History

TYPES OF NATIONALISTS: Lala Lajpat Rai 1916

TYPES OF NATIONALISTS 1916

We will now see how many types of Nationalists there are in India. From what follows in the chapter, the reader should not conclude that the Indian Nationalists are disunited. So far as the goal is concerned there is practical unanimity in all ranks. Even those who stand for complete independence would be glad to have self-government within the Empire, if that were promised in the near future. As to methods, there is the usual cleavage to be found in all struggles for freedom in all countries. One party stands for the use of physical force, the other for peaceful means. The Indian Nationalists, too, are divided into two parties, the physical force party and the moderate party. The following account of the types is intended to show the different lines of their thinking. Complete unanimity in principles and methods can only be expected of a collection of machine-made clogs of wood.

The Extremists. (i) To take up the extremists first: There are some who do not recognise the British Government at all. They think that the Government of the British in India is founded on force and fraud. They have therefore no scruples to use force as well as fraud against the Government. In their eyes every one who is helping the Government in India either by accepting their service or otherwise by willing co-operation, abets the crime of which the Britishers are guilty. They do not recognise British laws nor their courts. They have no respect or use for either. They believe that their nationalism gives them the right of removing every one who stands in the way of their propaganda, whether by force or fraud. In their heart of hearts they are against every one who supports the British Government in India, but in the prosecution of their object they do not desire to strike at all of them. But if need be they are prepared to strike at any one. They have declared war against the British Government. Their leaders have assumed the right of passing sentences against those who are of the enemy. They judge and deal severely with those whom they think guilty of treason against them. They also consider themselves entitled to collect taxes as they call them, and make impositions on people in India. Acting on the principle that the safety of the state is the first consideration for all those who form the state, and that in case of necessity the state has a right to use the property of every private individual who is included in the body politic, they are prepared to exact their impositions by force. The fact that the British Government is the enemy against whom they have declared war, gives them the right to loot British treasuries and injure their property wherever and whenever they can.

The other principle stated above justifies in their eyes the taking by force of the property or wealth of those who would not give it willingly or voluntarily for the safety of the state as conceived by them. Hence the “ dacoities.”

A few Nihilists. The men engaged in those dacoities are of two kinds: There are those who have no moral or religious scruples. They are “ ni-hilistsA But their number is exceedingly small. They are not immoral people. For their own self or for private persons, they would not do anything which in any way contravenes the prevailing code of morality; they would neither steal nor rob, nor kill nor injure any person. But for the purpose of their movement they would do anything. Their number however is, as we said above, exceedingly small. Then there are those who are extremely religious and spiritual. Some of them are the followers of the ” Kali ” [1] cult as it is understood in Bengal; others are Vedantists. There are some who are deists or theists.

Religious Extremists. In every case, however, they believe that the British are the enemies of their Motherland and also of their religion. They would not touch one hair of any one simply because that person belonged to a religion different from theirs; but they would not scruple to kill any one who interferes with their religion. They believe that they owe their lives to the Motherland, whom they worship as the means of enabling them to be worthy of the worship of the Supreme Mother of the Universe. We will once more quote Mr. Pal[2] to explain what we mean, or rather how he puts the idea:

The Mother Worshippers. “ The so-called idolatry of Hinduism,” he says, “ is also passing through a mighty transfiguration. The process started really with Bankim Chandra,[3] who interpreted the most popular of the Hindu goddesses as symbolic of the different stages of national evolution. Jagatdhatri — riding a lion which has the prostrate body of an elephant under its paw, represented the motherland in the early jungle-clearing stage. This is, says Bankim Chandra, the mother as she was. Kali, the grim goddess, dark and naked, bearing a garland of human heads around her neck,— heads from which blood is dripping,— and dancing on the prostrate form of Shiva, the God — this, says Bankim Chandra, is the mother as she is, dark, because ignorant of herself; the heads with dripping blood are those of her own children, destroyed by famine and pestilence; the jackals[4] licking these drippings are the symbol of desolation and decadence of social life, and the prostrate form of Shiva means that she is trampling her own God under her feet. Durga, the ten-headed goddess, armed with swords and spears in some hands, holding wheat-sheaves in some, offering courage and peace with others, riding a lion, fighting with demons; with Sarasvati, or the goddess of Knowledge and Arts, supported by Ganapati, the god of Wisdom, on her one side, and Lakshmi, the goddess of Wealth, protected by Kartikeya, the leader of the Heavenly army, on the other side — this, says Bankim Chandra, is the mother as she will be. This interpretation of the old images of gods and goddesses has imparted a new meaning to the current ceremonialism of the country, and multitudes, while worshipping either Jagatdhatri, or Kali, or Durga, accost them with devotion and enthusiasm, with the inspiring cry of Bande Mataram. All these are the popular objects of worship of the Indian Hindus, especially in Bengal. And the transfiguration of these symbols is at once the cause and the evidence of the depth and the strength of the present movement. This wonderful transfiguration of the old gods and goddesses is carrying the message of new nationalism to the women and the masses of the country.’’

Vedantists. “ Behind this mighty transfiguration of the old religious ideas and symbols of the country stands, however, a new philosophy of life. Strictly speaking, it is not a new philosophy either, but rather a somewhat new application of the dominant philosophical speculations of the race. Behind the new nationalism in India stands the old Vedantism of the Hindus. This ancient Indian philosophy, divided into many schools, has one general idea running through it from end to end. It is the idea of the essential unity of man and God. According to this philosophy, Substance is one though expressed through many forms. Reality is one though appearances are multitudinous. Matter, in the eye of this philosophy, is not material, but essentially spiritual, the thought of God concretised. Man is the spirit of God incarnated. The meaning of cosmic evolution is to be found, not in itself, but in the thought of the Absolute. It is, to adopt the Hegelian dictum, the movement of the Self away from itself, to return to itself, to be itself. The Absolute, or Brahman, is the beginning, the middle, and the end of this evolutionary process. He is the Regulative idea. He is cosmic evolution. He is progressively revealing himself through the world process. In man, the Divine idea, or the Logos, comes slowly to consciousness of itself. The end of human evolution is the fullest realisation of man’s unity with God. Long, especially in what may be called the middle ages in India, this essential unity between God and man was sought to be realised through metaphysical abstractions, by negation of the social and civic life. There was an undue emphasis on the Subjective and the Universal to the neglect of the realities (however relative they might be) of the Objective and the Particular. Protests had, however, been made from time to time against these monkish abstractions, but in spite of these abstractions the dominant note continued to be that of Abstract Monism. Neo-Vedantism, which forms the very soul and essence of what may be called NeoHinduism, has been seeking to realise the old spiritual ideals of the race, not through monkish negations or mediaeval abstractions, but by the idealisation and the spiritualisation of the concrete contents and actual relations of life. It demands, consequently, a social, an economic, and a political reconstruction, such as will be helpful to the highest spiritual life of every individual member of the community. The spiritual note of the present Nationalist Movement in India is entirely derived from this Vedantic thought.

“Under the influence of this Neo-Vedantism, associated to a large extent with the name of the late Swami Vivekananda, there has been at work a slow and silent process of the liberalisation of the old social ideas. The old bigotry that anathematised the least deviation from the rules of caste, or the authority of custom, is openly giving way to a spirit of new tolerance. The imperious necessities of national struggle and national life are slowly breaking down, except in purely ceremonial affairs, the old restrictions of caste. In the new movement, old and orthodox Brahmins are rendering open obeisance to the heterodox and non-Brahmin teachers. There is an evident anxiety to discover spiritual and traditional authority for even the outrages that some of these have committed against the old social and sacerdotal order. And where no such authority could be found, their personal freedom of thought and action is being condoned on the principle that those who are to be the saviours of their nation stand, like the mendicant and the holy man, above all law. And all this is a proof of the strange hold that the new nationalist propaganda has got on the real mind and soul of the people.”

To these two classes, the Mother worshippers, and the Vedantists, belong the great bulk of the Bengal Nationalists. They are neither “ nihilists ” nor “ anarchists’ They are patriots who have raised their patriotism to the pitch of a religion. Their religion remarkably fits in with their patriotism and makes the latter indescribably intense and alive. Their whole life is permeated with it. They realise their “ duty ” every moment of their life and they are prepared to do anything and take any and every risk in the performance of that duty. They live on little; their food is abstemious; they scrupulously avoid liquor; they clothe themselves scantily; luxury they do not know. They can fast for days and go without sleep for days. Generally they are men of their word, men of honour, imbued with a strong idea of self-respect, true to their vows; men who are not swayed by lust or passion.

To this class belonged most of the Maniktolah party, Barendra and his friends. But it is evident that there are some theists among them, i. e., theists in the Western sense of the term. The man who shot Gossain, the first approver[5] in Bengal, was a Brahmo (member of the Brahmo Samaj). They have some Mohammedans and some Christians, too, among them. Brahm Bhandu Bandhopadhyai[6] was a Christian at one time. These people have followers and adherents throughout India, in the Punjab, in the United Provinces, in Maharastra, in Gujrat, in Behar, in Rajputana, even in Madras.

Advocates of Organised Rebellion. (2) Next in order come those who differ from the first in so far as they do not believe in individual murders or dacoities. For traitors and approvers even they have no mercy, but they would not murder individual British officers or Indians in the service of the Government; nor would they rob private persons. They are for organised rebellion, for tampering with the army, for raising the standard of revolt, and for carrying on a guerilla war. For the purposes of this rebellion or war they may do and will do anything that is necessary to be done; but otherwise they would neither murder nor loot.

To this class, I think, belongs Har Dayal. It is very interesting to note the development of this man. He comes from a Kayastha family of Delhi and received his education in a mission school and a mission college under Christian influence. He was a member of the Young Men’s Christian Association when he graduated. Then he came to Lahore and joined the government college there, as a stipend holder, where he took his Master of Arts degree in 1903, standing at the top of the list. His subject was “ English language and literature ” and so thorough was his mastery of the language that in some papers he obtained full marks. He continued there for another year and took his M.A. degree a second time in History. All this time he was a cosmopolitan, more of a Brahmo than a Hindu or a Nationalist. Then he left for England, having secured a Government of India scholarship, and joined the St. John’s College at Oxford. It is needless to say that even here he maintained his reputation for brilliant scholarship, but what is remarkable is, that it was here that he became a Nationalist. He is a man of strong impulses. For him, to believe is to act. It appears that within a short time he developed ideas of a rather extreme type. He came to believe that the English were undermining Hindu character; that their educational policy and methods had been designed to destroy Hinduism and to perpetuate the political bondage of the Hindus, by destroying their social consciousness and their national individuality. He studied the history of the British rule and British institutions in India from original documents, parliamentary blue books and varied other sources, and came to the conclusion that the British were deliberately Anglicising the Indians with a view to destroying their nationalism and to impressing them with the inferiority of their institutions, so that they might value the British connection and become Britishers. He thought it wrong to study in their institutions, take their degrees, and otherwise benefit from anything which they did as rulers of India. As we have said above, for him to believe was to act. As soon as he formed the above opinions, he made up his mind to resign his stipend, give up his studies, and return to India, which he did towards the end of 1907. Even before he reached India, he gave up English dress and began to eschew all the peculiarities of English life. He took to Indian shoes, Indian cap, Indian Kurta (shirt), Indian Pajama (trousers) and wrapped himself in an Indian shawl. He would not even mix with Mohammedans and Christians. For a time he was a strict Hindu in form, though not in religion. When his old master, Principal Rudra of the Delhi St. Stephen’s College, called on him at Lahore, he would not shake hands with him nor offer him a seat on his mat, because he was a Christian (he had no chairs). His cult at that time was a wholesale and complete boycott of British government and British institutions. Lie aimed to establish an order of Hindu ascetics to preach his ideas and to spread his propaganda. With that view he collected about half a dozen young men about him, who, under his inspiration, left their studies as well as their homes and showed their readiness to do as he would wish them to do. He lived a life of purity and wanted others to do the same. At that time he did not believe in or preach violence. He discussed, argued, preached, and wrote for the press. His writings began to attract attention, and so did his activities, and it was feared that the Government would soon find some means of putting him out of the way. So he decided to leave the country, and in the beginning of the second half of the year 1908 left India for good. He went to England, with the idea of preaching his gospel among the Indian students in England. He stayed there for some time and found out that there was not much scope for his type of nationalism. He also feared that the British Government might arrest him. So he left England and for about two years travelled, to and fro, to find a place where he could live very cheaply and without fear of molestation from the British Government and carry on his propaganda. He was for over a year in France, where he came in contact with the best political thought of Europe. Here he made friends with Egyptian nationalists and Russian revolutionists. His knowledge of the French language was good. He could not only speak that language fluently, but could compose in it. He used to write occasionally for the French press. He can use the German language also. Eventually he came to America and settled here. The contributions that he made to the Indian press during the first year of his sojourn in the United States did not indicate any very great change in his views on Nationalism, but a year after he was quite a different man. His political nationalism remained the same, but his views on social questions, on morality, on Hindu literature and Hindu institutions, underwent a complete metamorphosis. He began to look down upon everything Hindu and developed a great admiration for Occidental ideas of freedom. There is, how¬ ever, one thing about him that has stuck fast, and that is his hatred of British rule in India. His present cult is to dissuade Indians from engaging in any work except that of political propaganda. We are told by him (that was what he said to American journalists at the time of his arrest in San Francisco as an undesirable alien) that he is not an anarchist and that he does not advocate the use of bomb and of revolver for private murders or for the murders of individuals. We have no reason to disbelieve him. Nobody, however, knows what changes are yet to take place in his views. He is a quite uncertain item. He is an idealist of a strange type. He is simple in his life and apparently quite indifferent to the opinions of others about him. He does not court favour at the hands of any one and would go out of his way to help others. He is loved and respected by hundreds and thousands of his countrymen, including those who do not agree with his views or his propaganda or his programme. Even the late Mr. Gokhale admired him.

Hardayalism. Har Dayal is an advocate of open rebellion; he does not advocate the use of the bomb or the revolver for killing individuals, but he admires and glorifies those who have risked their lives using the same.[7]

Neither of these classes is prepared to make any compromise with the British. They stand for absolute independence; full Swaraj. They know, perhaps, that they have a very difficult task before them, but they have confidence in themselves and believe that the difficulties are not insuperable. They do not believe that in order to gain Swaraj, India should have more widespread education, or that social reform and social consolidation must precede political freedom. They consider that these are all fads, ideas with which the British have inoculated the Indians in order to keep them busy with non-political activities and to keep down their manhood. It is a part of the imperial game that the rulers should manage to fill the ruled with the idea of their own incompetence to manage their affairs, of their inability to unite, of many differences and divisions among them, and of their incapacity to win their freedom. These nationalists deprecate communalor sectional activities. They do not countenance the organisations engaged in religious and social reform. In their opinion all these so-called reform organisations are doing positive mischief in keeping the nation engaged in less important matters and indirecting the nation’s mind from the all important question of national freedom. They want to concentrate the nation’s mind on this one point.

Political Freedom the First Condition of Life. According to them life in political bondage or in political subjection is a negation of life. Life signifies power and capacity to grow and progress. A slave, a bondsman, is not free to grow. His interests are always subordinate to those of his master. He must give the best in him to the service of the latter. His will must always be under his master’s will, who is practically his conscience’s keeper. No man can grow to the full stature of his manhood; no man can rise to the best in him; no man can make the best use of his faculties and opportunities; no man can develop either his body or his soul according to his liking, under these circumstances. Whatever he does, he does for his master, in his name and in his interest. The credit and the glory and the benefit of it, all accrue to him.[8] If this is true of an individual slave, it is equally true of a nation in political bondage.

As a proof of the truth of their statements, they point to the history and activities of the Indian National Congress. The Congress people ask for Universal Primary Education; the Government says no. They can not find money for it; “ the country is not prepared for it; nor is it good for the people at large.” If the masses are educated, they might become discontented and create trouble for the Government. The Congress wants a repeal of the Arms Act; the Government says no. The people might use the arms against the Government, and that is a calamity to be avoided. The Congress desires that Indians be enrolled as volunteers; the Government says no. It is not desirable to give military training to the Indians. They might use it against the Government. It is not desirable to have companies of volunteers composed of Indians only, as they might conspire against the reigning power. It is equally undesirable to force them on European and Eurasian companies against their wishes, as that would wound their social and imperial susceptibilities. The Congress politician wants to protect Indian industries; the Government says no. That will injure Lancashire. The Congress wants more of technical education; the Government says, the country does not need it and they can not spare funds for it. The Congress wants national schools and national universities; the Government says no, “ you may misuse them.” The keynote of the situation is, that India must exist in the interests of England and Englishmen ; or at any rate England and English politicians know what is good and useful for India, how much she should and how much she should not have; in what line she should advance and in what she should not. India and Indians have no right to think for themselves. Anything they think or decide to do must be tested by Englishmen according to their standards and in the way they think it is likely to further the interests of their empire.

These nationalists therefore maintain that the first condition of life,— life with respect and honour, life for profit and advantage, life for progress and advancement,—is political freedom. Life without that is no life. It is idle therefore to think of matters which are manifestations or developments or embellishments of life.

Education can only profit a living being. A human being instructed on the lines on which certain beasts or animals are instructed, can, like the latter, only respond to the calls of his master. The master wants them to salute; they salute. The master wants them to dance; they dance. The master wants them to do any other job for him; they do it. Their will and intellect are always subordinate to the master.Independent of the master, they have neither will nor intellect. Education under these circumstances, they maintain, is a degrading of human faculties, and a travesty. In their opinion it would be best for their people to remain uneducated, rather than be educated only for the benefit and use of their masters.

Similarly, they think that all the schemes for social reform, for sectarian advancement, for commercial interests, are nothing more than so many devices for dividing the nation and keeping them engaged in never-ending internecine quarrels. They consider this to be a misplaced dissipation of energies and a misuse of opportunities. They wish that every man and woman in India should for the present think of nothing else but political freedom. The first thing is to get rid of the foreigner. Who will rule India and how, what shape will the government of the country take, how will the different religions and different interests be represented therein? — these and other cognate questions do not trouble them. They believe that as soon as England leaves India, some one will rise sphinxlike who will establish some form of national government. The time will produce the man. It would be then time to think and discuss how to improve it. They do not mind if the Hindus or the Mohammedans or the Sikhs or the Gurkhas rule India; nor whether it is the Maharaja of Nepal or that of Odeypore, or that of Baroda, or that of Patiala, or the Nawab of Hyderabad, or that of Bhawalpore, who becomes supreme; nor whether the form of government is monarchical or oligarchic, or republican. These questions do not trouble them. They do not, of course, want any foreign government, but if the way of eventual national freedom lies that way, they do not mind even that. Anything would be better than the present government. The British Government is slowly dissolving the nation. If they have to die, they would rather die of plague or cholera, than of typhoid or consumption. The apprehensions of disturbances of peace do not frighten them. They are sick of peace. Peace under existing conditions has unmanned the nation; it has emasculated the people and sapped their manhood. Anything rather than peace at such price. The desire for peace on any terms, has been the curse of British rule. It has done them more harm than disorder or anarchy ever did. Blessed was the disorder that preceded the rise of the Mahratta power or the establishment of the Sikh commonwealth. Blessed were the conditions of life that produced a Partap, a Sivaji, a Durga Dass, and a Govind Singh.[9] Cursed are the conditions of peace that can only produce Daffadars and Jamadars or at the most Risaldars[10] or KaiserHind-medallists.

This is Hardayalism. Most of the Nationalists of the two classes described above belong to this school, but there are some among them who do not wholly fall in with this view. They are prepared to agree that the political question must always be in the forefront, and that nothing should be done which may in any way overshadow this or relegate it to a secondary position; but they do not believe that politics alone should usurp the whole thought and life of the nation. It would not be right to conclude from the above description that the Indian Nationalists have no constructive programme for the future, but it is obvious that in the absence of freedom and opportunities to discuss it openly, opinions on the subject can not be crystallised.

Arabinda Ghosh — Vedantist and Swarajist. It is difficult to say to which of these classes, if to either at all, Arabinda Ghosh belonged or still belongs. At one time it was believed that he belonged to the first class, to which most of the other Bengalee extremists belonged, but whether that belief was right and whether he still thinks on the same lines, it is difficult to say. One thing is certain, that he was and is quite unlike Har Dayal in his line of thought. In intellectual acumen and in scholastic accomplishments he is perhaps superior to Har Dayal, but above all he is deeply religious and spiritual. He is a worshipper of Krishna and is a high-souled Vedantist. Even simpler and more ascetic in his life and habits than Har Dayal, he is for an all-around development of Indian Nationalism. His notions of life and morality are preminently Hindu and he believes in the spiritual mission of his people. His views may better be gathered from an interview, which he recently gave to a correspondent of The Hindu, of Madras. We quote the interview almost bodily and in the words of the interviewer. “ But what do you think of the 1914 Congress and Conferences? ” I insisted.

He spoke almost with reluctance but in clear and firm accents. He said: “ I do not find the proceedings of the Christmas Conferences very interesting and inspiring. They seem to me to be mere repetitions of the petty and lifeless formulas of the past and hardly to show any sense of the great breath of the future that is blowing upon us. I make an exception of the speech of the Congress President which struck me as far above the ordinary level. Some people, apparently, found it visionary and unpractical. It seems to me to be the one practical and vital thing that has been said in India for some time past.”

He continued: “ The old, petty forms and little narrow, make-believe activities are getting out of date. The world is changing rapidly around us and preparing for more colossal changes in the future. We must rise to the greatness of thought and action which it will demand from the nations who hope to live. No, it is not in any of the old formal activities, but deeper down that I find signs of progress and hope. The last few years have been a period of silence and compression, in which the awakened Virya[11] and Tejas of the nation have been concentrating for a greater outburst of a better directed energy in the future.

“ We are a nation of three hundred millions,” added Mr. Ghosh, “ inhabiting a great country in which many civilisations have met, full of rich material and unused capacities. We must cease to think and act like the inhabitants of an obscure and petty village.”

“ If you don’t like our political methods, what would you advise us to do for the realisation of our destiny ? ”

He quickly replied: “ Only by a general intellectual and spiritual awakening can this nation fulfil its destiny. Our limited information, our second-hand intellectual activities, our bounded interests, our narrow life of little family aims and small money getting have prevented us from entering into the broad life of the world. Fortunately, there are ever-increasing signs of a widened outlook, a richer intellectual output and numerous sparks of liberal genius which show that the necessary change is coming. No nation in modern times can grow great by politics alone. A rich and varied life, energetic in all its parts, is the condition of a sound, vigorous national existence. From this point of view also the last five years have been a great benefit to the country.”

I then asked what he thought of the vastly improved relations that now exist between the Briton and the Indian in our own country and elsewhere.

“ It is a very good thing,” he said, and he explained himself in the following manner: “The realisation of our nationhood separate from the rest of humanity was the governing idea of our activities from 1905 to 1910. That movement has served its purpose. It has laid a good foundation for the future. Whatever excesses and errors of speech and action were then disclosed, came because our energy, though admirably inspired, lacked practical experience and knowledge.

“ The idea of Indian nationhood is now not only rooted in the public mind, as all recent utterances go to show, but accepted in Europe and acknowledged by the Government and the governing race. The new idea that should now lead us is the realisation of our nationhood not separate from, but in, the future scheme of humanity. When it has realised its own national life and unity, India will still have a part to play in helping to bring about the unity of the nations.’’

I naturally put in a remark about the Under-Secretary’s “ Angle of Vision.”

“ It is well indeed,” observed Mr. Ghosh, “ that British statesmen should be thinking of India’s proper place in the Councils of the Empire, and it is obviously a thought which, if put into effect, must automatically alter the attitude of even the greatest extremists towards the Government and change for the better all existing political relations.

“ But it is equally necessary that we, Indians, should begin to think seriously what part Indian thought, Indian intellect, Indian nationhood, Indian spirituality, Indian culture have to fulfil in the general life of humanity. The humanity is bound to grow increasingly on. We must necessarily be in it and of it. Not a spirit of aloofness or of jealous self-defence, but of generous emulation and brotherhood with all men and all nations, justified by a sense of conscious strength, a great destiny, a large place in the human future — this should be the Indian spirit.”

The oneness of humanity is a topic dear to the heart of Babu Arabinda Ghosh and when I (i. e., the interviewer) suggested to him that Vedantic ideas would be a good basis for unity, his reply was full of enthusiasm:

“ Oh, yes,” he said, “ I am convinced and have long been convinced that a spiritual awakening, a re-awakening to the true self of a nation is the most important condition of our national greatness. The supreme Indian idea of the oneness of all men in God and its realisation inwardly and outwardly, in-creasingly even in social relations and the structure of society is destined, I believe, to govern the progress of the human race. India, if it chooses, can guide the world.”

And here I said something about our “ four thousand ” castes, our differences in dress and in “ caste marks,” our vulgar sectarian antipathies and so on.

“ Not so hard, if you please,” said Mr. Ghosh with a smile. “ I quite agree with you that our social fabric will have to be considerably altered before long. We shall have, of course, to enlarge our family and social life, not in the petty spirit of present day Social Reform, hammering at small details and belittling our immediate past, but with a larger idea and more generous impulses. Our past with all its faults and defects should be sacred to us. But the claims of our future with its immediate possibilities should be still more sacred.” His concluding words were spoken in a very solemn mood:

“ It is more important,” he said, “ that the thought of India should come out of the philosophical school and renew its contact with life, and the spiritual life of India issue out of the cave and the temple and, adapting itself to new forms, lay its hand upon the world. I believe also that humanity is about to enlarge its scope by new knowledge, new powers and capacities, which will create as great a revolution in human life as the physical science of the nineteenth century. Here, too, India holds in her past, a little rusted and put out of use, the key of humanity’s future.

“ It is in these directions that I have been for some time impelled to turn my energies rather than to the petty political activities which are alone open to us at the present moment. This is the reason of my continued retirement and detachment from action. I believe in the necessity at such times and for such great objects, of Tapasya,[12] in silence for self-training, for self-knowledge and storage of spiritual force. Our forefathers used that means, though in different forms. And it is the best means for becoming an efficient worker in the great days of the world.”

Ganesh Vinayak Savarkar. At this stage we might mention the name of another Nationalist, who exercised a vast influence on young Indians in England for a number of years and is now serving a life term in the Andamans. We mean Ganesh Vinayak Savarkar. In the simplicity of his life he was of the same class as Arabinda Ghosh and Har Dayal. In the purity of his life he was as high as either. In politics he fell in the first category minus their religious fervour. In his general views he was more or less what Har Dayal is, minus his denunciation of those who are engaged in non-political activities. Savarkar had extremely fine qualities of a leader. He has been caught because he was reckless; he never cared about his personal safety; he had the dash of the old warrior who always put himself in the post of danger. Har Dayal keeps himself in the background and avoids danger. Arabinda stands midway between the two.

The Terrorists. (3) The third class of Nationalists consists of those who would like absolute independence, but who do not believe that it is possible in the near future. They approve of the occasional use of bomb and revolver for terrorist purposes; especially now when no other method has been left of carrying on a propaganda of freedom. The press has been gagged; the platform has been dismantled. Any vigorous political propaganda, including strong criticism of the Government and its methods, is out of the question, No one can point out the political and economic disasters of foreign rule, much less discuss it with reference to actual facts and figures. There is no other way of reminding the people at home and abroad of the standing and colossal wrong which the British Government is guilty of in keeping India under her yoke. In their opinion, the occasional use of the bomb and the revolver is the only way to assert their manhood and their desire for freedom, and to announce their dissatisfaction and discontent. It attracts attention all over the world. It makes people think of India. At home it reminds people of the wrongs they have suffered and are suffering at the hands of the Government. At first it shocks the people, but then it stirs them to think. The bomb has entered Indian life, perhaps never to leave it. They abhor it, but they are getting accustomed to it. They do not now think so badly of those who use the bomb as they once used to.

Advocates of Constructive Nationalisation. (4) In the fourth class are comprised those who want independence, but not at once. They would rather consolidate the nation, raise its intellectual and moral tone, increase its economic efficiency, before they raise the standard of revolt. They do not believe that England will ever free them or give them even Colonial Self-Government except under very great pressure. They do not believe that nations let things go out of their grip or hold if they can help it, and unless their own safety demands it. In their opinion the Congress as well as the bomb have come rather early. They would have the nation apply herself wholeheartedly to the work of education and consolidation.

Independence, but not at once. They do not want the British to go until the people of India are sufficiently strong to turn them out by force, and are able to protect themselves and to maintain their independence and their liberties against the outside world. They recognise the force of the argument that the British may never allow them to grow so strong as to be able to win their liberty, and by waiting they might lose all conscious desire for political freedom and might become permanent parasites. They, however, think that they can guard against such possibilities by keeping their nationalism alive and by occasionally suffering for it. Driven to this corner, they admit that now that the Congress and the bomb have come, they might stay. In the opinion of some both are useful in their own way. They would not advocate the use of the bomb and the revolver; in fact they might in all seriousness dissuade people from using them, but when they are used, they would not give up the offenders even if they knew who they were. They would approve the use of the bomb and the revolver against individual tyrants or against people who insult Indian manhood and womanhood, as in the present state of racial and political feeling in India no other way is open to bring them to book and get justice against Englishmen, but they do not like the use of the bomb and the revolver for general political purposes or for terrorising. These people believe in a propaganda of selfless social service. The people must be approached and won over by service and love, before any political upheaval is attempted.

Preparing the Nation for Freedom. Nothing can be achieved without the help of the people. “ We must have the people with us,” say they. “ And in order to win the people to our side, we must show them conclusively that we have their interests at heart, that we love them perhaps more than we love ourselves, that we are disinterested and public spirited and that we are in every respect better and more honourable than the foreign rulers. Our moral superiority over the agents of the foreign government must be ever present in the minds of the people in order to enable them to support us and back us in the coming political struggle/’ In their eyes the Congress propaganda has no other value but educational. They have no faith in the benevolence of British statesmen and they do not believe that the Congress would achieve anything substantial. They are very uncertain about the future, and therefore to them, the best course open is to engage in educational and social work. They are neither dreamers nor idealists, but practical patriots, who are content to do the spade work and sow the seed. They confess that they can not see far ahead and are therefore afraid of the demoralising influences of the bomb and the revolver. Nor can they justify political robberies and dacoities. They think that, this time, independence should come never to be lost again, and in their judgment that is only possible if independence is not won by a few but by the whole united nation. In the meantime they would wait and build up their nation.

Preparatory Work from Below. The Congress has failed, they say, because it has been trying to get political concessions from above. The right policy is to work from below. They do not believe in “ mendicancy ”; nor do they place any reliance in “ benevolence and philanthropy in politics.” On the other hand, they differ from the extremists in their methods, as they believe in a steady development of the national mind and the national will and have no faith in heroic remedies. They do not care to run the risk of “ relapses.” They contain in their number some of the noblest sons of India, whose life is a record of continuous selfless service in the field of social work. They should not be confounded with the “ resolution ” patriots of the Social Conferences or other conferences; nor should they be judged by the length of their speeches or their fluency or capacity to deliver long orations in English. They are generally modest people who do not claim erudite scholarship or great statesmanship. They do not go in for any recognition, whether from the Government or from the people. The satisfaction of their own conscience and undisturbed work are the only rewards they seek.

Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaj, Ramakrishna Mission. They are to be found in all sections of the great Indian nation, in all religions, and in all communities. They live simply on simple fare, in simple and scanty garments and in simple houses. 1 They earn in order to give. They live in order to serve. To this class belong some of the Bengalee deportees, and to this class belong a great many members of the Brahmo Samaj, the Arya Samaj, and the Ramakrishna Mission. They have large followings, but yet their number is by no means great. They are well known in their respective circles, but are not so well known outside, as the “ extremists ” and “ moderates ” are. The C. I. D. (Criminal Investigation Department) of the Government keeps a close watch over them; the government officers keep themselves informed of their movements and doings. They want to be left alone and allowed to do their work quietly and unostentatiously, but the Government will not leave them alone and suspects them of deep designs and secret propaganda.

The Moderates. (5) We now come to the moderates. There are some who would not advocate the use of the bomb or the revolver, but who do not desire the total disappearance of the extremist party; and the occasional use of the bomb and the revolver gives a point to their organisation which they would not lose. Lacking the intelligent support of the masses in their propaganda, being too lazy to court it by legitimate means, or too self-centred to run the risk involved therein, they are heartily glad of the existence of a party in the country which has raised their importance in the eyes of the Government and the British public. Of course they do not say so and their abhorrence and detestation of the bomb and the revolver is quite genuine, yet they would be very sorry if the extremist party were extirpated altogether.

Gokhale. The noblest and the best of the Congress type from the Nationalist point of view was represented by Mr. Gokhale. Mr. Gokhale loved his country quite sincerely and lived and worked for it. With the exception of Dadabhai Naoroji, he was the only Congressman of reputation and name that lived for his country only and gave his all to her service. His life was fairly simple; his patriotism was of the highest type; yet he was not the type of man fitted to be a hero. He had the qualities of statesmanship, but lacked those of generalship. He objected to people designating his policy as one of mendicancy, or questioning his political ideals. Hevused to remonstrate and say in the most touching way: “ Do you think, my friend, we are so devoid of self-respect and so base as to be happy at our country being under foreign domination; do you think we wish that it should always remain under foreign yoke? No, you do us great injustice if you think so. I would have my country be free to-day if that were possible. But is it possible? Can we work on that basis? In politics you must consider what is practical and what is unpractical. We can in no way bind the future generations. Who are we to bind them irrevocably? We are doing what we in our own times consider best and practicable. We are not beggars and our policy is not that of mendicancy. We are ambassadors of our people at a foreign court, to watch and guard the interests of our country and get as much for her as we can. That is our position/’ Mr. Gokhale believed in the work of consolidation and in the work for increasing the social efficiency of the people of India regardless of caste, creed, or colour. He had a great deal in common with class number (4). But he had great faith in political agitation on moderate lines. He was fully conscious of the weakness of the Congress methods and extremely disliked the behaviour of some of the leaders. He quite bemoaned their lack of enthusiasm, their want of self-sacrifice, their intolerance, the lack of spirit of true comradeship in them, their self-sufficiency and, last but not least, their luxurious lives. He often compared the type of human material which found its way into the Congress with those who joined the ranks of the extremists. He admired the spirit of the latter, their devotion to the cause, their asceticism and their selflessness. He wished he had some of that stuff to work for the Congress. He admired Arabinda and Har Dayal. He used to say that he could not see very far ahead and therefore he preferred to work for the immediate future. A few days before his departure from England he said to two of his most intimate friends (husband and wife) that India would be free in 25 years.

What he meant by freedom we do not know. Probably he meant “ as free as the self-governed colonies.” Of late he was losing faith in English liberalism. He noticed the lack of great minds among the liberals, but he said they were the only people with whom we could work. His experiences on the Royal Commission for Public Services saddened the last days of his life. He could not bear the insults that witness after witness (from among the Anglo-Indians) heaped on his countrymen, their character, their honesty, and their capacity. He objected to the extremists calling themselves nationalists to the exclusion of the people of his ways of thinking. He said we were all nationalists. He was by far the noblest of the moderates. There is no one who is even half so good and noble as he was.

Congress Leaders. A great many Congress leaders are true patriots, but they have such an abnormal love of peace and luxury, that they can not even think of methods which might even remotely result in disturbances of peace, in riots, and in disasters. Hence their detestation of the extremist methods and their distrust of carrying on a propaganda among the masses. They would proceed very, very slowly. Of course, there are some among them who are cowards, some who are self-seekers, who hanker after judgeships, memberships, knighthoods, and so on, but we do not count them as nationalists, and history knows of no political party which was absolutely free from such weaknesses. There are some among the Congressmen who are moderates by profession, but extremists in their ways of thinking, lacking the courage of identifying themselves with the latter ; just as there are some who are Congressmen in name, but are really out and out loyalists seeking opportunities of advancing their own interests. Then there are some who favour constitutional agitation, but want to make the Congress more self-assertive and self-sufficient. They would pass resolutions on current topics but would have no petitioning or praying or memorialising.

Passive Resisters. There are others who would go even farther and inaugurate a campaign of passive resistance and boycott. The Congress thus claims as many types of nationalists as the extremists. The Passive Resisters are likely to come to the front if Mr. Gandhi, the great Hindu Passive Resister, undertakes to organise them.

For obvious reasons we can not classify the living Indian Nationalists in India by name.



Foot Notes

  1.  Name of religious sect. See Pratts’ India and Its Faiths,p.13
  2.  The Spirit of Indian Nationalism, by Mr. B. C. Pal. p. 36.
  3.  A great Bengalee writer of fiction who composed the well known nationalist song, “ Bande Mataram ” or Hail Motherland.
  4.  Or the foreign exploiters.
  5.  It was in the first half of the year 1908 that the first bomb was thrown at Muzaffarpur, Behar. It was meant for a Magistrate who had been passing sentences of whipping on nationalist youths, but by mistake it struck a quite innocent person. The investigation of this case resulted in the discovery of a big conspiracy. The trial of this conspiracy is known by the name “ Maniktolah Bomb Case ” from the fact that the headquarters of this conspiracy were alleged to have been in the Maniktolah gardens, Calcutta. One of the conspirators Narendra Nath Gossain became an approver. After the case had been committed for trial before the Sessions Court and when the approver and the accused were both lodged in jail at Alipore, one of the leaders of the conspiracy shot the approver dead with a rifle which had been smuggled into the jail premises by their friends.
  6.  A great Nationalist leader of Bengal, now dead.
  7.  One of his followers in San Francisco has told me that this description of him, viz., that he does not advocate the use of the bomb or the revolver is not correct.
  8.  This is illustrated in Indian official life day in and day out. It is not a rare occurrence that the British heads of the Departments get credit for what has been achieved by the genius, intelligence and labour of their Indian subordinates.
  9.  Indian heroes.
  10.  Non-commissioned officers of the native Indian army.
  11.  Force, energy and vitality.
  12.  Life of meditation and self-denial.

 Source: Young India by Lala Lajpat Rai 1916

Categories: History

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