Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Who remembers the Alipore Bomb Case today?

Recent Publications 1
Bande Mataram and the Revolutionary Struggle
A century ago India was swept by a
phenomenon as the newspaper
Bande Mataram inspired the country to
resist British rule and demand
independence. Bipin Chandra Pal and
Raja Subodh Mullick were two of
Sri Aurobindo’s associates in the
launching of the Bande Mataram. In
this issue there are two articles that recall
those early days and the personalities
that helped to shape the independence
Pictured to the right is the entrance to
the Bande Mataram office in Kolkata. It
is the first door on the left, next to the
commemorative plaque on the wall.

The newspaper Bande Mataram was a landmark
in the early development of India’s independence
movement. When resistance to the British was
unthinkable to most Indians and independence was a
distant ideal, Bande Mataram circulated across the
country, inspiring people with fiery language and great
acumen. Bipin Chandra Pal launched the newspaper in
August 1906, a year after the British gave the final
announcement that they would partition the presidency
of Bengal into two separate provinces. Bengalis
responded with protests and initiated the first mass
movements of boycott and swadeshi, abstention from
British goods and the promotion of indigenous goods.
The writers of Bande Mataram, like Sri Aurobindo who
became the chief editor in December 1906, drew
attention across India to the struggle in Bengal,
attempting to inspire a nationwide movement for
The main nationalist body at the time, the Indian
National Congress, emphasized cooperation with the
British. Established in 1885, its leadership consisted of
middle class Indians who had learned ideas of democracy,
natural rights, and nationhood through English
educations. Hence, these nationalists had deep trust in
the British and confidently petitioned them for various
reforms and for greater representation in the government
of India. Bipin Chandra Pal himself had joined the
Congress in 1886 and had expressed his loyalty to the
British thus: "We are loyal, because we believe in the
workings of the Divine Providence in our national
history, both ancient and modern; because we believe
that God himself has led the British to this country, to
help it in working out its salvation, and realize its
heaven-appointed destiny among the nations of the
When the British partitioned Bengal in 1905 a new
voice emerged within the Congress. The younger
generation of members, known as the "Extremists,"
believed that India must look to itself for advancement,
not to Britain. Pal himself was deeply disillusioned by
the partition and became a main leader of the
Extremists. He wrote, "The belief that England will of
her own free will help Indians out of their longestablished
Civil servitude and establish those free
institutions of Government which she herself values so
much was once cherished, but all hope has now been
abandoned."2 The Extremists declared swaraj, "selfrule,"
as their goal and Pal wrote that "God made man
in his own image, essentially and potentially free and
pure. . . . The desire for autonomy is constitutional in
Pal and the other Extremists argued that India could
become a powerful, independent nation only through
struggle, not by petitioning the British. Pal wrote that
a new spirit was sweeping the country, one which
"accepts no other teacher in the art of self-government
except self-government itself. It values freedom for its
own sake, . . . it does not believe serfdom, in any shape
or form, to be a school for real freedom in any country
and under any condition whatever. It holds that the
struggle for freedom itself is the highest tutor of
freedom."4 The type of struggle which Pal advocated
was "Passive Resistance, . . . an organized determination
to refuse to render any voluntary and honorary service
to the Government."5 Pal’s passive resistance also
involved establishing independent administrative
structures, such as councils, boards, courts, etc.6
Sri Aurobindo was also a prominent Extremist, but
he took a different direction than Pal. His nationalistic
interests had developed two decades earlier, in
conjunction with abuse that his father had suffered at
the hands of the British. Sri Aurobindo knew that the
swadeshi movement in Bengal had great potential in
terms of the development of a widespread independence
movement. Hence, he began traveling with Pal in spring
1906, as the latter addressed enormous crowds. Later,
in August, Pal invited Sri Aurobindo to begin writing
for Bande Mataram. However, the editorial board
strongly preferred Sri Aurobindo, so the relationship
between Pal and the newspaper was severed in
December, and Sri Aurobindo became the chief editor.7
The key issue was that Sri Aurobindo brought a
revolutionary approach to Bande Mataram. Sri
Aurobindo and Pal were both Extremists, but the latter,
in comparison to Sri Aurobindo, remained within the
Bande Mataram and the Revolutionary Struggle

gentlemanly world of the Congress. Pal envisaged a
completely peaceful and lawful movement for
independence, but Sri Aurobindo was very skeptical of
this.8 He had not received a British education in India,
designed to serve imperial interests, but had been
educated in Britain itself, where he learned of the many
bloody conflicts by which Western countries had gained
independence and had founded strong nations. Hence,
in a 1907 article he implied, in a critique of the lobbying
efforts of the Indian National Congress, that India might
have to undergo the same conflicts as the West had: "It
is a vain dream to suppose that what other nations
have won by struggle and battle, by suffering and tears
of blood, we shall be allowed to accomplish easily,
without terrible sacrifices, merely by spending the ink
of the journalist and petition-framer and the breath of
the orator."9
Sri Aurobindo attempted, in the pages of Bande
Mataram, to prepare the country for violent conflict.
He approved highly of the passive resistance of Pal and
the other Extremists, but he knew that the British would
not sit idly by while the swadeshis jeopardized their
economic interests. In a famous 1907 series of articles,
"The Doctrine of Passive
Resistance," Sri Aurobindo wrote
that if the British continue to
respect "life, liberty and property,"
then passive resistance is the best
approach, but if they should use
violence, violence in turn is called
for: "Liberty is the life-breath of a
nation; and when the life is
attacked, when it is sought to suppress all chance of
breathing by violent pressure, any and every means of
self-preservation becomes right and justifiable,—just
as it is lawful for a man who is being strangled to rid
himself of the pressure on his throat by any means in
his power."10
Sri Aurobindo knew that many Indians, though they
might be in favor of independence, would object to a
violent reaction. He countered such a reaction by
reflecting on the Hindu belief in the ultimate unity of
all things. Many Hindus object to violence on the basis
of this belief, but Sri Aurobindo used it to argue for
the use of violence in certain circumstances: "To submit
to illegal or violent methods of coercion, to accept
outrage and hooliganism as part of the legal procedure
of the country is to be guilty of cowardice, and, by
dwarfing national manhood, to sin against the divinity
within ourselves and the divinity in our motherland. . .
. If the instruments of the executive choose to disperse
our meeting by breaking the heads of those present,
the right of self-defence entitles us not merely to defend
our heads but to retaliate on those of the headbreakers."
11 It is not a sin to commit acts of violence
in such circumstances. Rather, a retreat from violence
would be a sin: "The morality of war is different from
the morality of peace. To shrink from bloodshed and
violence under such circumstances is a weakness
deserving as severe a rebuke as Srikrishna addressed to
Arjuna when he shrank from the colossal civil slaughter
on the field of Kurukshetra."12
Sri Aurobindo hence called Indians to a far more
dire struggle than envisioned by Pal and many of the
other Extremists. It would only be through great
personal risk that India would attain freedom: "The
path to Swaraj can never be safe. Over sharp rocks and
through thick brambles lies the way to that towering
and glorious summit
where dwells the
Goddess of our
worship, our goddess
Liberty. Shall we dare
to aspire to reach her
and yet hope to
accomplish that
journey perilous with
unhurt bodies and untorn feet? Mark the way; as you
go it is red and caked with the blood of those who have
climbed before us to the summit. And if that sight
appals you, look up and forget it in the glory of the face
that smiles upon us from the peak."13
Sri Aurobindo wrote the above words in tumultuous
times, for riots had broken out in spring 1907 between
Hindu swadeshis and Muslims who opposed the
movement. Although not believing such riots to be
essential to the independence movement Sri Aurobindo
did believe they were the first signs of a prolonged
conflict which would take place between the British
and the Indians.14 However, the tumult in Bengal came
Sri Aurobindo called Indians to a far more
dire struggle than envisioned by Pal and
many of the other Extremists. It would
only be through great personal risk that
India would attain freedom.
to an end in 1908 when the British imprisoned the
Extremists’ leaders and suppressed their newspapers. Ten
years later the independence movement would resume,
but under a different set of leaders, circumstances, and
ideals. For instance, Gandhi would reject overt violence,
practicing passivity even in the face of direct physical
harm. Yet, in spite of the many differences between
them all, men like Bipin Chandra Pal and Aurobindo
Ghose laid an important foundation for India’s
independence movement. They helped to push Indians
from a state of calm acceptance to proud and determined
resistance, ready to face prolonged struggles and cruel
treatment in order to achieve the independence of their
— Dr Edward Ulrich
Dr Ulrich is an Assistant Professor of Theology at the University
of St. Thomas in the United States. After attending the 2004
National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminar,
"Religion and Politics in India", he became fascinated by Sri
Aurobindo’s nationalistic activities.
1Haridas Mukherjee and Uma Mukherjee, Bipin Chandra Pal and
India’s Struggle for Swaraj (Calcutta: Firma K. L. Mukhopadhyay,
1958) 12.
2Ibid., 21.
3Bipin Chandra Pal, Swadeshi and Swaraj: The Rise of the New
Patriotism (Calcutta: Yugayatri Prakashak, 1954), 59-60.
4Ibid., 55.
5Ibid., 63.
6Ibid., 216-18, 245-49.
7Mukherjee and Mukherjee, India’s Struggle, 61-64; Sri Aurobindo,
Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library, 26:28-29.
8Pal, Swadeshi and Swaraj, 51-52, 61-63, 68, 216-17, 246.
9Sri Aurobindo, The Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, 6:299.
See also ibid., 6:28-30.
10Ibid., 6:278.
11Ibid., 6:294.
12Ibid., 6:278.
13Ibid., 7:480-81.
14Ibid., 6:314.
This August we will celebrate the completion of sixty
years of Indian independence. As we look around us
there are no signs of any memory of that struggle,
neither are there any traces of the ideals that drove
people to acts of heroism. The India of today would
be unrecognisable to the spirit of those who so readily
gave up their lives to bring independence to their
Who remembers the Alipore Bomb Case today? Not
many. Kolkata was then the capital of India. The
importance of the whole episode is that this bomb
was thrown and this case was fought right in the
capital of the country, and this is what made the
British feel that the very seat of their power was
being shaken.
Perhaps we will never know all the details of the
saga of India’s freedom struggle. There were many
who played a role in this drama but who remained
deliberately in the background. Their contributions
remained unseen but it is certain that without their
support the heroes would not have achieved so
much. One such quiet figure was Raja Subodh
Chandra Mullick.
While Sri Aurobindo was still living at Baroda he began
visiting Kolkata to start his revolutionary work. The
base for that work was provided by Raja Subodh
Mullick through the auspices of Charu Dutt, who had
known Sri Aurobindo since his Cambridge days and
had since become an I.C.S. officer, posted in Thane.
Dutt, who was related to Subodh Mullick by
marriage, introduced him to Sri Aurobindo. When Sri
Aurobindo finally left Baroda and arrived in Kolkata,
it was in Subodh Mullick’s house that he first lived
until he established his own household.
Mullick’s palatial house at No.12 Wellington Square
still stands today, but in a state that brings tears to
the eyes. It is a large, three-storey mansion of
pinkish orange colour. From the road one can see a
high wrought-iron gate which in the past was opened
to let in horse carriages. Everything about the house
No. 12 Wellington Square
The Story of Raja Subodh Mullick and the Bande Mataram Office
evokes an age of graceful luxury. It is said that the
room at the corner, which has one window on the
side of the main thoroughfare and the other facing a
narrow lane, used to be occupied by Sri Aurobindo.
A century ago this grand house was lit up with
chandeliers, and the exquisitely carved wooden
balcony must have had a regal beauty, while today
it is covered in dust and wild plants. The architecture
is more European than Indian and in its glorious days
even the decoration inside was European; the rooms
had carpets, book-lined shelves, and paintings.
This mansion is a historical monument where some
of the high moments of the freedom struggle were
lived out, the fruits of which we are enjoying today.
When Sri Aurobindo was acquitted in September
1907 in the case resulting from a police search of
the office of the nationalist newspaper Bande
Mataram, Rabindranath Tagore had come to 12
Wellington Square to meet and congratulate him.
Sri A.B. Purani vividly describes the scene in his
biography, The Life of Sri Aurobindo:
Tagore had published his "Homage to Aurobindo"
while the prosecution was going on, in anticipation
of a sentence. But, as Sri Aurobindo was acquitted,
when he came to congratulate him, he said
ironically in Bengali as he embraced him: "What!
You have deceived us!" (by not going to jail). Sri
Aurobindo replied in English: "Not for long will you
have to wait," implying that he would not be out
of prison much longer.
It was also in this mansion that Nolini Kanta Gupta
first met and spoke to Sri Aurobindo. Nolini-da had
been sent to invite him to the Manicktolla Gardens
where the young revolutionaries were staying. The
lifelong tie that bound them for decades began here.
As we know, Sri Aurobindo could not go with him
that day, but Nolini-da remembers how he politely
declined the invitation and how he expressed himself
in Bengali. He spoke softly and slowly since speaking
in Bengali did not come naturally to him, having spent
his childhood and youth in England.
An early, undated photograph of the mansion at 12 Wellington Square.
6 Recent Publications
Just behind the mansion is the house where the Bande
Mataram office was located. It was part of a series
of houses which belonged to the same property;
perhaps it was meant for distant relatives. A very
narrow, virtually private lane separates the mansion
from this block of more modest houses. One can
even now see the back gate of the
mansion almost facing what used to
be the front door of the office, thereby
suggesting that people could go easily
from one house to the other. Although
the paper had been started by Bepin
Chandra Pal it was Subodh Mullick and
his cousin Nirod Mullick who were its
chief financial supporters. They had
even given the place for housing the
A little door in a narrow lane—this is all
one can see today. But it was from
this tiny office, a hundred years ago,
that the call for revolution had gone
out. From here started the fire that
was to rage all over Bengal. The work
of waking India from her tamas was
done from this tiny lane. Page after
page of stirring prose came out from
here, written in English, in a style which
had both lucidity of mind and intensity
of feelings. These words would provoke
the British, arrests would be made,
some would be trapped in prisons, and others would
walk unwavering to the gallows. A nation would rise
up and fight for its rights.
Who was Subodh Mullick and how closely was he
associated with Sri Aurobindo? He came from a
wealthy family which owned vast properties. Subodh
Chandra Mullick was
not really a "raja"
(king). It was a title
given to him by the
people, owing not
only to his vast
wealth but also to
his generosity. He
had donated a sum
of one lakh rupees
to the National
College at Kolkata, of which Sri Aurobindo was the
first Principal. It is popularly believed that the title
"raja" might have been affixed to his name after
this act of generosity. What that sum represented a
hundred years ago can only be imagined from the
way it impressed the people.
Subodh Mullick had studied at Presidency College
and later had run away to England to join Trinity
College at Cambridge. Apparently he never took a
degree from the University since he left without
completing his studies. He may even have made an
effort at studying law while he was in England. Perhaps
this common background
brought him closer to Sri
Not only did he give his full
support, morally and
financially, but he was also a
political associate. So much
so that after Sri Aurobindo
was arrested in Kolkata on 2nd
May 1908, Subodh Mullick’s
other house in Varanasi was
searched by the police on 8th
May. Then two days later, on
1 0th May, while the Mullick
family was away at Varanasi
the police searched this
beautiful house in Kolkata and
turned it upside down in their
effort to get hold of any
incriminating documents. The
police knew very well that
Subodh Mullick had made his
mansion in Wellington Square
the centre of political activities
headed by Sri Aurobindo. Meetings were held there
and important decisions were taken. Few people
know that he too was arrested and jailed in Almora
for fourteen months. After his release in February
1910 when he returned to his Wellington Square
mansion, Sri Aurobindo paid him a visit. It was the
last time they ever saw each other.
Today this historic building
stands in faded splendour, a
reminder of the days when
the entire nation was inspired
to sacrifice so much. The
country has not forgotten
Raja Subodh Chandra
Mullick. There is a park in
Kolkata named after him as
well as a road, and even
Wellington Square has been renamed in his honour.
He was a man who had lived a life of luxury befitting
a king and yet was prepared to face hardships and
even imprisonment for upholding his beliefs and
asking the freedom of his country.
Sunayana Panda
Commemorative marble plaque next to the
main gate of Subodh Mullick’s mansion.
Just behind the mansion at 12 Wellington
Square is the house where the Bande Mataram
office was located. A little door in a narrow
lane—this is all one can see today. But it was
from this tiny office, a hundred years ago,
that the call for revolution had gone out.
Recent Publications 7
Sri Aurobindo
Autobiographical Notes and Other Writings of
Historical Interest
Publisher: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication
Department, Puducherry
612 pp., ISBN: 978-81-7058-827-6, Rs 190
Size: 14x22 cm
Binding: Soft Cover
This book consists of notes,
letters, telegrams, and public
statements written by Sri
Aurobindo at various times. It
includes approximately three
hundred pages of material not
included in the SABCL edition:
well over a hundred pages are
published here for the first time
and the rest were previously
published only in journals or as
parts of different books. Of the material already
published in the SABCL edition and included in this
new book, half is from the now-discontinued volume
Sri Aurobindo On Himself and the other half from Letters
on Yoga and the Supplement volume, which was never
brought out as an independent book. Most of the rest
of the letters from On Himself, written by Sri Aurobindo
after 1927 and touching on the subject of himself and
his sadhana, will be included in a new volume entitled
Letters on Himself and the Ashram.
This documentary volume is divided into four parts:
autobiographical notes, which consist primarily of
things he wrote to correct statements made by others
about him; letters of historical interest, mostly written
before 1927 to family members, political and
professional associates, people interested in his yogic
practice, and public figures; public statements on
Indian and world events; and public notices concerning
his ashram and yoga. It contains a detailed table of
contents and nearly sixty pages of editorial notes,
containing information on the people and historical
events referred to in the texts.
see page 13 for an article
on Autobiographical Notes
Sri Aurobindo and the Freedom Struggle of India
(Bharater Swadhinata Sangrame Sri Aurobinder
A bilingual compilation of Sri Aurobindo’s writings
on political events of India
— Compiled from the Works of Sri Aurobindo
Publisher: Sri Aurobindo Society, Kolkata
288 pp., Rs 150
Size: 14x22 cm; Binding: Soft Cover
This book is a bilingual compilation of Sri
Aurobindo’s early political writings in English and
Bengali, brought out as a tribute to him on the centenary
of his return to Bengal from Baroda. The English section
consists largely of articles from Bande Mataram and
from the "New Lamps for Old" series in the Indu
Prakash as well as some of his political speeches and
essays from On Nationalism and Man—Slave or Free?
The Bengali section includes Jagannather Rath, or The
Chariot of Jagannath, an editorial from Dharma,
several articles on nationalism from Karmayogin
(translated from the original English), excerpts from
Karakahini, or Tales of Prison
Life, and letters to his wife,
brother, and political colleagues.

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