(1905-1906: On Nationalism, pp. 79-84)
When a movement of
national resurgence is begun in any country or by any people, a large and noble
political ideal is needed for the purpose. Had the great spirit that was
Rousseau not proclaimed the egalitarian principle, the impassioned aspirations
of the French Revolution could not have awakened a half-dead
For the last century, since our confrontation with Western civilisation began, we have been constantly discussing national progress and the attainment of political rights. In practice, however, we have not progressed but declined. Far from gaining political rights, our political and economic life, our arts and sciences, intellectual faculties and religious spirit have all become fettered. We look to others for our food, for the clothes we wear, for our education, political rights, intellectual development and thought-systems. There is no end to our gratitude to the English for the few toys they have given us. When a people is dependent on others in both mind and body, railways, telegraph, electricity, municipalities, universities, National Congress, etc., all the discoveries of Science and all the paraphernalia of Western political life, all are merely toys. However many rights Lord Ripon and Mr. Morley may grant us, our national life will only be harmed by it, not benefited. These too are nothing but toys. Only what is won by one's own effort is a right, not what others give as charity. Therefore, these are not real rights, we have no permanent claim on them; today Ripon has given them, tomorrow Curzon will snatch them away. And we will wail aloud at a thousand meetings and congresses, "Oh, our toys are gone! What a terrible injustice!" Childishness is a principal feature of our present-day political life. The habit of servility is another. We are slaves even if we get high posts: the Civilian Judge, Municipal Commissioner, District Board Chairman, member of University Syndicate, member of Legislative Council, all are wearing chains and acting on a stage. But we have become so petty that we are not ashamed to boast of those chains being made of gold or silver! Servility has permeated our entire life like a thick fog. What is heartening is that after dreaming for so long, we have now opened our eyes and begun to realise our abject condition. This subservience to others in every sphere is no longer tolerable. Throughout the country the idea is gradually spreading that, we must, by whatever means, win independence in our education, economy and political life. This is the hope of the future. This is the sign that we have awakened and will listen no more to the old lullabies. We will heed no obstacle and stop at no one's command. We will surely arise.
Why has the endeavour of
a century achieved such meagre results?
What are the aims of the National Congress? Many people are circulating the following in the name of the National Congress and its objectives. They say, "The English rulers are governing the country very well. But being foreigners, they cannot understand the Indian mentality. For this reason there are slight defects in their administration. We shall help them in their task of governing us by placing the appeals of the Indian people before them each year. In this way the British administration will become perfect." Our rulers, however, do not accept this unsolicited offer of help; rather they rebuff it as the impudence of slaves and the impertinence of immature minds. Every year the Congress appears uninvited before our rulers to offer its help, and each time it comes back with a load of insults on its head. But even this is not enough to make us lose patience. We say, "Let us go uninvited for the time being, perhaps one day the rulers will be kind enough to accept our assistance." Can any people entering the political field with such petty motives ever become a great nation on this earth which is for heroes to enjoy?
Some people, again, describe the National Congress as "His Majesty's permanent opposition." Just as in the British Parliament during a Conservative Government the Liberal Party constitutes the opposition, so we too in this country form permanently such an opposition to the British rulers. It is this sort of permanent opposition that is said to be our ideal. We have learned a few catchwords from our English preceptors and this is merely another one of those. For example, there is no constitution and yet we conduct so-called constitutional agitation. Similarly, there is no Parliament and yet a futile imitation of Parliament is accepted as our ideal. A permanent opposition would mean a useless opposition. The aim of the opposition in Parliament is to remove the present rulers and govern in their place, and to introduce policies of its own devising instead of the existing ones. The National Congress has neither the power nor the ability to adopt this aim as its objective; but no one, unless he is quite mad, would embark consciously upon a course that has no hope of success. Therefore this ideal is absolutely worthless and irrelevant.
Had all our leaders been
satisfied with such utterly trifling and worthless aims, the National Congress
would not have lasted even a day. But there are also people of another kind in
the Congress who can rise a little higher than this. Their ideals consist of
small national interests such as Simultaneous Examinations, admission of our
elected representatives into the Legislative Councils, granting most of the
high-paying posts to Indians in order to reduce the Home Charges, and so on. We
say that all the demands of the Congress are justified. But we ask whether
these petty interests can ever constitute a political ideal large enough to
stir the whole of
The number of Indians in the Civil Service is to be increased. What will the country gain by that? The three hundred mil lion people of this country remain the slaves they were. Even if those who enter the Civil Service become lords of their own people, they will still be slaves of the foreigner and obliged to harm their countrymen whenever they are ordered to do so. It means nothing but that the bureaucracy will get a few black slaves to assist in the sacred task of keeping the Indian people sunk in servitude. Or if our elected representatives are admitted into the Legislative Councils, how will that help either? Certain individuals may thereby get the chance to display their oratory and political acumen and be applauded by the rulers and the public, but it will not do the country a drop of good. And why should it? Do we think that if we become big foremen in these factories of servitude, the factory owners will leave their business and go away? This strange reasoning simply shows our political inexperience.
As a result of the
preoccupation with all these petty interests, a wrong path has been taken and
the real tasks of the country are neglected. Take
The ideal of the
Congress is merely to keep the chains of servitude intact, but reduce the
proportion of iron in them while increasing the proportions of gold and silver.
If our political life could have been developed adequately with a few peace-
and-comfort-loving middle-class people, this would have been enough for the
purpose. But if a nation is to be restored to life, we have to go beyond this
petty and inconsequential ideal. For the sake of such an ideal has anyone ever
forgotten himself in the fervour of patriotism and made a real self-sacrifice
or, ignoring all threats and temptations, hastened forwards on the path of his
duty? On the other hand, when the enchanting image of our Mother was once shown
to us, at the sight of her face and the sound of her name we all went wild,
joyfully renounced our selfish interests to work for the country, and began
going to jail in droves with smiling faces. Is even this not enough to bring
our leaders to their senses? Even after this will they not realise in which
direction the skies are brightening as the sun of
We must break the spell
of the golden chain. Refusing to imitate the English and rejecting their
leadership, we must find the right means to attain our objective in accordance
with our national temperament and the condition of the country. We must breathe
new life into resurgent