Murders in the Land of the Naïve – 5
Peter Heehs wrote Sri Aurobindo: A Brief Biography, OUP, 1989 (Bio-1), and The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, CUP, 2008, (Bio-2), and a life-sketch. My attitude and approach to Bio-2 Preface is empowered by its own diktat: Biographers must take their documents as they find them…, paying as much attention to what is written by the subject’s enemies as by his friends, not giving special treatment even to the subject’s own version of events. Accounts by the subject have exceptional value, but they need to be compared against other narrative accounts, more important, against documents that do not reflect a particular point of view. I take this preface at face value, compare it against other narrative accounts and facts that do not reflect its version of events, and analyse it with its device – critical openness of a seeker of truth. In the resultant exposé, Lives of Marcher, ‘Marcher’ is a fusion of his forebears Catherine Mayo (1867-1940) and William Archer (1856-1924), though Marcherism – degrading the Sanatana Dharma and vilifying the greatest children of Mother India, was born centuries before Mayo-Archer. Peter Marcher Heehs first encountered Sri Aurobindo in 1968. To encounter means to meet face to face, defy, oppose, confront. Of the too few exposed Marchers, ours alone continues to thrive at his subject’s expense. But its entire credit goes to his Daemon, a special emission of “the falsehood of the mental, vital and physical Powers and Appearances that still rule the earth-Nature”.
All text in Italics is from the prefaces of Bio-1 and Bio-2; that in Roman is mine.
Peter’s Attitude and Approach–F): 1) I first encountered Aurobindo in a yoga center in 1968…later…I found myself living in another yoga center which had the most complete collection of his writings…. Now and then I thought about travelling to India, and eventually bought a ticket for Bombay. The genre of hagiography, in the general sense of the term, is very much alive in India. Any saint with a following is the subject of one or more books that tell the inspiring story of his or her birth, growth, mission, and passage to the eternal. Biographies of literary and political figures do not differ much from this model. People take the received version of their heroes’ lives very seriously. A statement about a politician or poet that rubs people the wrong way will be turned into a political or legal issue, or cause a riot. The problem is not whether the disputed statement is true, but whether anyone has the right to question an account that flatters a group identity.
Some generations count more than others. The United States owes an enormous debt to the men and women born between 1730 and 1760 who took part in the events of 1770 to 1790. Modern India owes as much to its own revolutionary cohort, men and women born between 1860 and 1900 who prepared and participated in the Struggle for Freedom. In popular memory, both groups are represented by a small number of exemplars: in America, the more important founders; in India, a dozen or so political, cultural, and spiritual leaders, among them [political] Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, B.R. Ambedkar, [cultural] Tagore, [spiritual] Vivekananda, and Sri Aurobindo.
Of these, Aurobindo is the most difficult to categorize. He was, for a moment, the most important leader in the country, the first to say clearly that the goal of the national movement was independence. But he was also a scholar, a poet, a philosopher, and above all, a yogi and spiritual leader. His diverse achievements at various times can make it seem as though he led four or five different lives in a single lifetime. Most of the documents I found in public archives dealt with Aurobindo’s life as a politician. They confirmed that he had been an important figure in the Struggle for Freedom, but fell short of proving what his followers believed: that he was the major cause of its success. Nevertheless, his contribution was significant and, at the same time, not very well known. Accounts that had been written to correct this deficiency were so uncritical that they undermined their own inflated claims. But when I began to write articles about his life, I found that there were limits to what his admirers wanted to hear. Anything that cast doubt on something that he said was taboo, even if his statement was based on incomplete knowledge of the facts. Almost as bad was anything that challenged an established interpretation, even one that clearly was inadequate.
My Comments: Marcher had psycho-analysed Sri Aurobindo in 1968-71 as he zipped through his writings and those of the Western greats whose ideas he had plagiarised (e.g. Darwin’s evolution), so it did not take him long to psycho-analyse our native Indian psyche and confirm his precursors’ verdict: Blind slavery to hagiographies of the lives of our saints, yogis, Rishis, Gods (the Sanatana Dharma), even of our political and social leaders, have created irrational group identities that turn even realistic comments and corrections of the established interpretations of these hagiographies by altruistic scholars like him, into a political or legal issue, or a riot. Marcher is pointing to the fates of Mayo’s Mother India, Archer’s India and the Future , Wolport’s Gandhi’s Passion, Taslima’s and Rushdie’s books, and the genocides of Jan-Feb.’48 due to the murder of Mahatma Gandhi and of Oct-Nov.’84 due to that of Mrs. Gandhi.
A recent comment of Dr Prema Nandakumar is relevant here: “In the years of growing up…one definitely needs an icon. It may not be oriented towards a repeat performance of the achievements of the icon. But the presence of an icon is a constant inspiration: someone points out this image: ‘Try to be like this in real life!’ India, fortunately, is rich in this sphere. For millennia great men and women have worked like gods on this earth. People have followed them eagerly as a talisman against going under…. Their achievements are Himalayan, yet we have not recorded the life and work of all these great personalities. Where we manage to do that at least with partial brush-strokes, there come the icon-shatterers looking for cheap publicity. Handling vague research instruments such as Marxian sociology and Freudian psychology that can only lead to dubious results, the icon-shatterers, invariably suffering from the metaphoric scotoma, exult into their cracked mirrors: ‘I have managed to scratch this face with a rusted knife!’ However, Mother India is a tough goddess. Rooted in Sanatana Dharma, she remains spiritually a single unit. Her image endures for all time.”
Depending on your definition of India, Indians, and Freedom, India’s Struggle for Freedom began in 1919, 1885, 1857, 1818, 17th cent., 7th cent., 5000 years ago, or even earlier. Marcher’s choice of generations who count more than others, especially his first four more important founders, proves him a servile careerist. This is why he omits Patel, Rajaji, Azad, Prasad, Kidwai, and Bose, whose roles were no less decisive but whom his patrons, the left-wing ‘historians’, have devalued, and Tilak and Sri Aurobindo whom they have discarded. Of these, I touch upon the two judged as most tainted by Hindu communalism and the two judged as its originators.
Sardar Patel qualifies as a more important founder because a) From the day he joined the freedom struggle he never stopped striving for an undivided self-respecting Swaraj; b) Gandhi consulted him alone in 1919 and in Jan.’48 on “What shall we do now?”; c) though nominated by the majority of Provincial Congress Committees (PCCs) as President for 1928, 1936 and 1946 (when 13 of the 15 PCCs wanted him and none Nehru), he withdrew in favour of Nehru on Gandhi’s order, with the result that Nehru became the first Prime Minister; and d) Both Maulana Azad, the outgoing President of 1945, and Rafi Kidwai (Nehru’s principal aide) later asserted that had Patel been PM, the administration and the economic lot of people, esp. Muslims, would not have suffered as it did. But Marcher omits him because a) he joined the majority in the Constituent Assembly demanding Kashmir’s full integration in the Indian Union and opposed the clause giving it unique status and powers; b) actively participated in the renovation of the temple of Somnath and got President Prasad to inaugurate it; c) opposed India’s Pact with Pakistan on safeguards to religious minorities in India, for it betrayed the 11-million Hindus of East Pakistan; d) joined Rajaji, Prasad and Kriplani in disowning the creed of Socialism; and e) warned of Chinese intentions on Indian territories. For these sins, President Prasad was advised not to attend his funeral. His worst sin for Marcher may be his being in touch with Sri Aurobindo through Purani whom he knew since mid-1910s when he was Mayor of Ahmedabad where two of Purani’s akharas were very active.
Rajendra Prasad is omitted because: a) Nehru considered him a Hindu revivalist; b) he, along with Patel, Rajaji and Kriplani, disowned the creed of Socialism; c) as President he inaugurated the renovated Somnath temple against Nehru’s wishes; d) Nehru fearing that if re-elected President, he will stage a coup with RSS and Jan Sangh’s help, tried in vain to prevent it; f) his successful tours of Japan and South-East Asia added to Nehru’s fear, leading to the cancellation of his visit to USA in 1959 in response to Eisenhower’s personal invitation, and to UK in 1961 in response to the Queen’s personal invitation; g) he declared, “One day corruption will verily prove a nail in the coffin of the Congress”; h) advised J&K’s full integration in the Indian Union; i) warned against the needless interference of the Centre with the affairs of the states; j) declared that the Govt’s diplomatic approach to China was riddled with weaknesses and wishful thinking; and k) pained by Nehru’s impassivity while China gobbled Tibet, he declared: “I see the murder of Tibet recoiling on India.” For these sins, Nehru asked President Radhakrishnan not to attend his funeral.
Lokamanya Tilak: Marcher spurns Gandhi’s assertion: “No man of our times had the hold on the masses that Tilak had [or] preached the gospel of Swaraj with the consistency and insistence of Lokamanya;” and ignores the fact that Tilak’s social democratic party started in Jan.’20 stood for religious toleration, betterment of inter-communal relations, readjustment of provinces on a linguistic basis, promotion of Hindi as link language, a Constituent Assembly to frame a federal Constitution drawn up by Indians, universal adult franchise, nationwide prohibition, protection of labour through guaranteed minimum wage, and a public sector for key industries. Marcher omits Tilak partly because Nehru had inherited his father’s lack of “sympathy or understanding of the swadeshi and boycott movements” led by Tilak as their “background of religious nationalism was alien to his nature” and held that “socially speaking, the revival of Indian nationalism in 1907 was…inevitably a religious nationalism”; but primarily because Nehruvian historians blame Tilak and Jinnah for the 1916 Lucknow Pact in order to hold them alone responsible for communalising politics (see Appendix).
Sri Aurobindo: Marcher’s dharma is to refute and malign Sri Aurobindo while appearing to affirm and admire him. Putting him for a moment among his more important founders, he promptly dismisses him because 1) he was only for a moment, the most important leader in the country, and 2) most of (not all!) the documents I found in public archives dealt with that momentary life as a politician. They confirmed that he had been an important figure in the Struggle for Freedom, but fell short of proving what his followers believed: that he was the major cause of its success.
1) But he was not even for a moment, the most important political leader in the country! Throughout his political career the blessed country was teeming with The Most Important Leaders of the Loyalist-Moderate Congress! What he was for a moment (May.’09 to Feb.’10) was the only Nationalist (‘Extremist’ is Marcher’s spiteful term) leader in the country! And this, in Marcher’s words, is what led to that moment: The successor of Mr Beck, the first English principal of Alighar’s Anglo-Oriental College, was behind the Muslim deputation of 1906 to Viceroy Minto that demanded among other things, that Muslims should be represented on the Councils as a separate community whose position should be estimated by the service it rendered to the Empire. This ‘entente cordial’ helped found the Muslim League in Dec.’06 and resulted in the inclusion of separate electorates for Muslims in Morley-Minto Reforms or the Council Act of 1909 – the first seeds of Partition. At the Dec.’06 Calcutta Congress the Extremists had the better of the Moderates. The British grew aware that the Extremists posed a genuine challenge to their rule. The predictable result was that they and the Moderates joined forces in common cause against the Extremists. This ‘entente cordial’ helped the Moderates to evict the Extremists from their Congress in Dec.’07 and the Govt to scatter its leaders “by imprisonment, deportation or self-imposed exile”. It was after his acquittal in May.’09 that Sri Aurobindo was the sole remaining leader of the Nationalists in India .
2) Bio-2's Preface rejects the belief that Sri Aurobindo was the major cause behind India’s freedom because documents on his life as a politician (chosen by him from archives he trusts) do so, but the actual text of Bio-1 and Bio-2 imply it: a) Aurobindo read Shelley’s Revolt of Islam ‘again and again’ and resolved to dedicate his life ‘to a similar world change and take part in it.’ He had by then ‘received strongly the impression that a period of general upheaval and great revolutionary changes was coming in the world and he himself was destined to play a part in it’. b) He had begun his sadhana in 1904 with the idea of getting power and guidance…in his work to free India. Now in Pondicherry he began to look on that work as ‘a part and result’ of his sadhana. Hitherto limited to ‘the service and liberation of the country’, it now ‘fixed itself in an aim, previously only glimpsed, which was world-wide in its bearing and concerned with the whole future of humanity.’ This is why, knowing that he “entered into political action and continued it from 1903 to 1910, with one aim and one alone, to get into the mind of the people a settled will for freedom and the necessity of struggle to achieve it”, no disciple claims that his momentary external political action alone was the major cause of India’s freedom.
What then is the real reason Marcher denies Sri Aurobindo a place in his more important founders? Thrilled by the opening provided by Tilak being held responsible for communalising politics, he convicts Sri Aurobindo as its main culprit: Aurobindo and his (Extremist) colleagues were proud to call themselves nationalists. Looking back over the last hundred years, it is clear that many of the worst injustices and atrocities have been committed by self-professed nationalists. Indian (read Extremist) nationalism failed to solve the problem of communalism because Aurobindo regarded religious conflict as a purely social matter refusing to see it as a vital political issue. He tried, half-heartedly, to bring Muslims into the movement, but he never gave the problem the attention it deserved. Could anything said or done in 1907 have changed the outcome forty years later? Probably not; still partition and its blood-letting were the Indian nationalist movement’s principal failings, and Aurobindo and his colleagues have to take their share of the blame. Despite the 40-year mêlée of Englishism, Gandhism, Jinnahism, Nehruism, Boseism, Americanism, Islamism, Christianism, Hinduism, and Stupidism! Had USA learnt from India’s partition and its blood-letting, and put into practice Marcher’s panacea for communal harmony and collective progress, would international cataclysms like Nine-Eleven and its unending sequel have happened?
But wait. In 1988 Marcher’s wrote: 1) It is certain, that the communal problem goes back… to a time when there was no political life as such in India. That is to say, the birth of the communal problem as a vital political issue has existed since alien -isms began invading in 5th–6th century: Sword preceding Book, Book preceding Sword, Sword escorting Book, and Marcherian cluster-bombs. And 2) One of the first steps the British took in 1870s to rally the Muslims against the Hindus, was to patronize the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College of Sayyid Ahmed Khan; in 1893, Beck, its first English principal, wrote “the objective of the Congress is to transfer the political control of the country from the British to the Hindus”; in 1894 a British official: “The better class of Mohammedans are a source to us of strength…since their political interests are identical with ours.” As a result communal tensions erupted into bloody rioting…in 1893 and 1894. It is referring to this bloody rioting that Sri Aurobindo wrote that very month in New Lamps for Old: “…the waters of the great deep are being stirred and that surging chaos of the primitive man over which our civilized societies are superimposed on a thin crust of convention, is being strangely and ominously agitated. Already a red danger-signal has shot up from Prabhas-Patan [home of Somnath temple], and sped across the country, speaking with rude eloquence of strange things beneath the fair surface of our renascent, enlightened India; yet no sooner was the signal seen than it was forgotten. Perhaps the religious complexion of these occurrences has lulled our fears; but when turbulence has once become habitual in a people, it is only folly that will reckon on its preserving the original complexion. A few more taxes, a few more rash interferences of Government, a few more stages of starvation, and the turbulence that is now religious will become social. [Let thinkers of the Congress] recollect what causes led from the religious madness of St. Bartholomew to the social madness of the Reign of Terror.” Does this passage support Marcher’s claim that Aurobindo regarded religious conflict as a purely social matter refusing to see it as a vital political issue?
In 1888, the Moderates put Marcher’s panacea in their Constitution. In 1919, they resolved to launch their first Maha-Yajna, an all-India League-Congress Non-cooperation Movement, and invited Sri Aurobindo “to come over and help”. But he “had to say that I was not ready to join…it would be no use my going out till I saw my way”. The Maha-Yajna was launched on 1st Aug.’20, the day Tilak died. The closing of Sri Aurobindo’s obituary of Tilak, published on 4th, ought to have opened their eyes, but didn’t: “Two things India demands for her future, the freedom of soul, life and action needed for the work she has to do for mankind; and the understanding by her children of that work and of her own true spirit that the future India may be indeed India…. On the spirit of our decisions now and in the next few years depends, the truth, vitality and greatness of our future national existence. It is the beginning of a great self-determination not only in the external but in the spiritual. These two thoughts should govern our action. Only so can the work done by Lokamanya Tilak find its true consummation and issue.”
Here is a terse précis of this Maha-Yajna from Dr. Ambedkar’s Pakistan or Partition of India which both Gandhi and Jinnah cited “as an authority on the subject”. It had its origin in the Khilafat agitation started by the Muslim League in Mar.’19 as a pan-Islamic political campaign to compel the British to protect the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of World War I. The Congress added the goal of Swaraj in one year to induce Hindus to join it. Within a year the Khilafatists grew impatient and began to migrate to Afghanistan to invite the Emir to invade India. Their impatience was most fiercely expressed during the Moplah Rebellion started to establish an Islamic kingdom. For six months from Aug.’21, it extended over 2,000 sq. miles of South Malabar. After paralysing the administration, it turned on Hindus: massacres, forcible conversions, desecration of temples, foul outrages against women such as ripping open pregnant women, pillage, arson and destruction, unrestrained barbarism. “About a lakh Hindus,” wrote Mrs. Besant, “were driven from their homes with nothing but the clothes they had on.”  For this too Marcher wants Aurobindo’s nationalism to take its share of the blame, as you will see if you read between the lines of his verdict: When the Non-Co-operation Movement was called off in 1922, communalism became rampant all over the country. The collapse of the Non-Cooperation Movement marked the end of joint political action by Hindus and Muslims.
Marcher expels Sri Aurobindo from his more important founders as he was, only for a moment, the most important leader in the country but he was also a scholar, a poet, a philosopher, and above all, a yogi and spiritual leader. His diverse achievements at various times can make it seem as though he led four or five different lives in a single lifetime. Do his patrons grant the implication that his first four founders qualify because they lacked scholarly, poetic, philosophical or spiritual traits and diverse achievements at various times that make it seem as though they led four or five different lives in a single lifetime? Let him create biographies of these four and the founders of USA like he did Bio-1, Bio-2: hosted by their admirers, paying as much attention to what is written by their enemies as by their friends, not giving special treatment to their own version of events; comparing them against other narrative accounts and documents that do not reflect their point of view; and adequately bringing out their human characteristics and personal drama. Let him then publicise the limits to what their admirers want to hear his interpretations and statements based on his complete knowledge of facts.
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Appendix: The 1916 Lucknow Pact
The Morley-Minto Reforms or Council Act of 1909 included separate electorates for Muslims. This communal inequity was deepened by the Lucknow Pact. “The Hindu-Muslim Concordat & the Lucknow Pact,” writes Congress historian Sitarammaya, “were the off-springs of the seed sown at the 1913 Congress presided over by Nawab Naba Syed Mahmud of Madras.” That year Jinnah joined the League, thus becoming a member of both parties. The Mar.’15 Congress Session was attended by League top brass and the Nov.’15 League Session was attended by the Congress top brass. In Apr’16, preliminaries of the Concordat were drafted by the executives of both parties at Motilal Nehru’s residence, almost hammered out in Oct. at Calcutta, & finalized in December just before their Lucknow Sessions. The Concordat’s central article was: One-third of the elected members to the Imperial Legislative Councils will be Muslims elected through separate electorates. Congress adopted the Pact on 29th and the League on 31st.
Tilak who was deported to Burma in Jun.’08, was released in Jun.’14. The Congress admitted him in Jan.’16. At Lucknow, assuming that the Pact pledged joint League-Congress actions, he argued in vain for a joint Home Rule movement that could succeed in the world-wide post-war agitation for Self-determination. It was this assumption that Sri Aurobindo called his greatest blunder. The 1919 Montford Reforms included the Lucknow Pact en bloc, exacerbating the Hindu-Muslim divide created by the Act of 1909. On 24 Dec.’19 it became the Act of 1919. The Amritsar Congress rejected the Act and resolved to start an all-India agitation to which, it invited Sri Aurobindo to “come over and help”. Referring to this resolve Sri Aurobindo wrote in Jan.’20: “…the will for freedom…if the country keeps its present temper…is bound to prevail…. What preoccupies me now is…how will it use its freedom, on what lines is it going to determine its future?”
The Dec.’20 Nagpur Congress (over which Tilak’s party wanted Sri Aurobindo to preside), “turned its back on constitutional methods of agitation”; Jinnah till then wedded to constitutional agitation, arguing that “pseudo-religious approach” and “mob hysteria” of the Khilafat-Non-cooperation agitation were diluting the nationalism of the Indian Muslim, left the Congress. He had joined it as an admirer of the ardent constitutionalist Dadabhai Naoroji who was elected to the British Parliament in 1892.
 Presumably they were approved by the Ashram Trust as per Rule No. 6 on p.5 of its Rules of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 2003: “Nothing should be sent out for publication (contributions to newspapers and magazines, or books) without having been first submitted to Sri Aurobindo for approval.”
 Sri Aurobindo, The Mother, Chapter 1
 Bio-2:203: Aurobindo’s essays in the Karmayogin are not particularly original. Many of them try to harmonise the Upanishads and the late Victorian science by means of evolution. Some of his arguments now seem rather quaint. A seed grows into a certain sort of tree, Aurobindo wrote, because “the tree is the idea involved in the seed.” In the light of molecular biology, this is at best a metaphor.
 See Ed. Notes in Foundations of Indian Culture, SABCL 14, and The Renaissance…, CWSA 20.
 Prema Nandakumar, “Amid the Leaves the Intimate Voices Called” Mother India, Sept. 2013:790
 Durga Das, India From Curzon to Nehru and After, Collins, London, 1969:67, 134, 175, 181, 272, 281, 331, 333, 337-79
 Durga Das:331-39
 Joseph Bapista invited Sri Aurobindo to come and out be the editor of this party. For Sri Aurobindo reply, which describes the political and historical conditions of the time, see CWSA 36:254-57
 Durga Das:61-63, 70-71, 77; Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru: An Autobiography, Allied Pub. Pvt. Ltd., 1962:21-24; Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee, Aditya Mukherjee, K.N. Panikkar & Sucheta Mahajan, India’s Struggle for Independence, Penguin, Delhi, 1989:420, 432
 Bio-1:43; Heehs’ …Struggle:74, 154
 CWSA 36:8
 Bio-1:70, SABCL 26:423, 37, 34; Bio-1:11 and Bio-2:15’s Aurobindo read [Shelley’s Revolt of Islam] ‘again and again’ and resolved to dedicate his life ‘to a similar world change and take part in it.’ He had by then ‘received strongly the impression that a period of general upheaval and great revolutionary changes was coming in the world and he himself was destined to play a part in it’.
 CWSA 36:255-56
 “The term ‘Extremist’, though never accepted by the party…is so well established in historical literature that it cannot be avoided.” So says Seeker of Truth, ‘disciple’ of Sri Aurobindo, P. Heehs in India’s Freedom Struggle – 1857-1947, OUP, 1988:64fn, without telling us ‘so well established’ by whom & why.
 Heehs’ …Struggle:152-54, 73-75
 CWSA 6:50. The Reign of Terror occurred in March-July 1793-94 during the French Revolution.
 CWSA 35:234-35; CWSA 1:660; see also A.B. Purani’s Evening Talks…, 2007:25
 B.R. Ambedkar, Pakistan or the Partition of India, Thacker & Co. Ltd, Bombay, 1940, 1945: x, 135-54; see also Annie Besant, The Future of Indian Politics: A contribution to the Understanding of Present-Day Problems, Kessinger Publishing, LLC; and Internet on the Moplah Rebellion.
 Heehs’ …Struggle: 97, 157
 Heehs’ …Struggle: 70-75,153-57; Bio-1:43, Bio-2:115, 124-25; Durga Das:49; Chandra, Mukherjee, Mukherjee, Panikkar & Mahajan’s …Struggle…:420, 432; A Short History of the I.N.C., M.V. Ramana Rao, S. Chand & Co., New Delhi, 1959; History of the I.N.C., P. Sitaramayya, 1935/1946; Md. Ali Jinnah (A Political Study), Matlubul Hasan Saiyid, Lahore, 1945; Gokhale: The Indian Moderates & the British Raj, B.R. Nanda, OUP, Delhi, 1979; Lokamanya B.G. Tilak, Karandhikar, 1957; Durga Das:68-70, 73-77; CWSA 36:234-35; 255-57