered that the first is a Moderate and not a Nationalist resolution. The rest are petitionary resolutions of the ancient type, the last of them compromising a respectable-sized omnibus full of petitions. To our mind, it seems that the Dhulia Nationalists have compromised with a vengeance and if ever there was a Conference framed on non-party lines, this deserves the description. But our excellent old Moonshine will not allow anything to be non-party which is not entirely Moderate.
The first offence of the Conference is that it has not said ditto to the suggestion of the Bombay Presidency Association to postpone the Conference till October by which time the Moderates could have made all arrangements for holding the Congress according to their will and pleasure and would have pleaded that it was too late to make any change. The Association has by prescription been organising Conferences, says the Indu, and so to ignore its opinion is Extremism. The idea of an Association in Bombay city having the prescriptive right to organise Conferences and dictate to the Reception Committee, is one of those staggering assumptions which the Bombay Moderate brain puts forth with an appallingly cheerful defiance of common sense, logic and constitutional principles unintelligible to the ordinary man. Might we be allowed to suggest that the early part of the year is now generally accepted as the proper time for a Provincial Conference and that the Bombay Association has no more right to be obeyed in this or any other matter than, say, the Moderate Convention?
The Calcutta Resolutions
The Indu proceeds to put forward the remarkable argument that the Conference could have been an united success only if all contentious matter relating to Congress politics had been scrupulously omitted, considering that almost all matters which come before the Congress now involve more or less the contentions as to principles which divide the Congress, this amounts to saying that an united Conference is impossible,– a confession of the country's political incapacity which is redolent of Sir Pherozshah Mehta. The next complaint is that the Moderates did not try to force their creed on the Conference, while the Extremists have unblushingly pushed their hobby of the Calcutta positions. We invite the attention of the country to the practical admission that the Moderates are opposed to the Calcutta resolutions, an admission which may be advantageously compared with the repeated Moderate protestations that there was never any intention of drawing back from the Calcutta positions. Our answer to the contention is that the Calcutta resolutions are in the nature of a compromise by which both parties with their programmes are given scope in the Congress and are therefore not of a party character but the sole possible basis for united work; the creed on the other hand is avowedly of a party character and intended to exclude Nationalists from the Congress. It was for this reason that the Moderates and Nationalists at Dhulia, being sincerely desirous of union, accepted the former and avoided the latter. This is a fact which the Bombay Moderates find it convenient to misrepresent, but it has been clearly recognised both at Pabna and Dhulia; – the Calcutta resolutions are not “Extremist” positions, but a compromise between the parties; as such the Nationalists hold to them and not as a hobby or as their “creed”.
Ignoring and Defying
This resolution, says the Indu, is an attempt “to ignore and defy the Convention Committee (and commit the Conference to the lines of the Bodas Ghose Committee) the unconstitutionalism of which we exposed the other day.” We have unfortunately missed this no doubt luminous exposure, but we are curious to know by what principle of constitutionalism the Convention Committee enjoys any authority over a Provincial Conference for it to defy, or holds any position which it is not at perfect liberty to ignore. What part has a Convention which was avowedly a party Convention excluding over six hundred Congress delegates, in the constitution of the Congress? The Provinces are at liberty to ignore both Committees equally, for neither has at present any constitutional authority or position, if the Congress is alive. If the Congress is dead, there can be no talk of constitution; at most the Convention and the Conference are co-legators and divide the property. The question for a Provincial Conference is not between one committee and another, but between union and division, the death of the Congress or its resuscitation.
The Calcutta Compromise
Finally, the Indu after sneering at the Calcutta resolutions as an Extremist creed, itself charges the Reception Committee with disloyalty to the Calcutta position, because they have adopted the Self-Government resolution without taking on a rider about Legislative Councils and other “steps” to Self-Government. We know it is the position of the Mehta clique that even Self-Government is a far off, almost impracticable dream and that we should in the meanwhile be satisfied with small reforms. The Calcutta Congress fixed Colonial Self-Government as a practical demand, a thing which should be extended to India, but it did not as the Indu pretends, fix a far off date for the extension, only knowing that its demand, though perfectly and immediately practical (otherwise the expression “should be extended” has no meaning) would not be granted, it demanded certain reforms as steps towards Colonial Self-Government. The Dhulia Conference does precisely the same though the “steps” are asked for in separate resolutions. The Calcutta Congress, as a compromise, combined petitions with self-help, a resolution for National Education with a prayer for the extension of Government education. The Dhulia Conference does precisely the same. The Indu discovers the inconsistency of this position with the air of Newton discovering the law of gravitation. Inconsistent it is, but the Calcutta resolutions are not an essay in logic, they are a compromise between two entirely different programmes, of which the fittest will survive. We have noticed the arguments of the Indu at length because it is necessary for the country to realise the sort of shufflings by which it is sought to justify the policy of “divide and serve” on which the Bombay clique has set its heart. If we can save the Congress, we will, but if it is broken, this time at least the responsibility shall rest on the right shoulders.
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