MR. GOPAL Krishna Gokhale has for long been the veiled prophet of Bombay. His course was so ambiguous, his sympathies so divided and self-contradictory
that some have not hesitated to call him a masked Extremist. He has played with Boycott, "that criminal agitation"; he has gone
so far in passive resistance as to advocate refusal of the payment of taxes. Eloquent spokesman of the people in the Legislative
Council, luminous and ineffective debater scattering his periods in vain in that august void, he has been at once the admired
of the people and the spoilt darling of the Times of India, the trusted counsellor of John Morley and a leader of the party of Colonial self-government. For some time the victim of his own false step during the troubles in Poona he was distrusted by the
people, favoured by the authorities, some of whom are said to have canvassed for him in the electoral fight between him and Mr. Tilak.
The charge of cowardice which he now hurls against his opponents was
fixed on his own forehead by popular resentment. So difficult was his position that he refrained for some years from speech on the platform of the Congress. But his star triumphed. His own opponents held out to him the hand of amity and re-established him in the universal confidence of the
people. Gifted, though barren of creative originality, a shrewd critic, a splendid debater, a good economist and statistician,
with the halo of self-sacrifice for the country over his forehead enringed with the more mundane halo of Legislative Councillorship, petted by the Government, loved by the people, he enjoyed a position almost unique in recent political life. He was not
indeed a prophet honoured in his own country and black looks and black words were thrown at him by those who distrusted him, but throughout the rest of India his name stood high and defied assailants.
In his recent speech at Poona the veiled prophet has unveiled himself. The leader of the people in this strange and attractive
double figure is under sentence of elimination and the budding Indian Finance Minister has spoken. The speech has caused
confusion and searchings of the heart among the eager patriots of the Bengal Moderate school, rejoicing in the ranks of
Anglo India. The Bengalee labours to defend the popular cause without injuring the popular leader, the
Statesman rejoices and holds up
the speech even as Lord Morley held up the certificate to him as the Saviour of India for the confusion of rebels in Parliament and outside it. Covered by a reprobation of the London murders it is a sweeping, a damning philippic against the work of the last four
years and a call to the country to recede to the position occupied by us previous to 1905. It is a forcible justification of repression
and a call to Government and people to crush the lovers and preachers of independence. The time at which it comes lends
it incalculable significance. The Morleyan policy of crushing the new spirit and rallying the Moderates has now received publicly the imprimatur of the leading Moderate of western India and that which was suspected by some, prophesied by
others at the time of the Surat Congress, the alliance of Bombay Moderatism with officialdom against the new Nationalism, an alliance prepared by the Surat sitting, cemented by subsequent events, confirmed by the Madras Convention, is now unmasked and publicly ratified.
The most odious part of the Poona speech is that in which Mr. Gokhale justifies Government repression and attempts to establish by argument what Mr. Norton failed to establish by evidence, the theory that Nationalism and Terrorism are essentially one and under the cloak of passive resistance, Nationalism
is a conspiracy to wage war against the King. This proposition he seeks to establish by implication with that skill of the debater
for which he is justly famous. By taking the London murders as the subject-matter for the exordium of a speech directed against
the forward party he introduces the element of prejudice from the very outset. After reviewing past political activities he takes
up the clue he had thus skilfully thrown down and pursues it.
In his view, the ideal of independence was the beginning of all evil. The ideal of independence is an insane ideal; the men who
hold it even as an ultimate goal, Tilak, Chidambaram, Aswini Kumar, Manoranjan, Bipin Chandra, Aurobindo, are madmen outside the lunatic asylum. Not only is it an insane ideal, it is a criminal ideal. "It should be plain to the weakest understanding
that towards the idea of independence the Government could adopt only one attitude,
that of stern and relentless repression,
for these ideas were bound to lead to violence and as a matter of fact they had,
as they could all see, resulted in violence."
Farther, in order to leave no loophole of escape for his political opponents, he proceeds to assert that they were well aware of
this truth and preached the gospel of independence knowing that it was a gospel of violence and "physical conflict with the
Government". We again quote the words of the reported speech. "Some of their friends were in the habit of saying that their
plan was to achieve independence by merely peaceful means, by a general resort to passive resistance. The speaker felt bound
to say that such talk was ridiculous nonsense and was a mere cloak used by these men to save their own skins." In other
words we are charged with having contemplated violence such as we all see, viz., the murders in London and the assassinations in Bengal, as inevitable effects of our propaganda, and physical conflict with the Government, in other words rebellion,
as the only possible means of achieving independence. We are charged with preaching this gospel of violence and rebellion
while publicly professing passive resistance, with the sole motive of cowardly anxiety for our personal safety. The accusation is
emphatic, sweeping, and allows of no exception. All the men of the Nationalist party revered by the people are included in the
anathema, branded as lunatics and cowards, and the country is called upon to denounce them as corruptors and perturbers of youth and the enemies of progress and the best interests of the people.
Mr. Gokhale stops short of finding fault with European countries for being free and clinging to their freedom. He is good enough not to uphold subjection as the best thing possible for a
nation, and we must be grateful to him for stopping short of the gospel of the
Englishman whose abusive style he has borrowed.
But man is progressive and it may be that Mr. Gokhale before he finishes his prosperous career, will reach the Hare Street beatitudes. At present he adopts the philosophy of his ally and teacher, Lord Morley, and wraps himself in the Canadian fur coat. The
love of independence may be a virtue in Europe, it is crime and lunacy in India. Acquiescence in subjection is weakness and unmanliness in non-Indians, in this favoured country it is the only path to salvation. In the West the apostles of liberty have been prophets when they succeeded, martyrs when they failed; in this country they are corruptors and perturbers of youth, enemies of progress and their country. Mendicancy, euphoniously named co-operation, can bring about colonial self-government in India
although there is no precedent in history, but passive resistance, although, when most imperfectly applied and hampered by terrorism from above and below, it gave the seed of free institutions to Russia, cannot bring about independence in India even if it be
applied thoroughly and combined with self-help, because there is no precedent in history. As has often been pointed out by
Nationalist writers, both mendicancy and self-help plus passive resistance are new methods in history; both are therefore experiments; but while mendicancy is an isolated experiment which has been fully tried, failed thoroughly and fallen into discredit,
self-help and passive resistance are methods to which modern nations are more and more turning, but they have been as yet
tried only slightly and locally. It must be admitted that in India, so tried, their only result so far has been the Morley reforms.
But was it not Mr. Gokhale who to defend mendicancy declared that the book of history was not closed and why should not a new chapter be written? But the book is only open to the sacred hands of the Bombay Moderate; to the Nationalist it seems to
be closed. But according to Mr. Gokhale we ought in any case to acquiesce because England has not done so badly in India as she might have done. His argument is kin to the Anglo-Indian logic which calls upon us to be contented and loyal because
England is not Russia and repression here is never so savage as
repression there; as if a serf were asked to be contented with serfdom because his master is kind or else his whip does not
lacerate so fiercely as the other master's next door. Mr. Gokhale cannot be ignorant that our ideal of independence has nothing to do with the badness or goodness of the present Government in its own kind. We object to the present system because it is
a bureaucracy, always the most narrow and unprogressive kind of Government, because it is composed of aliens, not Indians,
and subject to alien control, and most essentially because it is based on a foreign will imposed from outside and not on the
free choice and organic development of the nation.
We might go on to expose the other inconsistencies and sophistries of Mr. Gokhale's speech. We might well challenge the strangeness of a sweeping and general charge of cowardice against the nation's leaders proceeding from the "broken reed" of Poona. But we are more concerned with the significance of his
attitude than with the hollowness of his arguments. Lord Morley the other day quoted Mr. Gokhale's eulogium of the Asquith Government, saviours of India from chaos, as a sufficient answer to the critics of deportation. There was some indignation against Lord Morley for his disingenuousness in suppressing Mr. Gokhale's condemnation of the deportations; but it now appears that the British statesman did not make the mistake of quoting Mr. Gokhale without being sure of the thoroughness of the latter's support. As if in answer to the critics of Lord Morley Mr. Gokhale hastens to justify the deportations by his emphatic approval of stern and relentless repression as the only possible attitude for the Government towards the ideal of independence
even when its achievement is sought through peaceful means. Mr. Gokhale's phrase is bold and thorough; it includes every possible weapon of which the Government may avail itself in the future and every possible use of the weapons which it holds
at present. On the strength of Mr. Gokhale's panegyric Lord Morley mocked at Mr. Mackarness and his supporters as more Indian than the Indians. We may well quote him again and apply the same ridicule, the ridicule of the autocrat, to Mr. Beachcroft, the Alipur judge, who acquitted an avowed apostle of the ideal of
independence. Mr. Gokhale, at least, has become more English than the English. A British judge, certainly not in sympathy with Indian unrest, expressly admits the possibility of peaceful passive resistance and the blamelessness of the ideal of independence. A leader of Indian Liberalism denounces that ideal as necessarily insane and criminal and the advocates of passive
resistance as lunatics and hypocritical cowards, and calls for the denunciation of them as enemies of their country and their
removal by stern and relentless repression. Such are the ironies born of co-operation. It is well that we should know who are
our enemies even if they be of our own household. Till now many of us regarded Mr. Gokhale as a brother with whom we had our own private differences, but he has himself by calling for the official sword to exterminate us removed that error. He
publishes himself now as the righteous Bibhishan who, with the Sugrives, Angads and Hanumans of Madras and Allahabad, has gone to join the Avatar of Radical absolutism in the India Office, and ourselves as the Rakshasa to be destroyed by this new Holy Alliance. Even this formidable conjunction does not alarm us. At any rate Bibhishan has gone out of Lanka, and Bibhishans are always more dangerous there than in the camp of the adversary.
OTHER WRITINGS BY SRI AUROBINDO IN THIS ISSUE
Yoga and Hypnotism