As the Mahatma Gandhi’s personal items have finally been bought over by Vijay Mallya (but nobody is saying how come these very personal belongings ended-up in the US), the Congress has, once more, claimed kinship and ownership to the ‘Father of the Nation’.
Is indeed the Mahatma, whose tremendous personality nobody can deny, the true architect of Indian Independence, as most history books, both Indian and western, are claiming?
A new biography by American Peter Heehs of Sri Aurobindo, called “The Lives of Sri Aurobindo” (Colombia University Press, May, 2008), has shed new light about Sri Aurobindo’s role as a leader of the Congress. Peter Heeh’s book is remarkable for unearthing many new facts about Sri Aurobindo’s revolutionary years. Not many people know that originally the Congress was created in December 1885 by an Englishman, A.O. Hume, with the avowed aim to: “Allow all those who work for the national (read British) good to meet each other personally”.
Sri Aurobindo, says Peter, was very clear in what was demanded then and today of a leader of India: “What India needs at the moment is the aggressive virtues, the spirit of soaring idealism, bold creation, fearless resistance, courageous attack”. How many Indian politicians today fit into that mould?
Peter Heehs recounts how Sri Aurobindo re-enacted five thousand years later Krishna’s message to Arjuna, by allowing his brother Barin to manufacture bombs in his own house and secretly endorsed early assassinations of select Englishmen. This and other aspects of the book has enraged some of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and someone slapped a court case against him in Orissa, thereby stopping the book from being published in India.
As Peter Heehs writes: “he never ceased to believe that Indians had the right to use violence to topple a government maintained by violence” (p.237). But how does that tally with the idea we have about spirituality, which we basically associate with non-violence? Hence this enormously important aspect of Sri Aurobindo’s life, of protecting the Dharma, of standing for what is good and true and noble, by force, if necessary, is today ignored and not applied to the enemies of modern India.
Peter Heehs also dwells on the famous Uttarpara speech, where Sri Aurobindo, after one year in the Alipore jail, clearly defines what he calls the Sanatana Dharma: ” Something has been shown to you in this year of seclusion, something about which you had your doubts and it is the truth of the Hindu religion. It is this religion that I am raising up before the world, it is this that I have perfected and developed through the rishis, saints and avatars, and now it is going forth to do my work among the nations. I am raising this nation to send forth my word…When therefore it is said that India shall rise, it is the Santana Dharma that shall rise. When it is said that India shall be great, it is the Santana Dharma that shall be great.”
If we in France had a great man, such as Sri Aurobindo, who comes out in Heehs biography not only as a revolutionary, a yogi, but also a tremendous philosopher and a peerless poet, we would cherish him endlessly. His poetry would be taught to children, his philosophical works would be part of the universities curriculum, books would be written about him, museums built….
But today amongst Indian politicians, everybody quotes conveniently from Gandhi, although nobody applies his ideals of chakra, non-violence, khadi and chakra. Yet, apart from Dr Karan Singh, who is a scholar on Sri Aurobindo, nobody ever mentions Sri Aurobindo, whose sayings of a 100 years ago are still 100% relevant today. Not only is he absent from schools and universities, but in some manuals written by the Congress, he is branded as a ‘terrorist’. Shame on India !
Somnath Chaterjee, who has been made an icon by the Media, in spite of having disobeyed his party and sitting on the cash for votes scam, has built an Indian History museum in the Parliament annexe at a great cost of the tax payer’s money. In this museum, which is visited by all school children of Delhi and surrounding states, the history of India more or less starts with Ashoka (because he was supposedly Buddhist), jumps to Akbar (who is glorified beyond measure) and finishes up with Subash Chandra Bose, Gandhi and Nehru. Not a single mention of Sri Aurobindo or even Tilak, the true fathers of the nation.
Is it not time that Indian history be rewritten? Peter Heehs’ book can be used to rectify the major injustice done to Sri Aurobindo, the true father of Indian Independence, he who prophetically said about Pakistan in 1947: ” India is free, but she has not achieved unity, only a fissured and broken freedom…The whole communal division into Hindu and Muslim seems to have hardened into the figure of a permanent political division of the country. It is to be hoped that the Congress and the Nation will not accept the settled fact as for ever settled, or as anything more than a temporary expedient. For if it lasts, India may be seriously weakened, even crippled; civil strife may remain always possible, possible even a new invasion and foreign conquest. The partition of the country must go…For without it the destiny of India might be seriously impaired and frustrated. That must not be”.
India does not even a proper museum of Indian History. This is why FACT (*), the foundation which I head is going to build a museum of (true) India History in Pune, because it is in Central India and the home of another great Natinalist: Shivaji Maharaj .
And the question must be asked: Sri Aurobindo was a Congressman, although he was shunned by his fellow politicians as a radical or an extremist. Cannot the Congress of today at last recognize that Sri Aurobindo was a precursor?