Beadon Square Speech

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Beadon Square Speech  (1909) 
by Sri Aurobindo
Calcutta, June 13, 1909. First published in the Bengalee newspaper on June 15, 1909.

In spite of the foul weather a large number of people assembled on Sunday afternoon at Beadon Square where a big Swadeshi meeting was held under the presidency of Babu Ramananda Chatterji, Editor of the Prabasi. Several speakers addressed the meeting. We publish below an authorised version of Mr. Aurobindo Ghose's speech delivered at that meeting.

Sj. Aurobindo Ghose said that when in jail he had been told that the country was demoralised by the repression. He could not believe it then, because his experience of the movement had been very different. He had always found that when Swadeshi was flagging or the Boycott beginning to relax, it only needed an act of repression on the part of the authorities to give it redoubled vigour. It seemed to him then impossible that the deportations would have a different effect. When nine of the most active and devoted workers for the country had been suddenly hurried away from their homes without any fault on their part, without the Government being able to formulate a single definite charge against them, surely the Boycott instead of decreasing would grow tenfold more intense. And what after all was the repression? Some people sent to prison, some deported, a number of house-searches, a few repressive enactments, limiting the liberty of the press and the platform. This was nothing compared with the price other nations had paid for their liberty. They also would have to suffer much more than this before they could make any appreciable advance towards their goal. This was God's law; it was not the rulers who demanded the price, it was God who demanded it. It was his law that a fallen nation should not be allowed to rise without infinite suffering and mighty effort. That was the price it had to pay for its previous lapses from national duty.

The speaker did not think that there was any real demoralisation. There might be a hesitation among the richer and more vulnerable parts of the community to hold conferences or meetings or give public expression to their views and feelings. He did not measure the strength of the movement by the number of meetings or of people present at the meetings. He measured it by the strength and indomitable obstinacy of feeling and purpose in the hearts of the people. Their first duty was to keep firm hold on their ideal and perform steadfastly the vows they had made before God and the nation. The rulers were never tired of saying that we should get self-government when we were fit. Fitness meant national capacity and strength was the basis of capacity. That was what Lord Morley really meant when he asked himself repeatedly whether this was a real uprising of the nation or a passing excitement. He meant, was it a movement with real strength in it, a movement with elemental force enough in it to resist and survive? That experiment was now being made. They must not expect substantial gains at so small a cost.

He had heard vaguely of the reforms when in prison; he had heard them ecstatically described. He was surprised to hear that description. He had been in England for fourteen years and knew something of the English people and their politics. He could not believe that England or any European people would give substantial reforms after so short an agitation and so scanty a proof of national strength. It was not the fault of the British people, it was a law of politics that they, who have, should be unwilling to yield what they have until they had fully tested the determination of the subject people and even then they would only give just as much as they could not help giving. When he came out, he found what these reforms were. The so-called introduction of the elective principle was a sham and the power given was nothing. For the rest, it was a measure arranged with a skill which did credit to the diplomacy of British statesmen so that we should lose and they gain. It would diminish the political power of the educated class which was the brain and backbone of the nation, it would sow discord among the various communities. This was not a real reform but reaction. They would have to go much further in suffering and self-sacrifice before they could hope for anything substantial. They must hold firm in their determination and keep the Swadeshi unimpaired and by that he meant the determination to assert their national individuality in every branch of national activity.

There was one thing that might be said, how could we expand the Swadeshi if all our methods were taken out of our hands? That could easily be done by the Government. The authorities in this country had absolute and irresponsible power. It had practically been admitted by a responsible member of the Liberal Government that the liberty of no subject of the British Crown was safe in this country if the Government of India took it into its head that he was dangerous or inconvenient, if it were informed by the police who had distinguished themselves at Midnapore or by information as tainted — the perjurers, forgers, informers, approvers, for what other information could they have, circumstanced as they were by their own choice in this country, — that such and such men had been seditious or were becoming seditious or might be seditious or that their presence in their homes was dangerous to the peace of mind of the C.I.D. Against such information there was no safety even for the greatest men in the country, the purest in life, the most blameless and inoffensive in their public activity.

Then there was this sunset regulation. It appeared that we were peaceful citizens until sunset, but after sunset we turned into desperate characters, — well, he was told, even half an hour before sunset; apparently even the sun could not be entirely trusted to keep us straight. We had, it seems, stones in our pockets to throw at the police and some of us, perhaps, dangle bombs in our chaddars. How was this prohibition brought about? Merely by a little expenditure of ink in the Political Department. It would be quite easy to extend it further and prevent public meetings. It was being enforced on us that our so-called liberties were merely Maya. We believed in them for a time and acted on the belief; then one fine morning we wake up and look around for them but they are not there. In reality they never were there; they were Maya, illusions; this was the reason why not only could we not accept reforms which did not mean real control, but some of us did not believe even in that. We doubted not only the sham control but the sham of the reforms themselves, but still control was the minimum on which all were agreed. The question remained, if all our liberties were taken away, what were we to do? Even that would not stop the movement. Christ said to the disciples who expected a material kingdom on the spot, "The kingdom of heaven is within you." To them too he might say, "The kingdom of Swaraj is within you."

Let them win and keep that kingdom of Swaraj, the sense of the national separateness and individuality, the faith in its greatness and future, the feeling of God within ourselves and in the nation, the determination to devote every thought and action to his service. Here no coercion or repression could interfere; here there was no press law or sunset regulation. And it was a law of the psychology of men and nations that the Brahman once awakened within must manifest itself without and nothing could eventually prevent that manifestation. Moreover, their methods were borrowed from England. England gave them and encouraged their use when it was inoffensive to her, but the moment they were used so as to conflict with British interests and to expand national life and strength, they were taken away. But the Indians were a nation apart; they were not dependent on these methods. They had a wonderful power of managing things without definite means. Long before the Press came into existence or telegraph wires, the nation had a means of spreading news from one end of the country to another with electrical rapidity — a Press too impalpable to be touched. They had the power of enforcing the public will without any fixed organisation, of associating without an association — without even the European refuge of a secret association. The spirit was what mattered, if the spirit were there, the movement would find out its own channels; for after all it was the power of God manifested in the movement which would command its own means and create its own channels. They must have the firm faith that India must rise and be great and that everything that happened, every difficulty, every reverse must help and further their end. The trend was upward and the time of decline was over. The morning was at hand and once the light had shown itself, it could never be night again. The dawn would soon be complete and the sun rise over the horizon. The sun of India's destiny would rise and fill all India with its light and overflow India and overflow Asia and overflow the world. Every hour, every moment could only bring them nearer to the brightness of the day that God had decreed.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1950, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 60 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.