The following article is the translation of an extract from a Marathi book titled Atma-Vritta (My Life Story) by Dr. V. V. Athalye, published in 1958. The extract is from page 136. Translated by J. S. Kuppuswamy, this is an illuminating document on the attitude of Sri Aurobindo as a politician when he had led the Nationalist Party.
With warm regards,
In 1910, January, the Hooghly District Political Conference was held near Calcutta. Some of our medical students went to the Conference. The delegates to the Conference were divided into two groups: Moderates and Extremists. The Extremist group was lodged in a bungalow called Dutch Villa. Naturally, we too stayed there. The leader of the Extremists was Aurobindo Ghose. He was given an independent room. The others occupied the open spaces in the bungalow. One incident of this occasion stands out for its great sublimity, and is worth remembering. Before the start of the Conference Aurobindo was seated in his room. He was surrounded by his colleagues, and Dr. Paranjpe, though a worker from Vidharbha and not from Bengal, went in because of his acquaintance and got for himself a seat next to Aurobindo.
We students stood outside the room and listened to the discussion going on inside. Aurobindo’s colleagues were making forceful speeches, exhorting him to trounce the Moderates in that Conference, by any and every means. Aurobindo would not agree to this improper method. Seeing that he was not coming round, Paranjpe broke in: “Aurobindo Babu, you don’t know politics. You must bring down the Moderates by any means fair or foul, by hook or crook.” The Maharashtrian workers in the field of politics have an over-high opinion of their own political sagacity!
“What are these Bengalis after all? Just simpletons who hold the Marathas in dread: such is their past.” This, in effect, was the tone of Paranjpe’s remark to Aurobindo.
Aurobindo was very calm. After everybody had spoken, he said, “No, I shall never agree to that. Do you have any idea what great work Surendranath Banerji and his Moderate Party have done in Bengal politics? We are standing on their shoulders and because of that we appear tall. Besides this, whatever be anybody’s work, I shall not be a party to bringing about their downfall by foul means. We shall fully respect the Moderate Party and place before the Conference, in clear terms, our stand of Independence. If our ideal is sacred and lofty and just, the Conference cannot but give its verdict in our favour. If you do not accept this policy I shall withdraw from this Conference.”
The sublimity of Aurobindo’s advice was so effective that his colleagues and Paranjpe shut up as if they had been slapped in the face. The Conference was conducted in accord with Aurobindo’s policy and the votaries of Independence had a victory over the Moderates by straightforward methods.
Aurobindo’s noble yet powerful stand made a great impression on me. In my later life, on many such occasions, this teaching has kept me watchful.