Jugantar

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(Peter Heehs:) “In March [1906] Barin and three of his associates – Debavrata Bose, Abinash Bhattacharya and Bhupendranath Dutt – decided to launch their own newspaper. Barin took the plan to Aurobindo who gave his consent and helped him to find the necessary funds. It was agreed to call the paper Jugantar (The New Age), a name borrowed from a novel by Shivanath Shastri. On 12 March Jugantar's ‘declaration’ or statement of responsibility was filed with the government. This was done in the name of Bhupendranath, but the actual men in charge were Barin, Debavrata and Abinash. Barin, Debavrata and later Upendranath Bannerjee were the paper's chief writers. The last two were “masters of Bengali prose” and their scintillating articles gave the paper its characteristic stamp. At their best their language was “so lofty, so pathetic, and so stirring” that it defies translation. An Indian scholar with no sympathy for the movement was forced to admit: “Nothing like these articles ever appeared before in Bengali literature.”[1]


(Sri Aurobindo in third person:) “At Barin’s suggestion he agreed to the starting of a paper, Yugantar, which was to preach open revolt and the absolute denial of the British rule and include such items as a series of articles containing instructions for guerrilla warfare. Sri Aurobindo himself wrote some of the opening articles in the early numbers and he always exercised a general control... It had as its chief writers and directors three of the ablest younger writers in Bengal, and it at once acquired an immense influence throughout Bengal.”[2]


(Peter Heehs:) “One of Jugantar's aims was to preach open revolt. It did this with such frankness that in retrospect it is hard to believe that the British allowed it to go on for as long as they did. At first the appeal was couched in rhetorical terms similar to those used in Raja Ke? and Sonar Bangla:

“War or revolution is a thousand times better than that ‘peace’ under which mortality is fast rising in India. Would not the disappearance of fifty million men in an attempt to deliver India be a hundred times better than this impotent death under the grim shelter of peace... If you cannot be a man in life be one in death. The foreigner has come and fixed the way in which you live, but how you die depends entirely on yourself.”

As the writers became bolder, they began dropping hints of a ‘secret conspiracy’ and ‘bands of secret assassins’. “Gratitude and loyalty ought not to be expected from an oppressed nation,” one writer proclaimed. “India is oppressed, therefore the people should not be loyal but should rise.”
         Aurobindo wrote only a few articles for Jugantar. He was not sufficiently fluent in Bengali to contribute reglarly to a weekly newspaper. Besides, his work at the National Council of Education was keeping him busy. But he did find time to try to piece together the fragments of the revolutionary society. It no longer seemed necessary to maintain a “close organization of the whole movement”, since the taking up of the idea by “many separate groups led to a greater and more widespread diffusion of the revolutionary drive and its action.” (Autobiographical Notes, p.50)”[3]


(Peter Heehs:) “Jugantar's most daring enunciation of its revolutionary programme was an article called “The Formation of Bands”. “If only a thousand out of the eighty million people in Bengal cherish the desire for liberty in their hearts,” the piece begins, “these thousand, united in a common determination, can bring about a change in the thoughts and efforts of the whole country, directing them towards one great goal. But first all of these thousand must form themselves into a band.” The writer went on to speak of the formation of ‘district bands’ whose aim was “to direct local thought and effort towards independence”. Once established, district bands would attempt to expand, capitalizing on contemporary events and local disturbances. Discipline, order and above all secrecy were essential. New members would be admitted only if they could prove they possessed six qualities: loyalty, energy, selflessness, perseverance, reliability and obedience. Once admitted, members would “stake their lives on increasing the scope of the bands”, at the same time seeking out opportunities to use various “undertakings and agitations” to keep the country in a state of excitement. At the close of this do-it-yourself guide to agitprop, Jugantar told its readers that if informed of the formation of a band, it would do its best “to give council and to connect it with other bands”. Persons having communications on this subject should of course not trust the post, but bring them to the office in person.
         This audacious announcement did not go unheeded. Scores of young men, many of them still in their teens, wandered in from the districts and found their way to the Jugantar office.”[4]


(Peter Heehs:) “The journal continued to test the limits of the government's toleration. On 3 February 1907 it began a series of articles entitled “Principles of Revolution”. The first instalment dealt with with the moulding of public opinion. … [The second instalment] spoke of the three main methods for obtaining weapons: secret manufacture, importation from abroad, and raids on armories. The third instalment discussed the collection of funds. In the beginning volunteer donations would be enough to defray the society's expenses. But at a later stage increasing expenses would make it necessary to resort in theft and dacoity. Since the government was itself nothing but a thief, it was perfectly legitimate to loot government property.”[5]


(Peter Heehs:) “On 7 June notices were sent to the editors of Jugantar, Sandhya and Bande Mataram warning them that they would be prosecuted if they again published articles that were a “direct incentive to violence and lawlessness.” None of the papers changed their tone and the government resolved to proceed against Jugantar.”[6]


(Sri Aurobindo in third person:) “When a member of the sub-editorial staff, Swami Vivekananda’s brother [Bhupendranath], presented himself on his own motion to the police in a search as the editor of the paper and was prosecuted, the Yugantar under Sri Aurobindo’s orders adopted the policy of refusing to defend itself in a British Court on the ground that it did not recognise the foreign Government and this immensely increased the prestige and influence of the paper.”[7]


(Sri Aurobindo in Bande Mataram, 26 July 1907:) “At the meeting held day before yesterday in the College Square to express sympathy with the editor of the Yugantar and congratulate him on his good fortune in being so signally chosen out to suffer for the Motherland, it was pointed out that Srijut Bhupendranath had initiated a new departure in the struggle with the bureaucracy. He is the first who standing in the dock, called to account by the alien under alien-made law for preaching the gospel of Indian freedom to his countrymen, has refused to acknowledge any responsibility to the alien bureaucracy. It is extremely important that the real meaning of the attitude of the accused should not be mistaken, for it has undoubtedly been obscured by the shape into which it was put under the influence of others more accustomed to legal notions and legal phraseology than to the plain utterance of the heart. The accused was strongly represented, Srijuts Ashutosh Chaudhuri, Aswini Banerji, Chittaranjan Das and A. K. Ghose appearing for him in the case, and had he chosen, as he did not choose, to make a sensational trial of the Yugantar case and win for himself popular notoriety, he could easily have done so. We think, however, it might have been better if Srijut Bhupendranath had rejected even this brilliant legal assistance and relied on the frank and straightforward utterance which wells up from the depths of a strong and abiding feeling and profound intellectual conviction. The over-careful language of legality, guiding its feet with delicate scrupulousness among a million traps and pitfalls and intent only upon avoiding a stumble, that is one thing; the clear bold speech of the patriot speaking straight to his countrymen’s hearts, enamoured of martyrdom, exalted with the passionate realisation of sacred liberty, that is quite another. Bhupendranath’s statement was a political declaration, not a legal formula, and it should so have been expressed. Unfortunately it was toned down into legal form and lost half its force. In the original statement drawn up under the instructions of the accused he had declared sans phrase, “I have done what I considered my duty to my country” and ended by saying, “I do not wish to make any farther statement or to take any part in the case.” This was clear enough; the editor of Yugantar, consistent with the views he had publicly professed, refused to do anything which would seem to be an acknowledgement of responsibility to the codified caprice or selfishness of the small handful of alien officials who call themselves the Government established by law. He had written with his eye not on the limitations imposed by the Penal Code, but on the needs of his country. This responsibility was to his countrymen, not to a group of English officials. To plead before a Court constituted by the bureaucracy, was to admit his responsibility to aliens and deny his responsibility to his countrymen.”[8]


(Sri Aurobindo in Bande Mataram, 29 July 1907:) “The Yugantar prosecution has been a positive gain to the national cause; it has begun the positive work of building up the moral ascendancy of the people which is to replace that of the alien and nullify his mere material superiority. This momentous result the editor of Yugantar has brought about by his masterly inactivity. His refusal to plead has been worth many sensational trials. It has produced an enormous effect on the public mind all over India, not only as an individual instance of moral courage and readiness to suffer quietly and simply, without ostentation and self-advertisement, as a matter of course and one’s plain duty to the country, but as the first practical application in the face of persecution of the sheer uncompromising spirit of Swarajism. For the first time a man has been found who can say to the power of alien Imperialism, “With all thy pomp of empire and splendour and dominion, with all thy boast of invincibility and mastery irresistible, with all thy wealth of men and money and guns and cannon, with all thy strength of the law and strength of the sword, with all thy power to confine, to torture or to slay the body, yet for me, for the spirit, the real man in me, thou art not. Thou art only a phase, a phenomenon, a passing illusion, and the only lasting realities are my Mother and my freedom.”
         ...
         ... Am I, are my people part of humanity, the select and chosen temple of the Brahman, and entitled therefore to grow straight in the strength of our own spirit, free and with head erect before mankind, or are we a herd of cattle to live and work for others? Are we to live our own life or only a life prescribed and circumscribed for us by something outside ourselves? Are we to guide our own destinies or are we to have no destiny at all except nullity, except death? For it is nonsense to talk of other people guiding our destinies, that is only an euphemism for killing our destinies altogether; it is nonsense to talk of others giving us enlightenment, civilisation, political training, for the enlightenment that is given and not acquired brings not light but confusion, the civilisation that is imposed from outside kills a nation instead of invigorating it, and the training which is not acquired by our own experience and effort incapacitates and does not make efficient. The issue of freedom is therefore the only issue. All other issues are merely delusion and Maya, all other talk is the talk of men that sleep or are in intellectual and moral bondage. We Nationalists declare that man is for ever and inalienably free and that we too are, both individually as Indian men and collectively as an Indian nation, for ever and inalienably free.”[9]


(Peter Heehs:) “Before its final suppression in 1908, Jugantar was prosecuted no less than six times. Needless to say it is difficult to run a newspaper when every month or so the printer is arrested and the plant confiscated. … It was now the most popular journal in the country. In a few months its circulation had soared from 200 to 7000 and would soon reach, and then exceed, the unprecedented figure of 20,000. Both as a propaganda organ and a generator of funds it was indispensable.”[10]




  1. The Bomb in Bengal: The Rise of Revolutionary Terrorism in India 1900-1910, p.80, “Revolutionary Beginnings”
  2. Autobiographical Notes and Other Writings of Historical Interest, p.50
  3. The Bomb in Bengal: The Rise of Revolutionary Terrorism in India 1900-1910, p.81, “Revolutionary Beginnings”
  4. Ibid., p.96, “Tribulations and Trials”
  5. Ibid., p.98
  6. Ibid., p.99
  7. Autobiographical Notes and Other Writings of Historical Interest, p.50
  8. Bande Mataram, p.613, 26 July 1907
  9. Ibid., p.616, 29 July 1907
  10. Ibid., p.102


See also