Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya

Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya
Speeches & Writings

Repressive Measures in Bengal


In moving the following resolution of the Twenty first Indian National Congress held at Benares in 1905 Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya said :-Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen :- The resolution which the Committee have done me the honour of entrusting to me reads as follows :-


"That this Congress records its earnest and emphatie protest against the repressive measures which have been adopted by the authorities in Bengal, after the people there had been compelled to resort to the boycott of foreign goods as a last protest, and perhaps the only constitutional and effective means left to them of drawing the attention of the British Public to the action for the Government of India in persisting in their determination to the Partition of Bengal in utier disregard of the universal prayers and protests of the people."


Gentlemen, the brilliant speech that you heard from my esteemed friend, Babu Surendranath Banerjee, told you all that was necessary to justify the acceptance of this resolution by you. You speak here of the repressive measures that have been adopted in Bengal. How those measures have come to be adopted is not a matter which requires to be told now. The Government of India, or rather Lord Curzon, determined upon the Partition of Bengal." The people at the earliest opportunity came to know of it, submitted respectful repeesentations against the proposal.


Memorial is followed memorials, petitions were submitted, meetings of protest were held, and every constitutional means which the people were aware of, was adopted to point out to Government that absolutely no case has been made out for cutting Bengal into two, and placing it under two different administrations, All that was not heeded, People met together, they sent representations to the Secretary of State who was the next higher authority. Unfortunately that again was unheeded, People took the last step of going upto the House of Commons and submitted petitions signed by a large number of people and got some English Member of the House to support the petition. A debate was held, but nothing came out of it. Now, gentlemen, this went on for a long time. We live under a constitutional Government. The means that have been pointed out as open to those who live under a constitutional Government, were the very means which the people of Bengal adopted. There was absolutely nothing that anybody could take exception to in their methods. (Hear, hear.) They proceeded in the coolest manner without showing any passion, using every possible argument that they could think of, and putting it in the most moderate languagepossible. (Hear, hear) Gentlemen, some evil genius guided, the intellect of thosel who were in power at the time. They turned a deaf ear to all rejfesentations that were so made. They determined upon the "Partition of Bengal." I will not go into the history of the matter as it hasbeen so brilliantly put before you by previous speakersin connection with the other resolution. The result was that people waited. There was absolutely no show of violence evtyn up to this time. Though people's passions have been excited to the uttermost, yet the Government heeded not. Gentlemen, any other people driven to that desperate condition would pro- bably have taken steps worse than those that were adopted in Bengal. Be it said to the credit of our countrymen in Bengal (cheers) that on an occasion when their feeling had been stirred to their deepest depths. when the whole Province of Bengal had been agitated as no part of India had been agitated after the days of the Mutiny, be it said to the credit of the young men of Bengal (cheers), that in. the midst of so much excitement not one case has been proved in which they have resorted to illegal or unjust means with the objects of getting redress. Gentlemen, the Government which was anxious to carryon the admiaistrationolthe country on lines of sound states manship would have rejoiced at the sight, and would have been moved by the very circumstance that the people so moderate and self-restraint, even on such occasions, to accede to their demands. It was the misfortune of the Government of India, that it did not Iisten to these demands. The result was that people found themselves in utter darkness land despair. What did they do? They found out that their voices were feeble. Even the powerful voice of our friend, Babu Surendra Nath Banerjee had failed to penetrate into the, ears of the powers-that-be. The best of the men in the land, the most respected members of the community, men like Maharaja Sir Jotindra Mohun Tagore, Sir Gurudas Banerjee, who do not love to indulge in what is called political agitation; came outto their retirement add pressed upon the Government the wisdom of listening to the prayers of the people. No response yet. People then said "what are we to do? Well, we are placed in this circumstance; very well, we shall raise another noise which probably-will be carried across the waters and make a stir in England; we shall boycott foreign goods." It is an extreme measure I grant. No sensible man, no man who wishes well of his country would for a moment desire that there should be anything done to create dissension between our fellow subjects in England and in this country. No man who understands the real needs of the country and the situation in which we are placed, will desire that there should exist anything but cordial good-will among our fellow-subjects in England and in this country. It was, therefore, no matter of satisfaction, it could not be to any well wisher of this country, to either initiate the idea of boycott or to encourage it. It was boycott-nearly as an extreme measure which they found themselves compelled under the circumstances to adopt. It was adopted as a measure which might possibly, when all other respectlul representacious had failed, make an impression upon some people of England and lead to the consideration of the prayers of the United Bengal. Gentlemen, a great deal of commotion was created. Remember, that it was all a peaceful commotion, it was a commotion of a law abiding people who know what is the measure they could adopt in the circumstancesthey were placed. Boycott went on. After it had been adopted, after the idea had been caught.sand had begun to work, came unfortunately a series of repressive measures. Men who had erred, instead of taking wisdom from the facts that have come into existence, determined to persist in their obstinacy, determined to refuse to consider whether there was any justification for people resorting to such measures. They began to persecute, Persecution is the only word can use for what you have heard from our friends in Bengal as having been adopted. To appoint respectable men as special constables when there was absolately no shadow ofexcuse for saying that there was any violence to authority intended or indicated; to appoint respectable members of the community leaders, men of light and leading to that disgraceful position when nothing has been done to justify it; to abolish and take away from the doors of the people sign-boards wherever you found Bande-Mataram; to tell people-advice is the word used in some of the correspondeuce-- (laughter) advise people to leave their cities and go away in exile; to go and send a posse of policemen to watch the meeting of citizens held to consider what they should do to protest against what the authorities were doing; was there any necessity to do any of these things? Was there any indication that anybody wanted to rebel against the authority of the Government of the country? Throughout all these many months, during the whole period, there was never a single instance of any misbehaviour. The best proof of this lies in the circumstance that not a single case had occursed which could afford any justification for the adoption of such a course. Petty and frivolous excuses were found to put people into trouble, to harass them, to intimidate them, but not one single instance in which anything had been done which would have justified them to have recourse to such extreme and impolitic measures. Now gentlemen, I may tell you, that when you find a state of things like this, it ceases to be a question which concerns one Province or one district, You have been much exercised, someof you, my brotherdelegates, at the thought as to why this was a matter which should be taken up by the Congress, A matter which affects the whole, Province of Bengal, which affects as large, an area as, the Province of Bengal, is not this a question, for the consideration of the Congress? If in justice was done to one single individual throughout the length and breadth of the British Empire, and if we felt that that injustice ought to be remedied or protested against, it would be your duty to do so (Cheers.) If you allow such an outrageous course as has been followed in Bengal to go un- protested by you, you will be failing to discharge your duty. (Cheers) lt has been the misfortune of Bengal that it has happened there. Gentlemen, do not console yourselves with the idea that such misfortune may not befall, another part of the country to-morrow. What you have to do is to protest against such things happening under the rule of His Majesty the King Emperor of England and India. They might happen in Russia; you and I are not concerned with them. Recourse has not been had to such measures in British Territories for a long time past. We are not anxious that these methods should be perpetuated which they would be if we allow them to go unprotested. Gentlemen, this then is the justification for the resolution which I have placed before you.


It is not that the Congress. advocates the adoption of boycott all over the country generally (Hear, Hear.) You have to bear it clearly in mind that no one who understaads, the real interests of the country desires to create any unnecessary tension of feeling between our fellow subjects in England and, here. The Government, if they are really earnest and sincere in their desire to see that this spirit which the boycott movement has created ougbt to subside, have the remedy in their own hands. Let them undo, the great mischief which has been done by this unnecessary partition, and boycott, as a boycott, shall cease tomorrow (Cheers). Remember, gentlemen, we ought not to mix up Swadeshi with Boycott (hear hear). It is a great mistake to mix up the two. Bengal was partitioned a short while ago. But the Swadeshi movement is as old within my own personal knowledge, as 30 years ago. The doctrine was preached when I was at school, and I am happy and proud to say that I have been benefitted by it, and adopted it the moment I entered Colleges. Since that day to this, along with many other friends even in this Province, we have been using manufactures of Indian make so far as we have been able to obtain them. That movement stands on quite a different footing, and it would be wrong to the country and to the best interests of the people to mix up the two, to confuse the Swadeshi movement with Boycott. Speaking for myself I do not want to keep up boycott of foreign goods. What is desirable so far as the Swadeshi movement is concerned, is quite another matter. That has gone on arid will go on. As far as boycott is concerned, I think I express the sense of all of you, or nearly all of you, when I say that the Congress would rejoice to see boycott come to an end, if the cause which has given rise to it were to cease to exist. It is, therefore, entirely in the power of Government to put an end to this boycott. If it continues, it continues owing to no fault of the people, owing to no disposition among the people, to keep it up. If they are wise, as I hope they will be, with the change that has come on in the Ministry. I hope that the powers that be will take the earliest opportunity to put an end to the feeling which has been created by this "Partition of Bengal". Gentlemen, with these few observations I beg to commend this resolution to your consideration (Cheers). With regard to one of those measures that have been adopted, I would like with your permission, to add a few words. Bande-Mataram is a very innocent exclamation. You simply say: "Hail mother-land, or I bow to thee, the mother-land." Nothing sidious, nothing poisonous and nothing seditious about it. Now, gentlemen, 1 am surprised that any Englishman and son of England who has been brought up on the noble life-giving literature of England should object even for a moment to the use of Bande-Mataram. In the few books of literature which I had the good fortune to read, I came across a passage that Chatham in his dying moments cried out "my country, my country," Englishmen regard him with adoration. When you find Nelson sending out a message to his soldiers at a critical moment in the name of England, you admire and respect him. When you come across passages in Shakespeare where the feeling of love for the mother country is well and happily described, Englishmen rejoice as much as we do on reading those passages. Throughout the whole literature of England, as in all the literatures of the world you will find that the love for the regarded as an indication of healthy feeling. You will find that not only no exception is taken, but if you find a man lacking in that love for mother-country, reproach is cast on his face by Sir Walter Scott, which was so well expressed by the President. That being so, I cannot understand how any Englishman who has got English feelings yet in him can really object to the use of "Bande-Mataram." We do not in the least degree want to encourage rowdyism either in young men or the old. The Congress does not desire that any agitation or any representation or any public demonstration that has to be made should be in the least degree affected or spoiled by exuberance of feeling. We have been taught by the Great Teacher Sri Krishna, that duty has to be done in the Satwik manner, doing it merely as a matter of duty, not bragging or boasting, that he was doing his duty, inspired by fortitude and by enthusiasm, unooncerned about the success or failure, determined only to do his duty and to do it merely as his duty, That is the attitude in which we have to approach the question.(Cheers.) No feeling of hatred and no feeling of resentment ought to be brought into the matter. You have merely to do it as a matter of duty, and one means left to you by pointing out what you feel to Government has to be resorted. I hope the resolution that 1 have had the honour of placing before you will commend itself to your acceptance (Loud Cheers).






Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya