Karmayogin - English Journal

Weekly Journal (1909-10)

  • Karmayogin Cover page
    Cover page of Karmayogin - a weekly journal

Karmayogin & Dharma

After his acquittal in the Alipore Bomb case, Sri Aurobindo launched Karmayogin, a weekly English journal conceived as 'A Weekly Review of National Religion, Literature, Science, Philosophy, &c.,'. The illustration on the cover was that of Sri Krishna and Arjuna seated in their chariot on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, and the two mottos on the top were 'Remember me and fight' and 'Yoga is skill in works'.

The first issue of Karmayogin came out on 19.June.1909. Sri Aurobindo also launched Dharma, a weekly Bengali journal and its first issue came out on 23.Aug.1909.

Triumph of Thought

"How I wish you could get the Karmayogin every week! In my opinion, it is a triumph of style and thought. Aravindo is magnificent.", wrote Sister Nivedita on January 20, 1910 to S. K. Ratcliffe, the editor of The Statesman.

Editing single-handedly

Sri Aurobindo edited Karmayogin almost single-handedly between June 1909 and February 1910, when he left Calcutta, and the content published in it during this period, for the most part, came from him.

Karmayogin: Giving Voice to Deeper Aspirations

The Karmayogin comes into the field to fulfil a function which an increasing tendency in the country demands. The life of the nation which once flowed in a broad and single stream has long been severed into a number of separate meagre and shallow channels. The two main floods have followed the paths of religion and politics, but they have flowed separately. Our political activity has crept in a channel cut for it by European or Europeanised minds; it tended always to a superficial wideness, but was deficient in depth and volume. The national genius, originality, individuality poured itself into religion while our politics were imitative and unreal. Yet without a living political activity national life cannot, under modern circumstances, survive. So also there has been a stream of social life, more and more muddied and disturbed, seeking to get clearness, depth, largeness, freedom, but always failing and increasing in weakness or distraction. There was a stream too of industrial life, faint and thin, the poor survival of the old vigorous Indian artistic and industrial capacity murdered by unjust laws and an unscrupulous trade policy. All these ran in disconnected channels, sluggish, scattered and ineffectual. The tendency is now for these streams to unite again into one mighty invincible and grandiose flood. To assist that tendency, to give voice and definiteness to the deeper aspirations now forming obscurely within the national consciousness is the chosen work of the Karmayogin.

...When spirituality is lost all is lost. This is the fate from which we have narrowly escaped by the resurgence of the soul of India in Nationalism.

But that resurgence is not yet complete. There is the sentiment of Indianism, there is not yet the knowledge. There is a vague idea, there is no definite conception or deep insight. We have yet to know ourselves, what we were, are and may be; what we did in the past and what we are capable of doing in the future; our history and our mission. This is the first and most important work which the Karmayogin sets for itself, to popularise this knowledge. The Vedanta or Sufism, the temple or the mosque, Nanak and Kabir and Ramdas, Chaitanya or Guru Govind, Brahmin and Kayastha and Namasudra, whatever national asset we have, indigenous or acclimatised, it will seek to make known, to put in its right place and appreciate. And the second thing is how to use these assets so as to swell the sum of national life and produce the future. It is easy to appraise their relations to the past; it is more difficult to give them their place in the future. The third thing is to know the outside world and its relation to us and how to deal with it. That is the problem which we find at present the most difficult and insistent, but its solution depends on the solution of the others.

Extract from: Karmayogin (1st issue - 19.June.1909) > 'Ourselves' (1st editorial)

More A National Review than a Weekly newspaper

Of National Religion, Literature, Science, Philosophy...

The Karmayogin will be more of a national review than a weekly newspaper. We shall notice current events only as they evidence, help, affect or resist the growth of national life and the development of the soul of the nation. Political and social problems we shall deal with from this standpoint, seeking first their spiritual roots and inner causes and then proceeding to measures and remedies. In a similar spirit we shall deal with all sources of national strength in the past and in the present, seeking to bring them home to all comprehensions and make them applicable to our life, dynamic and not static, creative and not merely preservative.

Extract from: Karmayogin (1st issue - 19.June.1909) > 'Ourselves' (1st editorial)

A brief summary of the contents published in the Karmayogin

Sri Aurobindo's Views in 1937 on His Earlier Political Writings

Yes, I have seen it [the disciple's review], but I don't think it can be published in its present form as it prolongs the political Aurobindo of that time into the Sri Aurobindo of the present time. You even assert that I have "thoroughly" revised the book and these articles are an index of my latest views on the burning problems of the day and there has been no change in my views in 27 years (which would surely be proof of a rather unprogressive mind). How do you get all that? My spiritual consciousness and knowledge at that time was as nothing to what it is now - how would the change leave my view of politics and life unmodified altogether? There has been no such thorough revision; I have left the book as it was, because it would be useless to modify what was written so long ago..

CWSA > Letters on Himself... > 21.April.1937

British Plan to Deport Sri Aurobindo

...the Government were determined to get rid of Sri Aurobindo as the only considerable obstacle left to the success of their repressive policy. As they could not send him to the Andamans they decided to deport him. This came to the knowledge of Sister Nivedita and she informed Sri Aurobindo and asked him to leave British India and work from outside so that his work would not be stopped or totally interrupted. Sri Aurobindo contented himself with publishing in the Karmayogin a signed article in which he spoke of the project of deportation and left the country what he called his last will and testament; he felt sure that this would kill the idea of deportation...

'An Open Letter To My Countrymen'

Karmayogin: 31.July.1909

The position of a public man who does his duty in India today, is too precarious to permit of his being sure of the morrow. I have recently come out of a year's seclusion from work for my country on a charge which there was not a scrap of reliable evidence to support, but my acquittal is no security either against the trumping up of a fresh accusation or the arbitrary law of deportation which dispenses with the inconvenient formality of a charge and the still more inconvenient necessity of producing evidence. ...Under such circumstances I have thought it well to address this letter to my countrymen, and especially to those who profess the principles of the Nationalist party, on the needs of the present and the policy of the future. In case of my deportation it may help to guide some who would be uncertain of their course of action, and, if I do not return from it, it may stand as my last political will and testament to my countrymen....

CWSA > Karmayogin > 'An Open Letter To My Countrymen' - 31.July.1909

The situation of the Nationalist party is difficult but not impossible. The idea of some that the party is extinct because its leaders are sentenced or deported, is an error which comes of looking only at the surface. The party is there, not less powerful and pervading than before, but in want of a policy and a leader. The first it may find, the second only God can give it. All great movements wait for their God-sent leader, the willing channel of His force, and only when he comes, move forward triumphantly to their fulfilment. The men who have led hitherto have been strong men of high gifts and commanding genius, great enough to be the protagonists of any other movement, but even they were not sufficient to fulfil one which is the chief current of a worldwide revolution. Therefore the Nationalist party, custodians of the future, must wait for the man who is to come, calm in the midst of calamity, hopeful under defeat, sure of eventual emergence and triumph and always mindful of the responsibility which they owe not only to their Indian posterity but to the world.

Meanwhile the difficulties of our situation ask for bold yet wary walking. The strength of our position is moral, not material. The whole of the physical strength in the country belongs to the established authority which our success would, so far as its present form is concerned, abolish by transforming it out of all possibility of recognition. It is natural that it should use all its physical strength to prevent, so long as it can, that transformation. The whole of the moral strength of the country is with us. Justice is with us, nature is with us, the law of God which is higher than any human justifies our action, youth is for us, the future is ours. On that moral strength we must rely for our survival and eventual success. We must not be tempted by any rash impatience into abandoning the ground on which we are strong and venturing on the ground on which we are weak. Our ideal is an ideal which no law can condemn; our chosen methods are such that no modern Government can expressly declare them illegal without forfeiting its claim to be considered a civilised administration. To that ideal and to those methods we must firmly adhere and rely on them alone for our eventual success. A respect for the law is a necessary quality for endurance as a nation and it has always been a marked characteristic of the Indian people. We must therefore scrupulously observe the law while taking every advantage both of the protection it gives and the latitude it still leaves for pushing forward our cause and our propaganda. With the stray assassinations which have troubled the country we have no concern, and, having once clearly and firmly dissociated ourselves from them, we need notice them no farther. They are the rank and noxious fruit of a rank and noxious policy and until the authors of that policy turn from their errors, no human power can prevent the poison-tree from bearing according to its kind. We who have no voice either in determining the laws or their administration, are helpless in the matter. To deportation and proclamation, the favourite instruments of men incapable of a wise and strong rule, we can only oppose a steady and fearless adherence to the propagandism and practice of a lawful policy and a noble ideal.

Our ideal is that of Swaraj or absolute autonomy free from foreign control. We claim the right of every nation to live its own life by its own energies according to its own nature and ideals. We reject the claim of aliens to force upon us a civilisation inferior to our own or to keep us out of our inheritance on the untenable ground of a superior fitness. While admitting the stains and defects which long subjection has induced upon our native capacity and energy, we are conscious of that capacity and energy reviving in us. We point to the unexampled national vigour which has preserved the people of this country through centuries of calamity and defeat, to the great actions of our forefathers continued even to the other day, to the many men of intellect and character such as no other nation in a subject condition has been able to produce, and we say that a people capable of such unheard-of vitality is not one which can be put down as a nation of children and incapables. We are in no way inferior to our forefathers. We have brains, we have courage, we have an infinite and various national capacity. All we need is a field and an opportunity. That field and opportunity can only be provided by a national government, a free society and a great Indian culture. So long as these are not conceded to us, we can have no other use for our brains, courage and capacity than to struggle unceasingly to achieve them.

Our ideal of Swaraj involves no hatred of any other nation nor of the administration which is now established by law in this country. We find a bureaucratic administration, we wish to make it democratic; we find an alien government, we wish to make it indigenous; we find a foreign control, we wish to render it Indian. They lie who say that this aspiration necessitates hatred and violence. Our ideal of patriotism proceeds on the basis of love and brotherhood and it looks beyond the unity of the nation and envisages the ultimate unity of mankind. But it is a unity of brothers, equals and freemen that we seek, not the unity of master and serf, of devourer and devoured. We demand the realisation of our corporate existence as a distinct race and nation because that is the only way in which the ultimate brotherhood of humanity can be achieved, not by blotting out individual peoples and effacing outward distinctions, but by removing the internal obstacles to unity, the causes of hatred, malice and misunderstanding. A struggle for our rights does not involve hatred of those who mistakenly deny them. It only involves a determination to suffer and strive, to speak the truth boldly and without respect of persons, to use every lawful means of pressure and every source of moral strength in order to establish ourselves and disestablish that which denies the law of progress.

Our methods are those of self-help and passive resistance. To unite and organise ourselves in order to show our efficiency by the way in which we can develop our industries, settle our individual disputes, keep order and peace on public occasions, attend to questions of sanitation, help the sick and suffering, relieve the famine-stricken, work out our intellectual, technical and physical education, evolve a Government of our own for our own internal affairs so far as that could be done without disobeying the law or questioning the legal authority of the bureaucratic administration, this was the policy publicly and frankly adopted by the Nationalist party. In Bengal we had advanced so far as to afford distinct proof of our capacity in almost all these respects and the evolution of a strong united and well-organised Bengal had become a near and certain prospect. The internal troubles which came to a head at Surat and the repressive policy initiated immediately afterwards, culminating in the destruction of our organisations and the effective intimidation of Swadeshi workers and sympathisers by official underlings, have both been serious checks to our progress and seem for the moment to have postponed the realisation of our hopes to a distant future. The check is temporary. Courage and sane statesmanship in our leaders is all that is wanted to restore the courage and the confidence of the people and evolve new methods of organisation which will not come into conflict even with the repressive laws.

The policy of passive resistance was evolved partly as the necessary complement of self-help, partly as a means of putting pressure on the Government. The essence of this policy is the refusal of co-operation so long as we are not admitted to a substantial share and an effective control in legislation, finance and administration. Just as "No representation, no taxation" was the watchword of American constitutional agitation in the eighteenth century, so "No control, no co-operation" should be the watchword of our lawful agitation – for constitution we have none, – in the twentieth. We sum up this refusal of co-operation in the convenient word "Boycott", refusal of cooperation in the industrial exploitation of our country, in education, in government, in judicial administration, in the details of official intercourse. Necessarily, we have not made that refusal of co-operation complete and uncompromising, but we hold it as a method to be enlarged and pushed farther according as the necessity for moral pressure becomes greater and more urgent. This is one aspect of the policy. Another is the necessity of boycott to help our own nascent energies in the field of self-help. Boycott of foreign goods is a necessary condition for the encouragement of Swadeshi industries, boycott of Government schools is a necessary condition for the growth of national education, boycott of British courts is a necessary condition for the spread of arbitration. The only question is the extent and conditions of the boycott and that must be determined by the circumstances of the particular problem in each case. The general spirit of passive resistance has first to be raised, afterwards it can be organised, regulated and, where necessary, limited.

The first obstacle to our evolution is the internal dispute which has for the moment wrecked the Congress and left in its place the hollow and mutilated simulacrum of a National Assembly which met last year at Madras and, deprived though it is of the support of the most eminent local leaders, purposes to meet again at Lahore. It is a grievous error to suppose that this dispute hung only on personal questions and differences of a trifling importance. As happens inevitably in such popular contests, personal questions and differences of minor importance intervened to perplex and embitter the strife, but the real questions in debate were those which involved the whole future development of the spirit and form of self-government in this country. Were that spirit and form to be democratic or oligarchic? Were they to be constitutional in procedure or governed by arbitrary and individual choice and discretion? Was the movement to be progressive and national or conservative and parochial in its aims, policy and spirit? These were the real issues. The Nationalist party stood for democracy, constitutionalism and progress. The Moderate party, governed by an exaggerated respect for old and esteemed leaders, helped, without clearly understanding what they did, those who stood for oligarchy, arbitrary procedure and an almost reactionary conservatism. Personal idiosyncracies, preferences, aversions settled like a thick cloud over the contest, the combatants on both sides flung themselves on every point of difference material or immaterial as a pretext or a weapon, the tactics of party warfare were freely used and, finally, the deliberate obstinacy of a few Moderate leaders in avoiding discussion of the points of difference and the unruly ardour of the younger men on both sides led to the violent scenes at Surat and the break-up of the Congress. If the question is ever to be settled to the advantage of national progress, the personal and minor differences must be banished from the field and the real issues plainly and dispassionately considered.

The questions of particular importance which divide the parties, are the exact form of Swaraj to be held forward as an ideal, the policy of passive resistance and the form of certain resolutions. The last is a question to be decided by the Congress itself and all that the Nationalists demand is that discussion shall not be burked and that they shall not be debarred from their constitutional right of placing their views before the National Assembly. On the other points, they cannot sacrifice their ideal or their policy, but their contention is that these differences ought not in a free deliberative assembly to stand in the way of united progress. The Swaraj matter can easily be settled by the substitution of "full and complete self-government" for "self-government on Colonial lines" in the Swaraj resolution. The difference as to passive resistance hinges at present on the Boycott resolution which the Nationalist party –and in this they are supported by a large body of Moderate opinion, –cannot consent to sacrifice. But here also they are willing to submit the question to the arbitrament of a freely elected Congress, though they refuse to recognise a close and limited Subjects Committee as the final authority. It will be seen therefore that the real question throughout is constitutional. The body which at present calls itself the Congress, has adopted a constitution which is close, exclusive, undemocratic and so framed as to limit the free election of delegates by the people. It limits itself by proposing a number of articles of faith in a particular form of words to every intending delegate before he can take his seat; it aims at the election of delegates only by select bodies and associations instead of the direct election of the people; it excuses many from the chances of election and gives them an undue weight in the disposal of the affairs of the assembly. These and similar provisions no democratic party can accept. A Nationalist Conference or a Moderate Convention may so guard its integrity, but the Congress is and must be a National Assembly admitting freely all who are duly elected by the people. The proposed passing of this reactionary constitution by a body already limited under its provisions will not cure the constitutional defect. It is only a Congress elected on the old lines that can determine the future provisions for its constitution and procedure with any hope of universal acceptance.

It is not therefore by any manipulation of the Convention Congress that a solution of the problem can be brought about, but by the Provincial Conferences empowering the leaders of both parties to meet in Committee and provide for an arrangement which will heal differences and enable the Congress to work smoothly and freely in the future. If there is a minority who refuse to associate themselves with any such attempt, the majority will be justified by the mandate of the Provinces in disregarding them and meeting to carry out the popular wish. Once the lines are settled they can be submitted to the free choice of a freely elected Congress for acceptance, rejection or modification. This will restore a Congress on sound constitutional lines in which the bitter experience of the past may be relied on to prevent those mistakes of obstinacy and passion which prevented a solution of the problem at Surat.

Outside the Congress the chances of united working are more complete than within it. There are only two questions which are likely either to trouble harmony or hamper action. The first is the question of the acceptance or rejection of the present reforms introducing, as they do, no element of popular control nor any fresh constitutional principle except the unsound principle of privileged representation for a single community. This involves the wider question of co-operation. It is generally supposed that the Nationalist party is committed to the persistent and uncompromising refusal of co-operation until they get the full concession of Swaraj. Nationalist publicists have not cared to combat this error explicitly because they were more anxious to get their ideal accepted and the spirit of passive resistance and complete self-help popularised than to discuss a question which was not then a part of practical politics. But it is obvious that a party advancing such a proposition would be a party of doctrinaires and idealists, not of practical thinkers and workers. The Nationalist principle is the principle of "No control, no co-operation." Since all control has been refused and so long as all control is refused, the Nationalist party preaches the refusal of co-operation as complete as we can make it. But it is evident that if, for instance, the power of imposing protective duties were given to a popular and elective body, no serious political party would prefer persistence in commercial boycott to the use of the powers conceded. Or if education were similarly made free of official control and entrusted to a popular body, as Lord Reay once thought of entrusting it, no sensible politician would ask the nation to boycott that education. Or if the courts were manned by Indian judges and made responsible not to the Executive but to a Minister representing the people, arbitration would immediately take its place as a supplementary aid to the regular courts. So also the refusal to co-operate in an administration which excludes the people from an effective voice does not involve a refusal to co-operate in an administration of which the people are an effective part. The refusal of autocratic gifts does not involve a refusal to take up popular rights inalienably secured to the people. It is on the contrary with the object of compelling the concession of the various elements of Swaraj by peaceful moral pressure and in the absence of such concessions developing our own institutions to the gradual extrusion and final supplanting of bureaucratic institutions that the policy of self-help and passive resistance was started. This acceptance of popular rights does not imply the abandonment of the ideal of complete autonomy or of the use of passive resistance in case of any future arbitrary interference with the rights of the people. It implies only the use of partial Swaraj as a step and means towards complete Swaraj. Where the Nationalists definitely and decisively part company with an influential section of the Moderates is in refusing to accept any petty or illusory concession which will draw away our aspirations from their unalterable ideal or delude the people into thinking they have secured real rights.

Another question is that of cleaving to and enforcing the Boycott. In Bengal, even if there are some who are timid or reactionary enough to shrink from the word or the thing, the general feeling in its favour is emphatic and practically unanimous. But it is time now to consider seriously the question of regulating the boycott. Nationalists have always demurred to the proviso "as far as possible" in the Swadeshi resolution on account of the large loophole its vagueness left to the hesitating and the lukewarm, and they have preferred the form "at a sacrifice". But it will now be well if we face the concrete problems of the boycott.

While we must keep it absolute wherever Swadeshi articles are procurable as also in respect to pure luxuries with which we can dispense, we must recognise that there are necessities of life and business for which we have still to go to foreign countries. The public ought to be guided as to the choice of the countries which we shall favour in the purchase of these articles, –necessarily they must be countries sympathetic to Indian aspirations, –and those which we shall exclude. The failure to deal with this question is largely responsible for the laxity of our political boycott and our consequent failure to get the Partition rescinded. There are also other questions, such as the attempt of shopkeepers and merchants to pass off foreign goods wholesale as Swadeshi, which must be taken up at once if the movement is not to suffer a serious setback.

A final difficulty remains, –by what organisation are we to carry on the movement even when these questions are settled? The Nationalist programme was to build up a great deliberative and executive organisation on the basis of a reconstituted Congress, and this scheme still remains the only feasible means of organising the country. Even if a united Congress cannot be secured, the provinces ought to organise themselves separately, and perhaps this may prove to be the only possible way of restoring the Congress, by reconstituting it from the bottom. Even the District organisations, however, cannot work effectively without hands, and these we had provided for in the Sabhas and Samitis of young men which sprang up on all sides and were just succeeding in forming an efficient network of organisation all over Bengal. These are now being suppressed by administrative order. It becomes a question whether we cannot replace them by a loose and elusive organisation of young men in groups ordering each its own work by common agreement and working hand in hand, but without a rigid or definite organisation. I throw out the suggestion for consideration by the leaders of thought and action in the provinces where unity seems at all feasible.

This then is the situation as it presents itself to me. The policy I suggest to the Nationalist party may briefly be summed up as follows:-
Persistence with a strict regard to law in a peaceful policy of self-help and passive resistance.
The regulation of our attitude towards the Government by the principle of "No control, no co-operation."
A rapprochement with the Moderate party wherever possible and the reconstitution of a united Congress.
The regulation of the Boycott movement so as to make both the political and the economic boycott effective.
The organisation of the Provinces if not of the whole country according to our original programme.
A system of co-operation which will not contravene the law and will yet enable workers to proceed with the work of selfhelp and national efficiency, if not quite so effectively as before, yet with energy and success.

CWSA > Karmayogin > 'An Open Letter To My Countrymen' - 31.July.1909

Killing the Idea of Deportation

Sri Aurobindo felt sure that this would kill the idea of deportation and in fact it so turned out. Deportation left aside, the Government could only wait for some opportunity for prosecution for sedition and this chance came to them when Sri Aurobindo published in the same paper another signed article reviewing the political situation. The article was sufficiently moderate in its tone....

'To My Countrymen'

A Signed Article: 25.Dec.1909

Two decisive incidents have happened which make it compulsory on the Nationalist party to abandon their attitude of reserve and expectancy and once more assume their legitimate place in the struggle for Indian liberties. The Reforms, so long trumpeted as the beginning of a new era of constitutional progress in India, have been thoroughly revealed to the public intelligence by the publication of the Councils Regulations and the results of the elections showing the inevitable nature and composition of the new Councils. The negotiations for the union of Moderates and Nationalists in a United Congress have failed owing to the insistence of the former on the Nationalists subscribing to a Moderate profession of faith.

What is it for which we strive? The perfect self-fulfilment of India and the independence which is the condition of self-fulfilment are our ultimate goal. In the meanwhile such imperfect self-development and such incomplete self-government as are possible in less favourable circumstances, must be attained as a preliminary to the more distant realisation. What we seek is to evolve self-government either through our own institutions or through those provided for us by the law of the land....We demand also the gradual devolution of executive government out of the hands of the bureaucracy into those of the people. Until these demands are granted, we shall use the pressure of that refusal of co-operation which is termed passive resistance...

CWSA > Karmayogin > 'To My Countrymen' - 25.December.1909

The survival of Moderate politics in India depended on two factors, the genuineness and success of the promised Reforms and the use made by the Conventionists of the opportunity given them by the practical suppression of Nationalist public activity. The field was clear for them to establish the effectiveness of the Moderate policy and the living force of the Moderate party. Had the Reforms been a genuine initiation of constitutional progress, the Moderate tactics might have received some justification from events. Or had the Moderates given proof of the power of carrying on a robust and vigorous agitation for popular rights, their strength and vitality as a political force might have been established, even if their effectiveness had been disproved. The Reforms have shown that nothing can be expected from persistence in Moderate politics except retrogression, disappointment and humiliation. The experience of the last year has shown that, without the Nationalists at their back, the Moderates are im-potent for opposition and robust agitation. The political life of India in their hands has languished and fallen silent.

By the incontrovertible logic of events it has appeared that the success and vigour of the great movement inaugurated in 1905 was due to the union of Moderate and Nationalist on the platform of self-help and passive resistance. It was in order to provide an opportunity for the reestablishment of this union, broken at Surat, that the Nationalists gathered in force at Hughly in order to secure some basis and means of negotiation which might lead to united effort. The hand which we held out, has been rejected. The policy of Lord Morley has been to rally the Moderates and coerce the Nationalists; the policy of the Moderate party led by Mr. Gokhale and Sir Pherozshah Mehta has been to play into the hands of that policy and give it free course and a chance of success. This alliance has failed of its object; the beggarly reward the Moderates have received, has been confined to the smallest and least popular elements in their party. But the rejection of the alliance with their own countrymen by the insistence on creed and constitution shows that the Moderates mean to persist in their course even when all motive and political justification for it have disappeared. Discomfited and humiliated by the Government, they can still find no way to retrieve their position nor any clear and rational course to suggest to the Indian people whom they misled into a misunderstanding of the very limited promises held out by Lord Morley.

Separated from the great volume of Nationalist feeling in the country, wilfully shutting its doors to popularity and strength by the formation of electorates as close and limited as those of the Reformed Councils, self-doomed to persistence in a policy which has led to signal disaster, the Convention is destined to perish of inanition and popular indifference, dislike and opposition. If the Nationalists stand back any longer, either the national movement will disappear or the void created will be filled by a sinister and violent activity. Neither result can be tolerated by men desirous of their country's development and freedom.

The period of waiting is over. We have two things made clear to us, first, that the future of the nation is in our hands, and, secondly, that from the Moderate party we can expect no cordial co-operation in building it. Whatever we do, we must do ourselves, in our own strength and courage. Let us then take up the work God has given us, like courageous, steadfast and patriotic men willing to sacrifice greatly and venture greatly because the mission also is great. If there are any unnerved by the fear of repression, let them stand aside. If there are any who think that by flattering Anglo-India or coquetting with English Liberalism they can dispense with the need of effort and the inevitability of peril, let them stand aside. If there are any who are ready to be satisfied with mean gains or unsubstantial concessions, let them stand aside. But all who deserve the name of Nationalists, must now come forward and take up their burden.

The fear of the law is for those who break the law. Our aims are great and honourable, free from stain or reproach, our methods are peaceful, though resolute and strenuous. We shall not break the law and, therefore, we need not fear the law. But if a corrupt police, unscrupulous officials or a partial judiciary make use of the honourable publicity of our political methods to harass the men who stand in front by illegal ukases, suborned and perjured evidence or unjust decisions, shall we shrink from the toll that we have to pay on our march to freedom? Shall we cower behind a petty secrecy or a dishonourable inactivity? We must have our associations, our organisations, our means of propaganda, and, if these are suppressed by arbitrary proclamations, we shall have done our duty by our motherland and not on us will rest any responsibility for the madness which crushes down open and lawful political activity in order to give a desperate and sullen nation into the hands of those fiercely enthusiastic and unscrupulous forces that have arisen among us inside and outside India. So long as any loophole is left for peaceful effort, we will not renounce the struggle. If the conditions are made difficult and almost impossible, can they be worse than those our countrymen have to contend against in the Transvaal? Or shall we, the flower of Indian culture and education, show less capacity and self-devotion than the coolies and shopkeepers who are there rejoicing to suffer for the honour of their nation and the welfare of their community?

What is it for which we strive? The perfect self-fulfilment of India and the independence which is the condition of self-fulfilment are our ultimate goal. In the meanwhile such imperfect self-development and such incomplete self-government as are possible in less favourable circumstances, must be attained as a preliminary to the more distant realisation. What we seek is to evolve self-government either through our own institutions or through those provided for us by the law of the land. No such evolution is possible by the latter means without some measure of administrative control. We demand, therefore, not the monstrous and misbegotten scheme which has just been brought into being, but a measure of reform based upon those democratic principles which are ignored in Lord Morley's Reforms, - a literate electorate without distinction of creed, nationality or caste, freedom of election unhampered by exclusory clauses, an effective voice in legislation and finance and some check upon an arbitrary executive. We demand also the gradual devolution of executive government out of the hands of the bureaucracy into those of the people. Until these demands are granted, we shall use the pressure of that refusal of co-operation which is termed passive resistance. We shall exercise that pressure within the limits allowed us by the law, but apart from that limitation the extent to which we shall use it, depends on expediency and the amount of resistance we have to overcome.

On our own side we have great and pressing problems to solve. National education languishes for want of moral stimulus, financial support, and emancipated brains keen and bold enough to grapple with the difficulties that hamper its organisation and progress. The movement of arbitration, successful in its inception, has been dropped as a result of repression. The Swadeshi-Boycott movement still moves by its own impetus, but its forward march has no longer the rapidity and organised irresistibility of forceful purpose which once swept it forward. Social problems are pressing upon us which we can no longer ignore. We must take up the organisation of knowledge in our country, neglected throughout the last century. We must free our social and economic development from the incubus of the litigious resort to the ruinously expensive British Courts. We must once more seek to push forward the movement toward economic self-sufficiency, industrial independence.

These are the objects for which we have to organise the national strength of India. On us falls the burden, in us alone there is the moral ardour, faith and readiness for sacrifice which can attempt and go far to accomplish the task. But the first requisite is the organisation of the Nationalist party. I invite that party in all the great centres of the country to take up the work and assist the leaders who will shortly meet to consider steps for the initiation of Nationalist activity. It is desirable to establish a Nationalist Council and hold a meeting of the body in March or April of the next year. It is necessary also to establish Nationalist Associations throughout the country. When we have done this, we shall be able to formulate our programme and assume our proper place in the political life of India.

'Karmayogin' Sedition Case

  • Uttarpara Jaikrishna Public Library

    Newspaper report on warrant against Sri Aurobindo

'Karmayogin Sedition Case' 

In February, 1910, The British sought to prosecute Sri Aurobindo for sedition on the basis of a signed article, dated 25.December.1909, in Karmayogin: 'To My Countrymen'. As Sri Aurobindo went to Chandernagore and disappeared from view, the warrant was held back and the prosecution postponed till he should again reappear. Sri Aurobindo used a manoeuvre to push the police into open action and a warrant was issued on 4.April.1910. Sri Aurobindo had already reached Pondicherry on that very date. Hence the warrant could not be executed. The printer though was prosecuted and convicted in Sri Aurobindo's absence. However on appeal, the High Court refused to regard the article as seditious and acquitted the printer in a judgement dated 7.November.1910. The warrant against Sri Aurobindo was subsequently withdrawn.

Third British Fiasco

The prosecution of Sri Aurobindo in the 'Karmayogin Sedition Case' ended yet again in 'the most complete and dismal fiasco' for the British Government. This was their third failure following two earlier abortive attempts: 'Bande Mataram Sedition Case' and 'Alipore Bomb Case'.

Reference: Documents in the Life of Sri Aurobindo

The Sequence of Events

Extracts from Government of India, Home Department, Political-A, Proceedings, December 1910, Nos. 14-42..

No. 73, dated Calcutta, the 14th January 1910.
From - The Honourable Sir Harold Stuart, K.C.V.O., C.S.I., Secretary to the Government of India, Home Department,
To - The Chief Secretary to the Government of Bengal.
I am directed to invite the attention of His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor to an article "To my countrymen" signed by Arabindo Ghose which appears on pages 4-5 of the Karmayogin of the 25th December 1909, and was reprinted in the Mahratta of the 2nd January 1910. I am to ask that, with His Honour's permission, the legal advisers of the Government of Bengal may be consulted (if this has not already been done) whether they consider that a prosecution of the writer will prove successful. If their answer is in the affirmative, I am to suggest the expediency of the early institution of proceedings against Arabindo Ghose.

Mr. Duke tells me that Bengal has decided to prosecute if the connection of Arabindo Ghose with the Karmayogin can be definitely established. This is essential to avoid another fiasco such as that of 1907.
H.C. Woodman, - 25-2-10.

The Plans for Prosecution

... Deportation left aside, the Government could only wait for some opportunity for prosecution for sedition and this chance came to them when Sri Aurobindo published in the same paper another signed article ['To My Countrymen'] reviewing the political situation.

Extract from: CWSA > Autobiographical Notes > Political Life, 1893-1910 > Page 63

Departure to Chandernagore

Sri Aurobindo one night at the Karmayogin office received information of the Government's intention to search the office and arrest him. While considering what should be his attitude He received a sudden command from above to go to Chandernagore in French India. He obeyed the command at once... ; he did not stay to consult with anyone but in ten minutes was at the river ghat and in a boat playing on the Ganges, in a few hours he was at Chandernagore where he went into secret residence.

Read more 

Extract from: CWSA > Autobiographical Notes > Political Life, 1893-1910 > Page 63
  • Uttarpara Jaikrishna Public Library

    Newspaper report on warrant against Sri Aurobindo

The Arrest Warrant

As Sri Aurobindo went to Chandernagore and disappeared from view the search was not made and the warrant was held back and the prosecution postponed till he should again reappear. Sri Aurobindo wanted the police to disclose their hand and act and ... He gave an answer to a letter forwarded to him at Chandernagore which he knew to be from a police spy asking him to reappear and face his trial. He replied that he had no reason to do so as there was no public warrant against him and no prosecution had been announced; he thought this would have the effect of the police coming out into the open with a warrant and prosecution and in fact it had this effect.

A warrant for the arrest of Sri Aurobindo was issued on 4.April.1910.

Extract from Indian News Agency Telegram no. 11.

Calcutta 5th April 1910. The Chief Presidency Magistrate yesterday issued a warrant for the arrest of Arabindo Ghose under section 124-A, Indian Penal Code. The warrant remains unexecuted owing to Ghose's whereabouts not being known.

Failure of Prosecution

Sri Aurobindo was already on way to Pondicherry and reached there on 4.April.1910. Hence the warrant against him could not be executed. The printer though was prosecuted and convicted in Sri Aurobindo's absence. However on appeal, the High Court refused to regard the article as seditious and acquitted the printer in a judgement dated 7.November.1910. The warrant against Sri Aurobindo was subsequently withdrawn. The prosecution of Sri Aurobindo in the 'Karmayogin Sedition Case' thus ended in 'the most complete and dismal fiasco' for the British Government.

  • Sister Nivedita

    Sister Nivedita

Sister Nivedita as Editor

After his departure to Chandernagore, Sri Aurobindo sent a message to Sister Nivedita asking her to take up the editing of the Karmayogin in his absence.

"I sent someone from the office to Nivedita to inform her and to ask her to take up editing of the Karmayogin in my absence. She consented and in fact from this time [Feb.1910] onward until the suspension of the paper she had the whole conduct of it; I was absorbed in my sadhana and sent no contributions nor were there any articles over my signature"

CWSA > Autobiographical Notes > The departure from Calcutta,1910 > Page 101

'Karmayogin' ceases

Last Issue on 2.Apr.1910

The Dharma ceased with its last issue on 28.March.2010, as Nolini and his comrades too went into hiding to evade arrest. Nolini left for 'an obscure little village in Barisal'.

The Karmayogin ceased with its last issue on 2.Apr.2010.

Discussion on Sri Aurobindo in British House of Commons

On 7 April 1910, Sir Ramsay Macdonald, then the leader of the Labour Party, referring to a news report in The Times (London) that a warrant had been issued against Sri Aurobindo for an article in the Karmayogin, demanded to know its content. But the Under Secretary of State, Mr. Montagu, said that his own knowledge too was limited to the news report in The Times. Sir Ramsay repeated his question a week later, again only to meet with a confession of ignorance on the part of the Treasury Bench. There were heated exchanges between Sir Ramsay and Mr. Rees - the latter too eager to bring Sri Aurobindo 'to justice'.

But it was on the 28 August that Sir Ramsay Macdonald made his grand speech outlining the life and the political philosophy of Sri Aurobindo. It was probably for the first ever time that an Indian leader was prominently projected, and by no less a person than the most eminent parliamentarian of the day and the future Prime Minister of Britain. Since the government could not produce a copy of the so called seditious article, Sir Ramsay himself produced a copy of the Karmayogin and read the important parts of the article, challenging the Government to show where sedition lay. He asserted, "Surely, to any man who reads this article as it was meant to be read the meaning of that sentence is perfectly clear, and Mr. Aurobindo Ghose, as is perfectly well known by those who have followed his actions and his writings, sincerely believes that the nationalist movement of which he is the head for the time being at any rate, or was still quite recently, is the one guarantee that there shall be no violence done in India and he blames the officials who have suppressed the free expression of Nationalist sentiment for the unfortunate circumstances which have led to murder and death and executions which everyone deplores."

Mr. Keir Hardie, the Founder of the Labour Party, also spoke at length in support of Sir Ramsay.

Interesting Dialogue

It may be of interest here to refer to a brief dialogue. A Member of the House, Mr. J. King, asked "whether this article is published in Bengali and whether Mr. Aurobindo Ghose is not a Bengali !"

Sir Ramsay replied: "The article is in the most excellent English. There is not a line of Bengali in the whole of it except the date of this Issue and its own title. Mr. Aurobindo Ghose could no more write an article in Bengali than I could."

Failed Prosecution

On 21 February 1911, Mr. O'Grady asked 'whether the publisher of the Karmayogin was prosecuted for issuing the article by Mr. Aurobindo Ghose, for writing which a warrant was issued against Mr. Ghose, whether that trial resulted in the acquittal of the publisher on the ground that the article was not seditious, and whether the government had now withdrawn the warrants issued in connection with the article.'

This was Mr. Montagu's reply: "The answer to the first part of my Hon. friend's question is Yes; to the second, Yes; and to the third, Yes."


All extracts and quotations from the written works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and the Photographs of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo are copyright Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry -605002 India.
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