"Swaraj" and the Musulmans
(June 19, 1909, On Nationalism, pp.388-390)

WE EXTRACT in our columns this week the comments of Srijut Bepin Chandra Pal's organ, Swaraj, on the Government's pro-Mahomedan policy and its possible effects in the future. We are glad to see this great Nationalist again expressing his views with his usual originality and fine political insight. We do not ourselves understand the utility of such a campaign as Srijut Bepin Chandra is carrying on in England. In politics quite as much as in ordinary conduct the rule of desh-kaal-paatra, the right place, the right time and the right person, conditions the value and the effectiveness of the work. For Bepin Babu's mission there could not be a worse place than England, a worse time than the present and a worse audience than the British people. What is the prophet of self-help and dissociation doing in England? Or what kind of message is this that he carries to the British public, "We do not welcome your favours, we reject your help and sympathy and will have no political association with you until Swaraj is ours, and therefore I am here speaking to you and publishing my views to a British audience in London"? We can only suppose that Bepin Babu does really imagine he can produce some kind of effect worth having, moral if not substantial, upon the ruling nation, and if so what does it portend? Is Saul also among the prophets? Does Bepin too stand in the doorway of Britannia?

The first three or four issues of Swaraj disappointed our expectations. A sense of the unreality of his position seemed to haunt the writer and robbed his writing of the former strength and close touch with the subject. It was the old views, the familiar thought, the well-known manner, but it neither convinced, illuminated nor inspired. This month's Swaraj is more confident and effective, although the thing still seems to be in the air. The passage extracted and the admirable character-sketch of Srijut Shyamsunder Chakrabarti are the best things in the issue. Bepin Babu seems to have recovered the copious vein of thought, the subtle and flexible reasoning, the just and original view of his subject which made one wait with impatience for every fresh number of New India. His attitude towards the Reform scheme and the Mahomedan demand for a separate electorate is the attitude which has consistently been adopted by the Nationalist party in Bengal towards the Hindu-Mahomedan question in ordinary politics. We do not fear Mahomedan Opposition; so long as it is the honest Swadeshi article and not manufactured in Shillong or Simla, we welcome it as a sign of life and aspiration. We do not shun, we desire the awakening of Islam in India even if its first crude efforts are misdirected against ourselves; for all strength, all energy, all action is grist to the mill of the nation-builder. In that faith we are ready, when the time comes for us to meet in the political field, to exchange with the Musulman, just as he chooses, the firm clasp of the brother or the resolute grip of the wrestler.

That time has not yet come. There is absolutely no reason why the electoral question should create bad blood between the two communities, for if we leave aside the limited number who still hunger after loaves and fishes or nurse dead delusions, the reforms have no living interest for the Hindu. His field of energy lies elsewhere than in the enlarged pretences of British Liberalism. His business is to find out his own strength and prepare it for a great future, and the less he meddles with unreal politics and nerveless activities, the better for the nation. The Mahomedan has not progressed so far. He has to taste the sweets of political privilege and find them turn to ashes in his mouth. He has to formulate demands, rejoice at promises, fume at betrayals, until he thoroughly discovers the falsity and impossibility of his hopes. His progress is likely to be much swifter than ours has been in the past, for he gets the advantage if not of our experience, at least of the ideas now in the air and of the more bracing and stimulating atmosphere. He is more likely to demand than to crave, and his disillusionment must necessarily be the speedier. And it is then that he too will seek the strength in himself and touch.the true springs of self-development. Our best policy is to leave the Mahomedan representatives on the councils to work out their destiny face to face with the bureaucracy, with no weightier Hindu counterpoise than the effete politicians, the time-servers and the self-seekers.

Of one thing we may be certain, that Hindu-Mahomedan unity cannot be effected by political adjustments or Congress flatteries. It must be sought deeper down, in the heart and in the mind, for where the causes of disunion are, there the remedies must be sought. We shall do well in trying to solve the problem to remember that misunderstanding is the most fruitful cause of our differences, that love compels love and that strength conciliates the strong. We must strive to remove the causes of misunderstanding by a better mutual knowledge and sympathy; we must extend the unfaltering love of the patriot to our Musulman brother, remembering always that in him too Narayana dwells and to him too our Mother has given a permanent place in her bosom; but we must cease to approach him falsely or flatter out of a selfish weakness and cowardice. We believe this to be the only practical way of dealing with the difficulty. As a political question the Hindu-Mahomedan problem does not interest us at all, as a national problem it is of supreme importance. We shall make it a main part of our work to place Mahomed and Islam in a new light before our readers, to spread juster views of Mahomedan history and civilisation, to appreciate the Musulman's place in our national development and the means of harmonising his communal life with out own, not ignoring the difficulties that stand in our way for making the most of the possibilities of brotherhood and mutual understanding. Intellectual sympathy can only draw together, the sympathy of the heart can alone unite. But the one is a good preparation for the other.