Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sir Stafford Cripps Proposal

Along with the European war, India's political problem naturally played a prominent part in our discussion, Mahatma Gandhi's attitude, the Congress policy, the Hindu-Muslim problem, Jinnah's intransigence and the Viceroy's role as the peace-maker, all this complicated politics and our Himalayan blunders leading to the rejection of the famous Cripps' Proposals, were within our constant purview.... The upshot of the whole discussion till the arrival of the Cripps' Mission can be put in a few words; the Congress made a big mistake by resigning from the Ministry. The Government was ready to offer us Dominion Status which we should have accepted, for it was virtually a step towards independence. We should have joined the war-effort. That would have created an opportunity to enter into all military departments and operations in air, on sea and land; hold positions, become efficient and thus enforce our natural right for freedom.
When Gandhi complained that the Viceroy did not say anything in reply to all his questions, Sri Aurobindo said to us in one of our talks on October 7th, 1940:
"What will he say? It is very plain why he did not. First
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of all, the Government doesn't want to concede the demand for independence. What it is willing to give is .Dominion Status after the War, expecting that India will settle down into a common relationship with the Empire. But just now a national government will virtually mean Dominion Status with the Viceroy only as a constitutional head. Nobody knows what the Congress will do after it gets power. It may be occupied only with India's defence and give such help as it can spare to England. And if things go wrong with the British, it may even make a separate peace leaving them in the lurch. There are Left Wingers, Socialists, Communists whom the Congress won't be able to bring to its side, neither will it dare to offend them and if their influence is sufficiently strong, the Congress may stand against the British. Thus it is quite natural for them not to part with power just now as it is also natural for us to make our claims. But since we haven't got enough strength to back us, we have to see if we have any common meeting ground with the Government. If there is, a compromise is the only practical step. There was such an opportunity, but the Congress spoiled it. Now you have to accept what you get or I don't know what is going to happen. Of course, if we had the strength and power to make a revolution and get what we want, it would be a different matter. Amery and others did offer Dominion Status at one time. Now they have changed their position because they have come to know the spirit of our people. Our politicians have some fixed ideas and they always go by them. Politicians and statesmen have to take account of situations and act as demanded by them
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They must have insight."
"But it is because of the British divide-and-rule policy that we can't unite," we parried.
"Nonsense!"¹ Sri Aurobindo rebuffed. "Was there unity in India before the British rule?... Does Jinnah want unity? His very character shows what he wants – independence for the Muslims and rule over India if possible. The old spirit."
In the impasse created partially by the bankruptcy of the Congress policy, Providence came to the rescue in the form of the Cripps' Proposals which, if accepted, would have changed the fate of India. But the forces of distrust, discontent and wanting everything at once, led to a failure to see the substance of Swaraj, as Sri Aurobindo has said, in the offer. There was a pother about small points and overlooking of the central important objective to be attained. Sri Aurobindo found in the proposal a fine opportunity for the solution of India's intricate problems and her ultimate liberation. We may note that the proposals envisaged a single, free, undivided India setting up a united front against the enemy. He promptly sent a message to Sir Stafford Cripps welcoming the Proposals and recommended their acceptance to the Indian leaders. The message was as follows: "I have heard your broadcast. As one who has been a nationalist leader and worker for India's Independence, though now my activity is no longer in the political but in the spiritual field, I wish to express my

¹. Sri Aurobindo meant not that the British never followed the policy of divide-and-rule, but that divisions were already there for them to take advantage of and increase.
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appreciation of all you have done to bring about this offer. I welcome it as an opportunity given to India to determine for herself, and organise in all liberty of choice, her freedom and unity and take an effective place among the world's free nations. I hope that it will be accepted, and right use made of it, putting aside all discords and divisions. I hope too that friendly relations between Britain and India replacing the past struggles, will be a step towards a greater world union in which, as a free nation, her spiritual force will contribute to build for mankind a better and happier life. In this light, I offer public adhesion, in case it can be of any help to your work."
Sir Stafford Cripps replied, "I am most touched and gratified by your kind message allowing me to inform India that you, who occupy a unique position in the imagination of Indian youth, were convinced that the declaration of His Majesty's Government substantially confers that freedom for which Indian Nationalism has so long struggled."
Sri Aurobindo also sent messages through Mr. Shiva Rao to Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Nehru that Cripps' offer should be accepted unconditionally. Lastly, he sent his envoy to Delhi to appeal to the Congress leaders for its acceptance, for sanity and wisdom to prevail. At this crucial moment Sri Aurobindo could not remain a passive witness to the folly that was about to be committed. His seer-vision saw that the Proposals had come on a wave of divine inspiration. The scene is still fresh in our memory. It was the evening hour. Sri Aurobindo was sitting on the edge of his bed just before his daily
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walking exercise. All of us were present; Duraiswamy, the distinguished Madras lawyer and disciple, was selected as the envoy, perhaps because he was a friend of Rajagopalachari, one of the prominent Congress leaders. He was to start for Delhi that very night. He came for Sri Aurobindo's blessings, lay prostrate before him, got up and stood looking at the Master with folded hands and then departed.
He was carrying with him an urgent appeal by Sri Aurobindo to the Congress Working Committee. Sisir Kumar Mitra reports in The Liberator, "the viewpoints which Sri Aurobindo instructed his envoy to place before the Congress leaders... (1) Japan's imperialism being young and based on industrial and military power and moving westward, was a greater menace to India than the British imperialism which was old, which the country had learnt to deal with and which was on the way to elimination. (2) It would be better to get into the saddle and not be particular about the legal basis of the power. Once the power came into our hands and we occupied seats of power, we could establish our positions and assert ourselves. (3) The proposed Cabinet would provide opportunities for the Congress and the Muslims to understand each other and pull together for the country's good, especially at that time of the crisis. (4) The Hindu Mahasabha also being represented, the Hindus, as such would have a chance of proving their capacity to govern India not only for the benefit of the Hindus but for the whole country. (5) The main problem was to organise the strength of India in order. to repel the threatened aggression."
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We may remind ourselves of Talthybius's mission to Troy in Sri Aurobindo's epic poem Ilion: Achilles made an offer by which Troy would be saved and the honour; of the Greeks would be preserved, a harmonising offer, but it was rejected. Similarly, Duraiswamy went with India's soul in his "frail" hands and brought it back, downhearted, rewarded with ungracious remarks for the gratuitous advice. Sri Aurobindo even sent a telegram to Rajagopalachari and Dr. Munje urging them to accept the Proposals. Dr. Indra Sen writes, "We met the members individually and the sense of the reactions were more or less to this effect: Sri Aurobindo has created difficulties for us by his message to Cripps. He doesn't know the actual situation, we are in it, we know' better... and so on." Cripps flew back a disappointed man but with the consolation and gratified recognition that at least one great man had welcomed the idea. When the rejection was announced, Sri Aurobindo said in a quiet tone, "I knew it would fail." We at once pounced on it and asked him, "Why did you then send Duraiswamy at all?" "For a bit of niskama karma"¹ was his calm reply, without any bitterness or resentment. The full spirit of the kind of "disinterested work" he meant comes out in an early letter of his - (December 1933), which refers to his spiritual work: "I am sure of the results of my work. But even if I still saw the chance that it might come to nothing (which is impossible), I would go on unperturbed, because I would still have

¹. Disinterested work the essence of which is that the work is inwardly dedicated to the Divine with no attachment to the result.
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done to the best of my power the work that I had to do, and what is so done always counts in the economy of the universe."
After the War, the Labour Government of U.K. sent a Cabinet Mission to India in 1946 for fresh talks. Asked to give his views on the mission by Amrita Bazar Patrika, a leading daily in the country, Sri Aurobindo said:
"Sri Aurobindo thinks it unnecessary to volunteer a personal pronouncement... His position is known. He has always stood for India's complete independence which he was the first to advocate publicly and without compromise as the only ideal worthy of a self-respecting nation. In 1910 he authorised the publication of his prediction that after a long period of wars, world-wide upheavals and revolutions beginning after four years, India would achieve her freedom. Lately he has said that freedom was coming soon and nothing could prevent it. He has always foreseen that eventually Britain would approach India for an amicable agreement, conceding her freedom. What he had foreseen is now coming to pass and the British Cabinet Mission is the sign. It remains for the nation's leaders to make a right and full use of the opportunity. In any case, whatever the immediate outcome, the Power that has been working out this event will not be denied, the final result, India's liberation, is sure."
We know the aftermath of the rejection of the Cripps' Proposals as well as the failure of the Cabinet Mission: confusion, calamity, partition, blood-bath, etc., and the belated recognition of the colossal blunder. Then when the partition had been accepted as a settled fact, Sri
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Aurobindo's "bardic" voice was heard once again, "But by whatever means, in whatever way, the division must go; unity must and will be achieved, for it is necessary for the greatness of India's future." Past events have justified Sri Aurobindo's solemn warning and recent events point to the way to liquidation of that division.¹
Let me again draw upon the fellow-sadhak from whom I have already quoted. He brings out the Mother's stand on the Cripps-question:
"Then came the famous Cripps' Proposals. In the evening Sir Stafford Cripps broadcast his Proposals to the Indian people, from Delhi; they were discussed everywhere. In P's room the radio was installed and a connection made to Sri Aurobindo's room so that he might listen to the war-news and reports from all quarters of the globe, except from the Axis zones.
"The next day at about 2 p.m., after the All India Radio news at 1.30, there was a hot discussion among three sadhaks, including P, in his room. P took the standpoint of the purely spiritual man, who judges by looking at what is behind appearances. It seemed that he had already spoken with the Mother and thus was arguing forcefully for the acceptance of the Proposals. The second person was an experienced politician of the Gandhian Congress days and took the negative position. He argued the pros and cons of the Proposals and was of the opinion that the Indian leaders would reject them. The third a novice, with no political experience, was more for its acceptance. The discussion became

¹. We are happy to see that Sri Aurobindo's prediction has been half- fulfilled, for Bangla Desh (East Pakistan) is now entirely independent.
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hotter and hotter, so much so that the Mother, while going from Her bath-room to Her dressing room, was attracted by the unusual volume of sound. She did not enter Her dressing room, but turned Her steps towards P's room. Before entering there, She heard part of the argument. Then She stepped in and asked, 'What is it all about?' P said that one person argued that Cripps' offer would not be accepted by the Indian leaders. The Mother felt amused and inquired, 'Why?' By then She had sat on the chair that was in front of Her. It was a very unusual and interesting scene; the Mother, still in Her beautiful Japanese kimono just out of the bath, didn't seem to care to change Her dress, and was more interested in the arguments against the acceptance. Then She began to talk with a very calm and distinct voice. One could see that She who had entered a few minutes ago had been transported somewhere else and the voice was coming from that plane....
"She said something to this effect: 'One should leave the matter of the Cripps' offer entirely in the hands of the Divine, with full confidence that the Divine will work everything out. Certainly there were flaws in the offer. Nothing on earth created by man is flawless, because the human mind has a limited capacity. Yet behind this offer there is the Divine Grace directly present. The Grace is now at the door of India, ready to give its help. In the history of a nation such opportunities do not come often. The Grace presents itself at rare moments, after centuries of preparation of that nation. If it is accepted, the nation will survive and get a new birth in the Divine's consciousness. But if it is rejected
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