The so called authority of lawThe authority of

The so called authority of law

The authority of Law in a nation or community does not
really depend on any so-called “majesty” or mystic power in
man-made rules and enactments. Its real sources of power are
two, first, the strong interest of the majority or of a dominant
minority or of the community as a whole in maintaining it
and, secondly, the possession of a sole armed force, police and
military, which makes that interest effective. The metaphorical
392 The Ideal of Human Unity
sword of justice can only act because there is a real sword behind
it to enforce its decrees and its penalties against the rebel and the
dissident. And the essential character of this armed force is that
it belongs to nobody, to no individual or constituent group of the
community except alone to the State, the king or the governing
class or body in which sovereign authority is centred. Nor can
there be any security if the armed force of the State is balanced
or its sole effectivity diminished by the existence of other armed
forces belonging to groups and individuals and free in any degree
from the central control or able to use their power against the
governing authority. Even so, even with this authority backed
by a sole and centralised armed force, Law has not been able to
prevent strife of a kind between individuals and classes because
it has not been able to remove the psychological, economic and
other causes of strife. Crime with its penalties is always a kind
of mutual violence, a kind of revolt and civil strife and even in
the best-policed and most law-abiding communities crime is still
rampant. Even the organisation of crime is still possible although
it cannot usually endure or fix its power because it has the whole
vehement sentiment and effective organisation of the community
against it. But what is more to the purpose, Law has not been
able to prevent, although it has minimised, the possibility of civil
strife and violent or armed discord within the organised nation.
Whenever a class or an opinion has thought itself oppressed
or treated with intolerable injustice, has found the Law and its
armed force so entirely associated with an opposite interest that
the suspension of the principle of law and an insurgence of the
violence of revolt against the violence of oppression were or
appeared the only remedy, it has, if it thought it had a chance
of success, appealed to the ancient arbitration of Might. Even
in our own days we have seen the most law-abiding of nations
staggering on the verge of a disastrous civil war and responsible
statesmen declaring their readiness to appeal to it if a measure
disagreeable to them were enforced, even though it was passed
by the supreme legislative authority with the sanction of the
sovereign.

VOLUME 25
THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SRI AUROBINDO P 391-392

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Back to the Land                    THE life of a nation is

Back to the Land

 

                   THE life of a nation is always rooted in its villages but that of India is so deeply and persistently rooted there that no change or revolution can ever substitute for this source of sap and life the Western system which makes the city the centre and the village a mere feeder of the city. Immense changes have taken place, great empires have risen and fallen, but India is still a nation of villagers, not of townsmen. This has been perhaps an obstacle to national unity but it has also been an assurance of national persistence. It is an ascertained principle of national existence that only by keeping possession of the soil can a nation persist; the mastery of the reins of government or the control of the trade and wealth of a country, does not give permanence to the people in control. They reign for a while and then the virtue departs out of them and they wither or pass away and another takes their place; but the tillers of the soil, ground down, oppressed, rack-rented, miserable, remain, and have always the chance of one day overthrowing their oppressors and coming by their own. When a small foreign oligarchy does the trading and governing and a great indigenous democracy the tilling of the soil, it is safe to prophesy that before many generations have passed the oligarchy of aliens will be no more and the democracy of peasants will still be in possession.

            When the poison of Western education was first poured into our veins, it had its immediate effect, and the Hindus, who were then the majority of the Bengali-speaking population, began to stream away from the village to the town. The bait of Government service and the professions drew away the brightest intellects and the most energetic characters by their promise of wealth, prestige and position. They won for their community the rewards which they had set out to win. The Hindu community has now a monopoly of Government service, of the professions, of prestige, wealth and position; but it has lost possession of the soil, and with the loss of the soil it has sacrificed the source

 

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of life and permanence. The Amrita Bazar Patrika has long been drawing attention to the dwindling of the higher castes, and Mr. A. Chowdhuri at the Pabna Conference pointed out what has been known to the few for some time but not the general public, that this decrease is not confined to the higher castes but is common to the Hindu population. We are a decadent race, he cried, and inconsistent as the cry may seem with the splendid and leading position which the Bengali Hindu occupies in the public and intellectual life of the country, it is perfectly true. Intellectual prominence often goes hand in hand with decadence, as the history of the Greeks and other great nations of antiquity has proved; only the race which does not sacrifice the soundness of its rural root of life to the urban brilliance of its foliage and flowering, is in a sound condition and certain of permanence. If the present state of things is allowed to continue, the Mahomedan will be the inheritor of the future and after a brief period of national strength and splendour the Bengali Hindu, like the Greek, will disappear from the list of nations and remain only as a great name in history. Fortunately, the national movement has come in time to save him if he consents to be saved. With the deepening of the movement, as it turns its eyes more and more inwards, it is earning wisdom and acquiring insight, and one of the more powerful tendencies of the moment is the reversion of interest to the village. Srijut Jogesh Chowdhuri has an instinct for the need of the moment and just as he threw himself into Swadeshi activity long before the leaders of the hour awoke to its importance, so now he has started his Palli Samaj propaganda while the rest of the political leaders are unable to extend their view beyond the fields of activity already conquered. Srijut Rabindranath Tagore at Pabna laid stress on the same necessity. “Back to the land,” is a cry which must swell with time and, if the Bengali Hindu is wise, he will listen and obey. Swadeshi was the most pressing need of the nation till now, because we were threatened with a commercial depletion which would have rendered agricultural life impossible by turning famine into a chronic disease. The peasant must live if he is to keep possession of the soil, and a flourishing national commerce is the only sure preventive of famine. But now Swadeshi has become an integral

 

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part of our politics, the gradual growth of Indian industry is assured until this growth is complete, the struggle with famine will continue and this also is getting to be recognised as an essential part of our political activity. We must now turn to the one field of work in this direction which we have most neglected, the field of agriculture. The return to the land is as essential to our salvation as the development of Swadeshi or the fight against famine. If we train our young men to go back to the fields, we shall secure the perpetuation of the Hindu in Bengal which is now imperilled. They will be able to become mentors, leaders and examples to the village population and by introducing better methods of agriculture and habits of thrift and foresight and by organising the institution of Dharmagolas and securing more equal position for the peasant in his dealings with the merchant and the moneylender they will materially assist the Swadeshi manufacturer and the organiser of famine relief in the fight for survival. To settle more Hindu agriculturists on the land is the first necessity if the Hindu is to survive.

            National Education has followed the trend of the political movement and its first energies have been devoted to literary and technical instruction. In the latter branch it has already, in spite of insufficient help from the public, achieved a signal success; if it has been able to make only a beginning, yet that beginning has been so sound, so admirably and intelligently done, that we can already perceive in this little seed the mighty tree of the future. We understand that the literary instruction is now being organised with a view to make the College in Calcutta a home of learning and fruitful research as well as a nursery of intelligence and character. But we look to the organisers of the College to make equal provision for agricultural training, so that a field may be created for its students on the soil whence all national life draws its sap of permanence. The establishment of the Pabna School is of good omen in this respect, but a single institution in East Bengal will not be sufficient, as the conditions of Pabna are not universal in Bengal, and model farms on drier soil such as we have in Comilla and West Bengal will also be needed. If the work is taken in hand from now, it will not be a moment too soon, for the problem is urgent in its call for a solution,

 

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and the mere organisation of village associations will be only partially effective if it is not backed up by a system of instruction which will bring the educated Hindu back to the soil as a farmer himself and a local leader of the peasantry of the race.

Bande Mataram, March 6, 1908

 

The Village and the Nation

We wrote yesterday of the necessity of going back to the land if

the Bengali Hindu is to keep his place in the country and escape

the fate of those who divorce themselves from the root of life,

the soil. But there is another aspect of the question which is also

of immense importance. The old organization of the Indian village

was self-sufficient, self-centred, autonomous and exclusive.

These little units of life existed to themselves, each a miniature

world of its own petty interests and activities, like a system of

planets united to each other indeed by an unconscious force but

each absorbed in its own life and careless of the other. It was a

life beautifully simple, healthy, rounded and perfect, a delight to

the poet and the lover of humanity. If perfect simplicity of life,

freedom from economic evils, from moral degradation, from

the strife, faction and fury of town populations, from revolution

and turmoil, from vice and crime on a large scale are the

objects of social organization, then the village communities of

India were ideal forms of social organization. Many look back

to them with regret and even British administrators who were

instrumental in destroying them have wished that they could

be revived. So valuable indeed were the elements of social welfare

which they secured to the nation, that they have persisted

through all changes and revolutions as they were thousands of

years ago when the Aryan first occupied the land. Nor can it be

denied that they have kept the nation alive. Whatever social evils

or political diseases might corrupt the body politic, these little

cells of national life supplied a constant source of soundness

and purity which helped to prevent final disintegration. But if

we owe national permanence to these village organizations, it

908 Bande Mataram

cannot be denied that they have stood in the way of national

unity.

Wherever a nation has been formed, in the modern sense,

it has been at the expense of smaller units. The whole history

of national growth is the record of a long struggle to establish

a central unity by subduing the tendency of smaller units to

live to themselves. The ancient polity of Greece was the selfrealisation

of the city as an unit sufficient to itself while the

deme or village was obliged to sacrifice its separate existence to

the greater unity of the city-state. Because the Greeks could not

find it in their hearts to break the beautiful and perfect mould

of their self-sufficient city life, they could never weld themselves

into a nation. So again it was not till the Romans had subdued

the tendency of the Italian cities to live to themselves, that the

first European nation was created. In mediaeval times the citystate

tried to reassert itself in the Municipalities of France and

Germany and municipal freedom had to be blotted out by an

absolute monarchy before national unity was realised.Whenever

a smaller or different unity,whether it be that of the province, the

church or the feudal fief, tends to live for itself, it is an obstacle

to national unity and has to be either broken up or subordinated

if the nation is to fulfil its unity. Ancient India could not build

itself into a single united nation, not because of caste or social

differences as the European writers assert,—caste and class have

existed in nations which achieved a faultless national unity,—

but because the old polity of the Hindus allowed the village to

live to itself, the clan to live to itself, the province or smaller

race-unit to live to itself. The village, sufficient to itself, took no

interest in the great wars and revolutions which affected only

the ruling clans of the kingdom including it in its territorial

jurisdiction. The Kshatriya clans fought and married and made

peace among themselves, and were the only political units out

of which a nation might have been built. But the clan too was so

attached to its separate existence that it was not till the clans

were destroyed on the battlefield of Kurukshetra that larger

national units could be built out of their ruins. Small kingdoms

took their place based on provincial or racial divisions and until

7 March 1908 909

the inrush of foreign peoples an attempt was in progress to build

them into one nation by the superimposition of a single imperial

authority. Many causes prevented the success of the attempt, and

the provincial unit has always remained the highest expression

of the nation-building tendencies in India. One cause perhaps

more than any other contributed to the failure of the centripetal

tendency to attain self-fulfilment, and that was the persistence

of the village community which prevented the people, the real

nation, from taking any part in the great struggles out of which

a nation should have emerged. In other countries the people

had to take part in the triumphs, disasters and failures of their

rulers either as citizens or at least as soldiers, but in India they

were left to their little isolated republics with no farther interest

than the payment of a settled tax in return for protection by

the supreme power. This was the true cause of the failure of

India to achieve a distinct organized and self-conscious nationality.

It is worthy of notice that the Indian race in which the

national idea attained its most conscious expression and most

nearly attained realization, was the Mahratta people who drew

their strength from the village democracies and brought them to

interest themselves in the struggle for national independence. If

the Mahrattas had been able to rise above the idea of provincial

or racial separateness, they would have established a permanent

empire and neither of the Wellesleys could have broken their

power by diplomacy or in the field. The British, historians have

told us, conquered India in a fit of absence of mind. In a fit

of absence of mind also they destroyed the separate life of our

village communities and, by thus removing the greatest obstacle

in the way of national development, prepared the irresistible

movement towards national unity which now fills them with

dismay. The provinces have been brought together, the village

has been destroyed. It only remains for the people to fulfil their

destiny.

We are now turning our eyes again to the village under

the stress of an instinct of self-preservation and part of our

programme is to recreate village organization. In doing so we

must always remember that the village can be so organized as to

910 Bande Mataram

prove a serious obstacle to national cohesion. One or two of our

leading publicists have sometimes expressed themselves as if our

salvation lay in the village and not in the larger organization of

the nation. Swaraj has been sometimes interpreted as a return

to the old conditions of self-sufficient village life leaving the

imperial authority to itself, to tax and pass laws as it pleased

—ignored because it is too strong to be destroyed. Even those

who see the futility of ignoring Government which seeks to

destroy every centre of strength, however minute, except itself,

sometimes insist on the village as the secret of our life and ask

us to give up our ambitious strivings after national Swaraj and

realise it first in the village. Such counsel is dangerous, even

if it were possible to follow it. Nothing should be allowed to

distract us from the mighty ideal of Swaraj, national and pan-

Indian. This is no alien or exotic ideal, it is merely the conscious

attempt to fulfil the great centripetal tendency which has pervaded

the grandiose millenniums of her history, to complete the

work which Srikrishna began, which Chandragupta and Asoka

and the Gupta Kings continued, which Akbar almost brought to

realisation, for which Shivaji was born and Bajirao fought and

planned. The organization of our villages is an indispensable

work to which we must immediately set our hands, but we must

be careful so to organize them as to make them feel that they

are imperfect parts of a single national unity, and dependent at

every turn on the co-operation first of the district, secondly of the

province, and finally of the nation. The day of the independent

village or group of villages has gone and must not be revived;

the nation demands its hour of fulfilment and seeks to gather

the village life of its rural population into a mighty, single and

compact democratic nationality.We must make the nation what

the village community was of old, self-sufficient, self-centred,

autonomous and exclusive—the ideal of national Swaraj.