A brief note on Article 377

A brief note on Article 377

 The State should not intervene in the life of the individual unless he is causing harm to others and in some cases even to himself. Therefore in the collective life of the nation the greatest amount of freedom should be given to the individual; it is for the individual to decide his relationship with others. It is at the same time true that India has a rich tradition of culture and religion. But this should not be imposed on the individual by the State. Each individual must flower into his own tradition and religion by his own free will.

In this contest, I am referring to a passage from Sri Aurobindo, which I consider apt in the present situation.

Kittu Reddy

The State is bound to act crudely and in the mass; it is incapable of that free, harmonious and intelligently or instinctively varied action which is proper to organic growth. For the State is not an organism; it is a machinery, and it works like a machine, without tact, taste, delicacy or intuition. It tries to manufacture, but what humanity is here to do is to grow and create. We see this flaw in State-governed education. It is right and necessary that education should be provided for all and in providing for it the State is eminently useful; but when it controls the education, it turns it into a routine, a mechanical system in which individual initiative, individual growth and true development as opposed to a routine instruction become impossible. The State tends always to uniformity, because uniformity is easy to it and natural variation is impossible to its essentially mechanical nature; but uniformity is death, not life. A national culture, a national religion, a national education may still beuseful things provided they do not interfere with the growth of human solidarity on the one side and individual freedom of thought and conscience and development on the other; for they give form to the communal soul and help it to add its quota to the sum of human advancement; but a State education, a State religion, a State culture are unnatural violences. And the same rule holds good in different ways and to a different extent in other directions of our communal life and its activities. The business of the State, so long as it continues to be necessary element in human life and growth, is to provide all possible facilities for cooperative action, to remove obstacles, to prevent all really harmful waste and friction,—a certain amount of waste and friction is necessary and useful to all natural action,—and, removing avoidable injustice, to secure for every individual a just and equal chance of self-development and satisfaction to the extent of his powers and in the line of his nature. So far the aim in modern socialism is right and good. But all unnecessary interference with the freedom of man’s growth is or can be harmful. Even cooperative action is injurious if, instead of seeking the good of all compatibly with the necessities of individual growth,—and without individual growth there can be no real and permanent good of all,—it immolates the individual to a communal egoism and prevents so much free room and initiative as is necessary for the flowering of a more perfectly developed humanity. So long as humanity is not full-grown, so long as it needs to grow and is capable of a greater perfectibility, there can be no static good of all; nor can there be any progressive good of all independent of the growth of the individuals composing the all. All collectivist ideals which seek unduly to subordinate the individual, really envisage a static condition, whether it be a present status or one it soon hopes to establish, after which all attempt at serious change would be regarded as an offence of impatient individualism against the peace, just routine and security of the happily established communal order. Always it is the individual who progresses and compels the rest to progress; the instinct of the collectivity is to stand still in its established order. Progress, growth, realisation of wider being give his greatest sense of happiness to the individual; status, secure ease to the collectivity. And so it must be as long as the latter is more a physical and economic entity than a self-conscious collective soul.

Vol 25 Collected Works of Sri Aurobindo p 301


Fight for the front line by Priya Ramchandran


Priya Ravichandran is Programme Manager for the GCPP programme at the Takshashila Institution.


Fight for the front line

Serving your nation by serving in combat is an honour. Not allowing half the

Indians to do so is depressing.

In August this year, 35 CRPF women in

Chha0isgarh became the first Indian

women to be deployed for combat

duties. For a country that is still atavistic

in its beliefs about women entering

combat zones, the move to send this all

women group out for counter

insurgency operations into Maoist areas

was a sign of a quiet revolution. It

would have been logical to use the

experience from this mission to start a

larger conversation on allowing women

to enter into combat roles and to set the

stage for a gender neutral military. The

government and the military however

seem to prefer to shirk away from such

logical persuasions.

India traditionally does not allow its

women to serve in the infantry, artillery

or armoured corps, on board

operational warships or fly fighter jets in

combat. Women are also required to

retire after 14 years of service and can

seek permanent commission only in the

education corps and the legal branch.

The arguments against having them in

combat roles and in positions that might

7! Pragati- The Indian National Interest Review

Minnesota National Guardrequire them to control troops during

combat, have ranged from the

paternalistic to sexist. Retired military

officers have called into question

women’s ability to handle the pressures

of a combat role, PoW situations,

disturbance in rank and sexual

harassment in the military.

India’s views on having women in

combat operations is not new. However

what is troubling is the resistance to

change this a0itude in the face of

mounting evidence that proves women

to be at par with men, during combat.

Countries starting from Canada, Israel,

US, Brazil, Australia, France, Germany

have all pushed for and ratified

measures for inducting women into

infantry position and to serve on the

front line. Women have been sent to

Afghanistan, Iraq and are on the front

lines in the Israel-Palestine border.

One of the oft cited reasons for not

le0ing women sign up is the idea that

women are physically weaker than men

and therefore cannot sustain themselves.

Every one of the above mentioned

countries have figured out ways to

ensure that the standard requirement for

the military does not fall or the armed

forces itself does not suffer from sub par

candidates. Canada has maintained the

same standard of drills and tests for

women as they were for men. Canada

has maintained the same standard of

drills and tests for both men and

women. The United States of America is

looking into modifying the standards.

Women, have passed these tests and

have gone on to command platoons and

show exceptional courage under fire in

the most unforgiving of conditions. The

pressures of the combat role or being on

the front line have not shown to be

significantly higher in these women

neither have they been affected more

than men in facing war.

Opinions in the armed forces, point out

to the fact that a woman’s need to take

maternity leave and time for her family,

might potentially disrupt training and

add to the expenses. Women in any

profession are known to take time off for

their family. It is illogical to assume that

this would hinder her career or

progress. For a woman jawan who has

pledged to serve the nation and give her

life fighting for her country, working

during her ‘fertile’ years or arranging for

external assistance to help take care of

her family is not too much of a stretch.

Sexual harassment is something that

needs to be addressed. Proper combined

training exercises and appropriate

disciplinary measures much like the

ones that exist in corporate structures

can be put in place to ensure that an

integrated military works. Cultural

differences are but a crutch to lean on

when all else fails. The military is an

institution that demands the highest

standards of discipline, honour,

commitment and valour from all those

who are associated with it. To assume

that men, especially those belonging to a

rural background, would not pay heed

to a woman commander or would risk

suspension for sexually harassing an

officer, is to not trust those who work in

8! Pragati- The Indian National Interest Review

To assume that a

woman’s life means more

to this country than a

man’s is paternalistic,

and morally

reprehensible.the front line. India has moved forward.

We have had women sarpanchas, women

chief ministers, a woman president, a

woman prime minister, women

commanding policemen and even

women dacoits. If a man could subject

himself to listen to a woman in all of

these areas, the surely the military and

the government are underestimating the

capacity of Indian men.

One of the most ridiculous arguments

made against women combat officers

was by Air Marshal (retired) Sumit

Mukerji, who asked if we as a nation

were prepared for women PoW and to

see them be subject to the same

treatment as the men PoW. The

comparable question would be to ask

whether we as a nation are okay with

women stepping outside their homes

and being raped, tortured, maimed and

killed. To sign up for frontline duty is to

know that the possibilities of capture,

disability and death are all possible. A

soldier irrespective of gender goes into

war prepared for the worst of all

possible situations. To assume that a

woman’s life means more to this country

than a man’s is paternalistic, and

morally reprehensible. If a woman’s life

did mean more, then rape, infant

mortality and female illiteracy would be


An integrated military and women in

the front line and in combat situations is

not much of a stretch. A voluntary

armed forces is the most valuable

institution of a country. Serving in the

army and serving your nation is an

honour. Not allowing half the

population of the country to do so, is

depressing. There is a need to address

this deficiency and to ensure that people

following the footsteps of Shanti Tigga

get a chance to serve their country with


Sarcasm in journalism by Sri Aurobindo


In Praise of Honest John


Mr. John Morley is a very great man, a very remarkable and

exceptional man. I have been reading his Arbroath speech again

and my admiration for him has risen to such a boiling point that

I am at last obliged to let it bubble over into the columns of

the Bande Mataram. Mr. Morley rises above the ordinary ruck

of mortals in three very important respects; first, he is a literary

man; secondly, he is a philosopher; thirdly, he is a politician.

This would not matter much if he kept his literature, politics

and philosophy apart in fairly water-tight compartments; but

he doesn’t. He has not only doubled his parts, he has trebled

them; he is not merely a literary philosopher and philosophic

litterateur, he is a literary philosopher-politician. Now this is a

superlative combination; God cannot better it and the devil does

not want to. For if an ordinary man steals, he steals and there

are no more bones made about it; he gets caught and is sent

to prison, or he is not caught and goes on his way rejoicing.

In either case the matter is a simple one without any artistic

possibilities. But if a literary philosopher steals he steals on the

basis of the great and eternal verities and in the choicest English.


And so all along the line. An ordinary man may be illogical and

silly and everybody realises that he is illogical and silly; but the

literary man when he goes about the same business will be brilliantly

foolish and convincingly illogical while the philosopher

will be logically illogical and talk nonsense according to the

strictest rules of philosophical reasoning. An ordinary man may

turn his back on his principles and he will be called a turncoat,

or he may break all the commandments and he will be punished

by the law and society,—unless of course he is an American

millionaire or a member of the ruling race in India;—but the

literary philosopher will reconcile his principles with his conduct

by an appeal to a fur-coat or a syllogism from a pair of jackboots;

he will abrogate all the commandments on the strength

of a solar topee. A politician again will lie and people will take

it as a matter of course, especially if he is in office, but a literary

philosopher-politician will easily prove to you that when he is

most a liar, then he is most truthful and when he is juggling

most cynically with truth and principle, then he most deserves

the name of Honest John; and he will do it in such well-turned

periods that one must indeed have a very bad ear for the rhythm

of a sentence before one can quarrel with his logic. Oh yes, a

literary philosopher-politician is the choicest work of God,—

when he is not the most effective instrument in the hands of

the Prince of Darkness. For the Prince of Darkness is not only a

gentleman as Shakespeare discovered, but a gentleman of artistic

perceptions who knows a fine and carefully-worked tool when

he sees it and loves to handle it with the best dexterity and grace

of which he is capable.


Of course it is not his speeches alone for which I admire John

Morley. I admire him for what he has done almost as much as

for the way in which he has done it. He is not so great a man as

his master Gladstone who was the biggest opportunist and most

adroit political gambler democracy has yet engendered and yet

persuaded himself and the world that he was an enthusiast and a

man of high religious principle. But Gladstone was a genius and

his old henchman is only a man of talent. Still Mr. Morley has

done the best of which he is capable and that is not a poor best.

He has served the devil in the name of God with signal success

on two occasions. The first was when he championed the cause

of the financiers in Egypt, themen who gamble with the destinies

of nations, who make money out of the groans of the people and

coin into gold the blood of patriots and the tears of widows and

orphans,—when abusing his influence as a journalist, he lied to

the British public about Arabi and urged on Gladstone to crush

the movement of democratic and humanitarian Nationalism in

Egypt, the movement in which all that is noble, humane and

gracious in Islam sought fulfilment and a small field on earth

for the fine flowering of a new Mahomedan civilisation. The

second is now when he is trying in the sordid interests of British

capital to crush the resurgent life of India and baffle the attempt

of the children of Vedanta to recover their own country for the

development of a revivified Indian civilisation. The two foulest

crimes against the future of humanity of which any statesman

in recent times could possibly have been guilty, have been engineered

under the name and by the advocacy of honest John

Morley. Truly, Satan knows his own and sees to it that they do

not their great work negligently.


Mr. Morley is a great bookman, a great democrat, a great exponent

of principles. No man better fitted than he to prove

that when the noblest human movements are being suppressed

by imprisonment and the sword, it is done in the interests of

humanity; that when a people struggling to live is trampled

down by repression, pushed back by the use of the Gurkha and

the hooligan, the prison walls and the whipping-post into the

hell of misery, famine and starvation, the black pit of insult,

ignominy and bonds from which it had dared to hope for an

escape, the motive of the oppressor finds its root in a very agony

of conscientiousness and it is with a sobbing and bleeding heart

that he presses his heel on the people’s throat for their own

good; that the ruthless exploitation and starvation of a country

by foreign leeches is one of the best services that can be done

to mankind, the international crimes of the great captains of

finance a supreme work of civilisation and the brutal and selfish

immolation of nations to Mammon an acceptable offering on

the altar of the indwelling God in humanity. But these things

have been done and said before; they are the usual blasphemous

cant of nineteenth century devil-worship formulated when

Commerce began to take the place once nominally allowed to

Christ and the ledger became Europe’s Bible. Mr. Morley does

it with more authority than others, but his own particular and

original faculty lies in the direction I indicated when drawing

the distinction between the ordinary man and the extraordinary

Morley. What he has done has been after all on the initiative of

others; what he has said about it is his own, and nothing more his

own than the admirably brilliant and inconsequential phrases in

which he has justified wickedness to an admiring nation.


Man has been defined sometimes as a political animal and

sometimes as a reasoning animal, but he has become still more

pre-eminently a literary animal. He is a political animal who

has always made a triumphant mess of politics, a reasoning

animal whose continual occupation it is to make a system out

of his blunders, a literary animal who is always the slave of a

phrase and not the least so when the phrase means nothing. The

power of the phrase on humanity has never been sufficiently

considered. The phrase is in the nostrils of the vast unruly mass

of mankind like the ring in the nose of a camel. It can be led

by the phrasemaker wherever he wishes to lead it. And the only

distinction between the sage and the sophist is that the phrases

of the sage mean something while the phrases of the sophist only

seem to mean something. Now Mr. Morley is an adept in the

making of phrases which seem to mean something.


Take for instance his phrase “My anchor holds.” Mr. Morley

complains that he who has served Liberalism so long and so

well, is not allowed to be illiberal when he likes, that when he

amuses himself with a little reaction he is charged with deserting

his principles! “It is true, gentlemen,” says Mr. Morley, “that I

am doing things which are neither liberal nor democratic; but,

then, my anchor holds. Yes, gentlemen, I dare to believe that

my anchor holds.” So might a clergyman detected in immorality

explain himself to his parishioners, “It is true I have preached

all my life continence and chastity, yet been found in very awkward

circumstances; but what then?My anchor holds. Yes, dear

brethren in Christ, I dare to believe that my anchor holds.” So

might Robespierre have justified himself for the Reign of Terror,

“It is true, Frenchmen, that I have always condemned capital

punishment as itself a crime, yet am judicially massacring my

countrymen without pause or pity; but my anchor holds. Yes,

citizens, I dare to believe that my anchor holds.” So argues Mr.

Morley and all England applauds in a thousand newspapers and

acquits him of political sin.

But of course Mr. Morley’s crowning mercy is the phrase

about the fur coat. It is true that the simile about the coat

is not new in the English language; for a man who abandons

his principles has always been said to turn his coat; but never

has that profitable manoeuvre been justified in so excellently

literary and philosophic a fashion before. Mr. Morley has given

us the philosophy of the turncoat. “Principles”, he has said in

effect, “are not a light by which you can guide your steps in

all circumstances, but a coat which is worn for comfort and

convenience. In Canada, which is cold, you have to wear a fur

coat, there is no help for it; in Egypt which is hot, you can

change it for thin alpaca; in India where it is very hot indeed,

you need not wear a coat at all; the natives of the country did

not before we came and we should not encourage them to go in

for such an uncomfortable luxury. It is just so with principles,

democratic and other.” The reasoning is excellent and of a very

wide application. For instance it may be wrong in England to

convict a political opponent for political reasons of an offence

of which you know him to be innocent and on evidence you

know to be false, or to sentence a man to be hanged for a

murder which you are quite aware somebody else committed,

or to disregard the plainest evidence and allow a bestial ravisher

to go free because he happens to be a hog with a white skin,

but it is absurd to suppose that such principles can keep in

the heat of the Indian sun. It is difficult to know what iniquity

reasoning of this sort would not cover. “I thoroughly believe in

the ten Commandments,” Caesar Borgia might have said in his

full career of political poisonings and strangulations, “but they

may do very well in one country and age without applying at

all to another. They suited Palestine, but mediaeval Italy is not

Palestine. Principles are a matter of chronology and climate, and

it would be highly unphilosophical and unpractical of me to be

guided by them as if I were Christ or Moses. So I shall go on

poisoning and strangling for the good of myself and Italy and

leave ‘impatient idealists’ to their irresponsible chatter. Still I am

a Christian and the nephew of a pope, so my anchor holds, yes,

my anchor holds.”


Mr.Morley’s fur coat is one of themost comprehensive garments

ever discovered. All the tribe of high-aiming tyrants and patriotic

pirates and able political scoundrels and intelligent turncoats

that the world has produced, he gathers together and covers up

their sins and keeps them snug and comforted against the cold

blasts of censure blowing from a too logical and narrow-minded

world, all in the shelter of a single fur coat. And the British conscience

too, that wondrous production of a humorous Creator,

seeking justification for the career of cynical violence its representatives

have entered on in India, rejoices in Mr. Morley’s fur

coat and snuggles with a contented chuckle into its ample folds.

Am I wrong in saying that Honest John is a wonder-worker of

the mightiest and that Aaron’s magic rod was a Brummagem

fraud compared withMr. Morley’s phrases? Vivat John Morley!

VOLUME 6 and 7