New era in Indian politics The Statesman
August 15, 1947 was the day when India shed the yoke of British colonial rule and became a free nation. It coincided with the 75th birth anniversary of Sri Aurobindo. He ushered in a new era in Indian politics in 1906 by declaring that complete and absolute independence from British rule was the aim of political action in India. What he espoused was adopted by the Indian National Congress in its resolution at the Lahore session in 1929.
In 1902 and 1904, he came into contact with revolutionary groups in Bengal and Maharashtra. But the partition of Bengal in 1905 engulfed the country in political turmoil. He started contributing articles anonymously to the Bengali newspaper by Yugantar. Sri Aurobindo resigned from Baroda College in 1906 to join the newly established National College in Kolkata as its principal. He joined as assistant editor of a new English daily called Bande Mataram launched by Bipin Chandra Pal and later assumed full control. In the same year, he persuaded the extremists of Bengal to organise themselves as the Nationalist Party collaborating with the group in Maharashtra and elsewhere in the country under the leadership of Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Bande Mataram was adopted as the organ of the Nationalist Party. He evolved a programme for the Nationalist Party comprising non-cooperation, passive resistance, swadeshi, boycott and national education. He was arrested on charges of sedition for publication of some articles in Bande Mataram and was released on bail. But the prosecution failed to convict him for lack of concrete evidence.
The Indian National Congress was dominated by moderate leaders. A group of young leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal emerged who preached a radical form of nationalism. Sri Aurobindo met Tilak at the Ahmedabad session of the Congress in 1902. The nationalists succeeded in incorporating their four-fold programme of Swaraj, Swadeshi, boycott and national education into the resolution of the Congress despite the staunch opposition of the moderates. This was a major triumph for the nationalists as the word Swaraj appeared for the first time in the resolution of the Congress. But the Congress did not implement it. The stage was thus set for a confrontation between the moderates and the extremists at the Surat session of the Congress in 1907. Sri Aurobindo issued orders that led to dissolution of the Congress. The moderates suspended the Congress and replaced it by a national conference.
The nationalists assembled separately under the presidentship of Sri Aurobindo. After the split in the Congress, the government resorted to severe repression to crush the nationalists. But Sri Aurobindo gave them courage to endure. On 30 April, 1908 two youths hurled a bomb at a closed carriage that was supposed to carry DH Kingford, the district magistrate of Muzzafarpur in Bihar, but unfortunately the bomb killed two ladies. The police unearthed a bomb factory at Manicktolla in Kolkata. Sri Aurobindo and his brother Barindra were arrested along with several others. He spent one year in Alipore jail and was exonerated of all charges. He emerged from prison a transformed man. His work continued up to February 1910. All of a sudden, he left for Chandernagore and then proceeded to Pondicherry. He abruptly withdrew from politics to pursue Yoga. The writer is a freelance contributor