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Documents in the Life of Sri Aurobindo

THE SURAT CONGRESS


1

EXTRACTS FROM THE DIARY OF G.S. KHAPARDE

24 December 1907
This was a very very busy day. We had to make arrangements about our nationalist conference. Delegates kept pouring in all the morning. Bengal, Madras, Belgaum, Dharwad, Berar, C.P and nationalists all over the country have turned up very very strong & we number over six hundred. Babasaheb Khare of Nasik, Balasaheb Deshpande of Ahmednagar and very many others, have either arrived or are on their way. Arobind Babu, Suresh Babu, & many others are here. Talks of compromise are all in the air & our party without exception are in favour of an amicable settlement. The moderates would appear to be in uncertain temper. Some are for a compromise & others for holding out indefinitely. Our conference held in Ghee-Kanta Wadi was an unqualified success. All our nationalist delegates attended. We have made a separate camp for ourselves & that is a distinct advantage. The moderates are mostly gathered in the camp near the Pandal and are more or less dispersed. They are not very well off. Tilak made a very clear & forcible statement in our conference. Mr. Arobindo Babu presided. After the conference we went to our Tekda meeting. It was unprecedentedly large, over ten thousand being present and a number of speakers spoke from our platform; Tilak, Hyder Raiza, Sardar Ajitsing, Sangavi KKV [?]. It became so late that I did not speak though people called for me. We returned to our lodgings after 9 p.m. Our meeting was a tremendous success. Compromise is more than ever talked of & not a man in our camp but has a suggestion to make.

25 December 1907
Mr. Tilak went out in the morning to bring about a compromise. I have & had my misgivings from the beginning. Sir P[herozeshah] M[ehta] is a very haughty & proud man. He will never yield. Gokhale has no backbone. Ambalal is showing no coolness & appears confused by the situation. Tilak is doing his best to bring about a compromise. I did not go out in the morning. There is great discipline in our party. In the afternoon we had our Nationalist Conference. Arobinda Babu presided and Tilak made another masterly statement, clear & concise & yet full, such as he alone can make. Everybody praises it: Bhagat is here & came to see us. Lala Lajapatraya is here and paid us a visit in Ghee-Kanta Wadi. He was not prepared to sign the Nationalist declaration nor to hold himself bound by the resolutions of the Nationalist party. I sent him to see Tilak & Arobinda Babu at our lodging. Lala is also talking of a compromise. Moti Babu arrived from Calcutta this evening at 10 p.m. He agreed to put up with us for a night, and we sat talking for a very very long time. Practically I had no sleep. There was a movement to increase the number of our delegates & many visitors paid their money and enrolled themselves.

30 December 1907
The moderates and the self-constituted congress officials have published a press-note full of lies and misrepresentations. Tilak commenced a reply to it and a statement of our own this morning. His work was much interrupted by visits, and he was not able to finish it till late in the day. Towards evening Mr. Kulabhai’s son came and wished me & Tilak to go and visit his father. We went after finishing the statement. There we met Shrijut Narendra Nath Sen, Mr. Ghoshal & others and sat talking about the events of the last few days. Sir Bhalchandra came there with his brother Vishnu but did not speak with us. He visited the ladies and went away. We returned on foot from Kulabhai’s house. Mr. Thengadi & two others accompanied us. Tilak decided to go away tonight and did so by the midnight train. Babu Arobinda goes to Baroda tomorrow morning. I shall also leave for Berar tomorrow.

G.S. Khaparde

2

THE MODERATES’ VERSION

The twenty-third Indian National Congress assembled yesterday [26 December] in the Pavilion erected for it by the Reception Committee at Surat at 2-30 p.m. Over sixteen hundred delegates were present. The proceedings began with an address from the Chairman of Reception Committee. After the reading of the address was over Diwan Bahadur Ambalal Sakerlal proposed that the Hon. Dr. Rash Behari Ghose having been nominated by the Reception Committee for the office of President under the rules adopted at the last session of the Congress, he should take the Presidential chair. As soon as the Diwan Bahadur uttered Dr. Ghose’s name, some voices were heard in the body of the hall shouting “No, no” and the shouting was kept up for some time. The proposer, however, somehow managed to struggle through his speech; and the Chairman then called upon Babu Surendranath Banerjee to second the proposition. As soon, however, as he began his speech — before he had finished even his first sentence — a small section of the delegates began an uproar from their seats with the object of preventing Mr. Banerjee from speaking. The Chairman repeatedly appealed for order, but no heed was paid. Every time Mr. Banerjee attempted to go on with his speech he was met by disorderly shouts. It was clear that rowdyism had been determined upon to bring the proceedings to a standstill, and the whole demonstrations seemed to have been pre-arranged. Finding it impossible to enforce order, the Chairman warned the House that unless the uproar subsided at once, he would be obliged to suspend the sitting of the Congress. The hostile demonstration, however, continued and the Chairman at last suspended the sitting for the day.

The Congress again met to-day [27 December] at 1 p.m., due notice of the meeting having been sent round. As the President-Elect was being escorted in procession through the Hall to the platform, an overwhelming majority of the delegates present greeted him with a most enthusiastic welcome, thereby showing how thoroughly they disapproved the organised disorder of yesterday. As this procession was entering the Pandal a small slip of paper written in pencil and bearing Mr. B.G. Tilak’s signature was put by a volunteer into the hands of Mr. Malvi, the Chairman of the Reception Committee. It was a notice to the Chairman that after Mr. Banerjee’s speech, seconding the proposition about the President was concluded, Mr. Tilak wanted to move “an amendment for an adjournment of the Congress.” The Chairman considered a notice of adjournment at that stage to be irregular and out of order. The proceedings were then resumed at the point at which they had been interrupted yesterday, and Mr. Surendranath Banerjee was called upon to conclude his speech. Mr. Banerjee having done this, the Chairman called upon Pandit Motilal Nehru of Allahabad to support the motion. The Pandit supported it in a brief speech and then the Chairman put the motion to the vote. An overwhelming majority of the delegates signified their assent by crying “All, all” and a small minority shouted “No, no.” The Chairman thereupon declared the motion carried and the Hon. Dr. Ghose was installed in the Presidential chair amidst loud and prolonged applause. While the applause was going on, and as Dr. Ghose rose to begin his address, Mr. Tilak came upon the platform and stood in front of the President. He urged that as he had given notice of an “amendment to the Presidential election,” he should be permitted to move his amendment. Thereupon, it was pointed out to him by Mr. Malvi, the Chairman of the Reception Committee, that his notice was not for “an amendment to the Presidential election,” but it was for “an adjournment of the Congress,” which notice he had considered to be irregular and out of order at that stage; and that the President having been duly installed in the chair no amendment about his election could be then moved. Mr. Tilak then turned to the President and began arguing with him. Dr. Ghose in his turn, stated how matters stood and ruled that this request to move an amendment about the election could not be entertained. Mr. Tilak thereupon said, “I will not submit to this. I will now appeal from the President to the delegates.” In the meantime an uproar had already been commenced by some of his followers, and the President who tried to read his address could not be heard even by those who were seated next to him. Mr. Tilak with his back to the President, kept shouting that he insisted on moving his amendment and he would not allow the proceedings to go on. The President repeatedly appealed to him to be satisfied with his protest and to resume his seat. Mr. Tilak kept on shouting frantically, exclaiming that he would not go back to his seat unless he was “bodily removed.” This persisted defiance to the authority of the chair provoked a hostile demonstration against Mr. Tilak himself and for some time, nothing but loud cries of “Shame, shame” could be heard in the Pandal. It had been noticed, that when Mr. Tilak was making his way to the platform some of his followers were also trying to force themselves through the volunteers to the platform with sticks in their hands. All attempts on the President’s part either to proceed with the reading of his address or to persuade Mr. Tilak to resume his seat having failed, and a general movement among Mr. Tilak’s followers to rush the platform with sticks in their hands being noticed, the President, for the last time, called upon Mr. Tilak to withdraw and formally announced to the assembly that he had ruled and he still ruled Mr. Tilak out of order and he called upon him to resume his seat. Mr. Tilak refused to obey and at this time a shoe hurled from the body of the Hall, struck both Sir Pherozeshah Mehta and Mr. Surendranath Banerjee who were sitting side by side. Chairs were also hurled towards the platform and it was seen that Mr. Tilak’s followers who were brandishing their sticks wildly were trying to rush the platform which other delegates were endeavouring to prevent. It should be stated here that some of the delegates were so exasperated by Mr. Tilak’s conduct that they repeatedly asked for permission to eject him bodily from the hall; but this permission was steadily refused. The President, finding that the disorder went on growing and that he had no other course open to him, declared the session of the 23rd Indian National Congress suspended sine die. After the lady-delegates present on the platform had been escorted to the tents outside, the other delegates began with difficulty to disperse, but the disorder, having grown wilder, the Police eventually came in and ordered the Hall to be cleared.

An official statement issued on 28 December 1907 by Congress officials

3

THE CONVENTION

The 23rd Indian National Congress having been suspended sine die under painful circumstances, the undersigned have resolved with a view to the orderly conduct of future political work in the country to call a Convention of those delegates to the Congress who are agreed:–

(1) That the attainment by India of Self-Government similar to that enjoyed by the self-governing members of the British Empire and participation by her in the rights and responsibilities of the Empire on equal terms with those Members is the goal of our political aspirations.

(2) That the advance towards this goal is to be by strictly constitutional means by bringing about a steady reform of existing system of administration and by promoting National Unity, fostering public spirit, and improving the condition of the mass of the people.

(3) And that all meetings held for the promotion of the aims and objects above indicated have to be conducted in an orderly manner with due submission to the authority of those that are entrusted with the power to control their procedure.

They are requested to attend at 1 p.m. on Saturday the 28th December 1907 in the Pandal lent for the purpose by the Working Committee of the Reception Committee of the 23rd Indian National Congress.

(Signed)Rash Behari Ghosh.
Pherozeshah M. Mehta.
Surendranath Banerjee.
G.K. Gokhale.
D.E. Wachha.
Norendranath Sen.
Ambalal Sakerlal Desai.
V. Krishnaswami Iyer.
Tribhovandas N. Malvi.
Madan Mohan Malviya.
Daji Abaji Khare.
[34 more signatures] and others.

4

THE 23RD INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS, SURAT AN ACCOUNT OF THE PROCEEDINGS:

A Press Note containing an official narrative of the proceedings of the 23rd Indian National Congress at Surat has been published over the signatures of some of the Congress officials.1 As this note contains a number of one-sided and misleading statements it is thought desirable to publish the following account of the proceedings:–

PRELIMINARY

Last year when the Congress was held at Calcutta, under the presidency of Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji, the Congress, consisting of Moderates and Nationalists, unanimously resolved to have for its goal Swaraj or Self-Government on the lines of self-governing Colonies, and passed certain resolutions on Swadeshi, Boycott and National Education. The Bombay Moderates, headed by Sir P.M. Mehta, did not at the time, raise any dissentient voice, but they seem to have felt that their position was somewhat compromised by these resolutions; and they had, since then, been looking forward to an opportunity when they might return to their old position regarding ideals and methods of political progress in India. In the Bombay Provincial Conference held at Surat in April last, Sir P.M. Mehta succeeded by his personal influence in excluding the propositions of Boycott and National Education from the programme of the Conference. And when it was decided to change the venue of the Congress from Nagpure to Surat, it afforded the Bombay Moderate leaders the desired-for opportunity to carry out their intentions in this respect. The Reception Committee at Surat was presumably composed largely of Sir Pherozeshah’s followers, and it was cleverly arranged by the Hon. Mr. Gokhale to get the Committee nominate Dr. R.B. Ghosh, to the office of the President, brushing aside the proposal for the nomination of Lala Lajpatrai, then happily released, on the ground that “We cannot afford to flout the Government at this stage, the authorities would throttle our movement in no time.” This was naturally regarded as an insult to the public feeling in the country, and Dr. Ghosh must have received at least a hundred telegrams from different parts of India requesting him to generously retire in Lala Lajpatrai’s favour. But Dr. Ghosh unfortunately decided to ignore this strong expression of public opinion. Lala Lajpatrai, on the other hand, publicly declined the honour. But this did not satisfy the people who wished to disown the principles of selecting a Congress President on the above ground, believing, as they did, that the most effective protest against the repressive policy of Government would be to elect Lala Lajpatrai to the chair.

The Hon. Mr. Gokhale was entrusted by the Reception Committee, at its meeting held on 24th November 1907 for nominating the President, with the work of drafting the resolutions to be placed before the Congress. But neither Mr. Gokhale nor the Reception Committee supplied a copy of the draft resolutions to any delegate till 2.30 p.m. on Thursday the 26th December, that is to say, till the actual commencement of the Congress Session. The public were taken into confidence only thus far that a list of the headings of the subjects likely to be taken up for discussion by the Surat Congress was officially published a week or ten days before the date of the Congress Session. This list did not include the subjects of Self-Government, Boycott and National Education, on all of which distinct and separate resolutions were passed at Calcutta last year. This omission naturally strengthened the suspicion that the Bombay Moderates really intended to go back from the position taken up by the Calcutta Congress in these matters. The press strongly commented upon this omission, and Mr. Tilak, who reached Surat on the morning of the 23rd December, denounced such retrogression as suicidal in the interests of the country, more especially at the present juncture, at a large mass-meeting held that evening, and appealed to the Surat public to help the Nationalists in their endeavours to maintain at least the status quo in these matters. The next day, a Conference of about five hundred Nationalist Delegates was held at Surat under the chairmanship of Srijut Arabindo Ghose where it was decided that the Nationalists should prevent the attempted retrogression of the Congress by all constitutional means, even by opposing the election of the President if necessary; and a letter was written to the Congress Secretaries requesting them to make arrangements for dividing the house, if need be, on every contested proposition, including that of the election of the President.

In the meanwhile a press note signed by Mr. Gandhi, as Hon. Secretary, was issued to the effect that the statement, that certain resolutions adopted last year at Calcutta were omitted from the Congress programme prepared by the Surat Reception Committee, was wholly unfounded; but the draft resolutions themselves were still withheld from the public, though some of the members of the Reception Committee had already asked for them some days before. On the morning of 25th December, Mr. Tilak happened to get a copy of the draft of the proposed constitution of the Congress prepared by the Hon. Mr. Gokhale. In this draft the object of the Congress was thus stated; “The Indian National Congress has for its ultimate goal the attainment by India of Self-Government similar to that enjoyed by the other members of the British Empire” etc. Mr. Tilak addressed a meeting of the delegates the same morning at the Congress Camp at about 9 a.m. explaining the grounds on which he believed that the Bombay Moderate leaders were bent upon receding from the position taken up by the Calcutta Congress on Swaraj, Boycott and National Education. The proposed constitution, Mr. Tilak pointed out, was a direct attempt to tamper with the ideal of Self-Government on the lines of the Self-Governing colonies, as settled at Calcutta and to exclude the Nationalists from the Congress by making the acceptance of this new creed an indispensable condition of Congress membership. Mr. Tilak further stated in plain terms that if they were assured that no sliding back of the Congress would be attempted the opposition to the election of the President would be withdrawn. The delegates at the meeting were also asked to sign a letter of request to Dr. Ghosh, the President-Elect, requesting him to have the old propositions on Swaraj, Swadeshi, Boycott and National Education taken up for reaffirmation this year; and some of the delegates signed it on the spot. Mr. G. Subramania Iyer of Madras, Mr. Kharandikar of Satara and several others were present at this meeting and excepting a few all the rest admitted the reasonableness of Mr. Tilak’s proposal.

Lala Lajpatrai, who arrived at Surat on the morning of that day, saw Messrs. Tilak and Khaparde in the afternoon and intimated to them his intention to arrange for a Committee of a few leading delegates from each side to settle the question in dispute. Messrs. Tilak and Khaparde having agreed, he went to Mr. Gokhale to arrange for the Committee if possible; and Messrs. Tilak and Khaparde returned to the Nationalist Conference which was held that evening (25th December). At this Conference a Nationalist Committee consisting of one Nationalist delegate from each province was appointed to carry on the negotiations with the leaders on the other side; and it was decided that if the Nationalist Committee failed to obtain any assurance from responsible Congress officials about the status quo being maintained, the Nationalists should begin their opposition from the election of the President. For the retrogression of the Congress was a serious step, not to be decided upon only by a bare accidental majority of any party either in the Subjects Committee or in the whole Congress (as at present constituted), simply because its session happens to be held in a particular place or province in a particular year; and the usual unanimous acceptance of the President would have, under such exceptional circumstances, greatly weakened the point and force of the opposition. No kind of intimation was received from Lala Lajpatrai this night or even the next morning, regarding the proposal of a joint Committee of reconciliation proposed by him, nor was a copy of the draft resolutions supplied to Mr. Tilak, Mr. Khaparde or any other delegate to judge if no sliding back from the old position was really intended.

On the morning of the 26th December, Messrs. Tilak, Khaparde, Arabindo Ghose and others went to Babu Surendranath Bannerji at his residence. They were accompanied by Babu Motilal Ghose of the Amrit Bazar Patrika who had arrived the previous night. Mr. Tilak then informed Babu Surendranath that the Nationalist opposition to the election of the President would be withdrawn, if (1) the Nationalist party were assured that the status quo would not be disturbed; and (2) if some graceful allusion was made, by any one of the speakers on the resolution about the election of the President, to the desire of the public to have Lala Lajpatrai in the chair. Mr. Bannerji agreed to the latter proposal as he said he was himself to second the resolution; while as regards the first, though he gave an assurance for himself and Bengal, he asked Mr. Tilak to see Mr. Gokhale or Mr. Malvi. A volunteer was accordingly sent in a carriage to invite Mr. Malvi, the Chairman of the Reception Committee, to Mr. Bannerji’s residence, but the volunteer brought a reply that Mr. Malvi had no time to come as he was engaged in religious practices. Mr. Tilak then returned to his camp to take his meals as it was already about 11 a.m.; but on returning to the Congress pandal an hour later, he made persistent attempts to get access to Mr. Malvi but could not find him anywhere. A little before 2.30 p.m., a word was brought to Mr. Tilak that Mr. Malvi was in the President’s tent, and Mr. Tilak sent a message to him from an adjoining tent, asking for a short interview to which Mr. Malvi replied that he could not see Mr. Tilak as the Presidential procession was being formed. The Nationalist delegates were waiting in the pandal to hear the result of the endeavours of their Committee to obtain an assurance about the maintenance of the status quo from some responsible Congress official, and Mr. V.S. Khare of Nasik now informed them of the failure of Mr. Tilak’s attempt in the matter.

FIRST DAY

It has become necessary to state these facts in order that the position of the two parties, when the Congress commenced its proceedings on Thursday, the 26th December, at 2.30 p.m. may be clearly understood. The President-Elect and other persons had now taken their seats on the platform; and as no assurance from any responsible official of the Congress about the maintenance of the status quo was till then obtained, Mr. Tilak sent a slip to Babu Surendranath intimating that he should not make the proposed allusion to the controversy about the Presidential election in his speech. He also wrote to Mr. Malvi to supply him with a copy of the draft resolutions, if ready, and at about 3 p.m. while Mr. Malvi was reading his speech, Mr. Tilak got a copy of the draft resolutions which, he subsequently found, were published the very evening in the Advocate of India in Bombay, clearly showing that the reporter of the paper must have been supplied with a copy at least a day earlier. The withholding of a copy from Mr. Tilak till 3 p.m. that day cannot, therefore, be regarded as accidental.

There were about thirteen hundred and odd delegates at this time in the pandal of whom over 600 were Nationalists, and the Moderate majority was thus a bare majority. After the Chairman’s address was over, Dewan Bahadur Ambalal Sakarlal proposed Dr. R.B. Ghosh to the chair in a speech which, though evoking occasional cries of dissent, was heard to the end. The declaration by Dewan Bahadur as well as by Mr. Malvi that the proposing and seconding of the resolution to elect the President was only a formal business, led many delegates to believe that it was not improbable that the usual procedure of taking votes on the proposition might be dispensed with; and when Babu Surendranath Bannerji, whose rising on the platform seems to have reminded some of the delegates of the Midnapur incident, commenced his speech, there was persistent shouting and he was asked to sit down. He made another attempt to speak but was not heard, and the session had, therefore, to be suspended for the day. The official press note suggests that this hostile demonstration was pre-arranged. But the suggestion is unfounded. For though the Nationalists did intend to oppose the election, they had at their Conference, held the previous day, expressly decided to do so only by solidly and silently voting against it in a constitutional manner.

In the evening the Nationalists again held their Conference and authorised their Committee, appointed on the previous day, to further carry on the negotiations for having the status quo maintained if possible, failing which it was decided to oppose the election of Dr. Ghosh by moving such amendment as the Committee might decide or by simply voting against his election. The Nationalists were further requested, and unanimously agreed, not only to abstain from joining in any such demonstration as led to the suspension of that day’s proceedings, but to scrupulously avoid any, even the least, interruption of the speakers on the opposite side, so that both parties might get a patient hearing. At night (about 8 p.m.) Mr. Chunilal Saraya, Manager of the Indian Specie Bank and Vice-Chairman of the Surat Reception Committee, accompanied by two other gentlemen, went, in his unofficial capacity and on his own account, to Mr. Tilak and proposed that he intended to arrange for a meeting that night between Mr. Tilak and Mr. Gokhale at the residence of a leading congressman to settle the differences between the two parties. Mr. Tilak agreed and requested Mr. Chunilal, if an interview could be arranged, to fix the time in consultation with Mr. Gokhale, adding that he, Mr. Tilak, would be glad to be present at the place of the interview at any hour of the night. Thereon Mr. Chunilal left Mr. Tilak, but unhappily no word was received by the latter that night.

SECOND DAY

On the morning of Friday the 27th (11 a.m.) Mr. Chunilal Saraya again saw Mr. Tilak and requested him to go in company with Mr. Khaparde to Prof. Gajjar’s bungalow near the Congress pandal, where, by appointment, they were to meet Dr. Rutherford, who was trying for a reconciliation. Messrs. Tilak and Khaparde went to Prof. Gajjar’s but Dr. Rutherford could not come then owing to his other engagements. Prof. Gajjar then asked Mr. Tilak what the latter intended to do; and Mr. Tilak stated that if no settlement was arrived at privately owing to every leading congressman being unwilling to take any responsibility in the matter upon himself, he (Mr. Tilak) would be obliged to bring an amendment to the proposition of electing the President after it had been seconded. The amendment would be to the effect that the business of election should be adjourned, and a committee, consisting of one leading Moderate and one leading Nationalist from each Congress Province, with Dr. Rutherford’s name added, be appointed to consider and settle the differences between the two parties, both of which should accept the Committee’s decision as final and then proceed to the unanimous election of the President. Mr. Tilak even supplied to Prof. Gajjar the names of the delegates, who, in his opinion, should form the Committee, but left a free hand to the Moderates to change the names of their representatives if they liked to do so.2 Prof. Gajjar and Mr. Chunilal undertook to convey the proposal to Sir P.M. Mehta or Dr. Rutherford in the Congress Camp and asked Messrs. Tilak and Khaparde to go to the pandal and there await reply. After half an hour Prof. Gajjar and Mr. Saraya returned and told Messrs. Tilak and Khaparde that nothing could be done in the matter, Mr. Saraya adding that if both parties proceeded constitutionally there would be no hitch.

It was about 12.30 at this time, and on the receipt of the above reply Mr. Tilak wrote in pencil the following note to Mr. Malvi, Chairman of the Reception Committee:–

Sir. — I wish to address the delegates on the proposal of the election of the President after it is seconded. I wish to move an adjournment with a constructive proposal. Please announce me.

Yours sincerely,
B.G. Tilak,
Deccan Delegate (Poona).

This note, it is admitted, was put by a volunteer into the hands of Mr. Malvi, the Chairman, as he was entering the pandal with the President-Elect in procession.

The proceedings of the day commenced at 1 p.m., when Babu Surendranath Bannerji was called upon to resume his speech, seconding the election of the President. Mr. Tilak was expecting a reply to his note but not having received one up to this time asked Mr. N.C. Kelkar to send a reminder. Mr. Kelkar thereupon sent a chit to the Chairman to the effect that “Mr. Tilak requests a reply to his note.” But no reply was received even after this reminder, and Mr. Tilak, who, though he was allotted a seat on the platform, was sitting in the front row of the delegate’s seats near the platform-steps, rose to go up the platform immediately after Babu Surendranath, who was calmly heard by all, had finished his speech. But he was held back by a volunteer in the way. Mr. Tilak, however, asserted his right to go up and pushing aside the volunteer succeeded in getting to the platform just when Dr. Ghosh was moving to take the President’s chair. The Official Note says that by the time Mr. Tilak came upon the platform and stood in front of the President, the motion of the election of Dr. Ghosh had been passed by an overwhelming majority; and Dr. Ghosh, being installed in the Presidential chair by loud and prolonged applause had risen to begin his address. All this, if it did take place, as alleged, could only have been done in a deliberately hurried manner with a set purpose to trick Mr. Tilak out of his right to address the delegates and move an amendment as previously notified. According to the usual procedure Mr. Malvi was bound to announce Mr. Tilak, or if he considered the amendment out of order, declare it so publicly, and to ask for a show of hands in favour of or against the motion. But nothing of the kind was done; nor was the interval of a few seconds sufficient for a prolonged applause as alleged. As Mr. Tilak stood up on the platform he was greeted with shouts of disapproval from the members of the Reception Committee on the platform, and the cry was taken up by other Moderates. Mr. Tilak repeatedly insisted upon his right of addressing the delegates, and told Dr. Ghosh, when he attempted to interfere, that he was not properly elected. Mr. Malvi said that he had ruled Mr. Tilak’s amendment out of order, to which Mr. Tilak replied that the ruling, if any, was wrong and Mr. Tilak had a right to appeal to the delegates on the same. By this time there was a general uproar in the pandal, the Moderates shouting at Mr. Tilak and asking him to sit down and the Nationalists demanding that he should be heard. At this stage Dr. Ghosh and Mr. Malvi said that Mr. Tilak should be removed from the platform; and a young gentleman, holding the important office of a Secretary to the Reception Committee, touched Mr. Tilak’s person with a view to carry out the Chairman’s order. Mr. Tilak pushed the gentleman aside and again asserted his right of being heard, declaring that he would not leave the platform unless bodily removed. Mr. Gokhale seems to have here asked the above-mentioned gentleman not to touch Mr. Tilak’s person. But there were others who were seen threatening an assault on his person, though he was calmly standing on the platform facing the delegates with his arms folded over his chest.

It was during this confusion that a shoe hurled on to the platform hit Sir P.M. Mehta on the side of the face after touching Babu Surendranath Bannerji, both of whom were sitting within a yard of Mr. Tilak on the other side of the table. Chairs were now seen being lifted to be thrown at Mr. Tilak by persons on and below the platform, and some of the Nationalists, therefore, rushed on to the platform to his rescue. Dr. Ghosh in the meanwhile twice attempted to read his address, but was stopped by cries of “No, no,” from all sides in the pandal, and the confusion became still worse. It must be stated that the Surat Reception Committee, composed of Moderates, had made arrangements the previous night to dismiss the Nationalist Volunteers and to hire bohras or Mahomedan goondas for the day. These with lathis were stationed at various places in the pandal and their presence was detected and protested against by the Nationalist Delegates before the commencement of the Congress proceedings of the day. But though one or two were removed from the pandal, the rest who remained therein, now took part in the scuffle on behalf of their masters. It was found impossible to arrest the progress of disorder and proceedings were then suspended sine die; and the Congress officials retired in confusion to a tent behind the pandal. The police, who seem to have been long ready under a requisition, now entered into and eventually cleared the pandal; while the Nationalist delegates who had gone to the platform safely escorted Mr. Tilak to an adjoining tent. It remains to be mentioned that copies of an inflammatory leaflet in Gujarathi asking the Gujarathi people to rise against Mr. Tilak were largely distributed in the pandal before the commencement of the day’s proceedings.

It would be seen from the above account that the statement in the official note to the effect that Dr. Ghosh was elected President amid loud and prolonged applause before Mr. Tilak appeared on the platform, and that Mr. Tilak wanted to move an adjournment of the whole Congress are entirely misleading and unfounded. What he demanded, by way of amendment, was an adjournment of the business of the election of the President in order to have the differences settled by a joint Conciliatory Committee of leading delegates from both sides. Whether this was in order or otherwise, Mr. Tilak had certainly a right to appeal to the delegates and it was this consciousness that led Mr. Malvi and his advisers to hastily wind up the election business without sending a reply to Mr. Tilak or calling upon him to address the delegates. It was a trick by which they intended to deprive Mr. Tilak of the right of moving an amendment and addressing the delegates thereon. As for the beginning of the actual rowdyism on the day some of the members of the Reception Committee itself were responsible. The silent hearing given by the Nationalist to Mr. Surendranath, on the one hand, and the circulation of the inflammatory leaflet and the hiring of the goondas on the other, further prove that if there was any pre-arrangement anywhere for the purpose of creating a row in the pandal, it was on the part of the Moderates themselves. But for their rowdyism there was every likelihood of Mr. Tilak’s amendment being carried by a large majority and the election of President afterwards taking place smoothly and unanimously. But neither Dr. Ghosh nor any other Congress officials seemed willing to tactfully manage the business as Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji did last year.

Dr. Ghosh’s speech though undelivered in the Congress pandal had been by this time published in the Calcutta papers, and telegrams from Calcutta received in the evening showed that he had made an offensive attack on the Nationalist Party therein. This added to the sensation in the Nationalist camp that evening, but the situation was not such as to preclude all hope of reconciliation. Srijut Motilal Ghose of the Patrika, Mr. A.C. Moitra of Rajshahi, Mr. B.C. Chatterji of Calcutta and Lala Harkishen Lal from Lahore, accordingly tried their best to bring about a compromise, and, if possible, to have the Congress session revived the next day. They went to Mr. Tilak on the night of 27th and the morning of 28th to ascertain the views of his party, and to each of them Mr. Tilak gave the following assurance in writing:–

Surat, 28th December, 1907

“Dear Sir, — With reference to our conversation, and principally in the best interests of the Congress, I and my party are prepared to waive our opposition to the election of Dr. Rash Behari Ghosh as President of 23rd Indian National Congress, and are prepared to act in the spirit of forget and forgive, provided, firstly, the last year’s resolutions on Swaraj, Swadeshi, Boycott and National Education are adhered to and each expressly reaffirmed; and secondly, such passages, if any, in Dr. Ghosh’s speech as may be offensive to the Nationalist Party are omitted.”

Your etc., B.G. Tilak.

This letter was taken by the gentlemen to whom it was addressed to the Moderate leaders but no compromise was arrived at as the Moderates were all along bent upon the retrogression of the Congress at any cost. A Convention of the Moderates was, therefore, held in the pandal the next day where Nationalists were not allowed to go even when some of them were ready and offered to sign the declaration required. On the other hand, those who did not wish to go back from the position taken up at the Calcutta Congress and honestly desired to work further on the same lines met in a separate place the same evening to consider what steps might be taken to continue the work of the Congress in future. Thus ended the proceedings of the 23rd Indian National Congress; and we leave it to the public to judge of the conduct of the two parties in this affair from the statement of facts herein before given.

B.G. Tilak, G.S. Khaparde,
Arabindo Ghose, H. Mukerjee,
B.C. Chatterjee.

Surat, 31st December, 1907.

APPENDIX

How they wanted to go back
The Congress Ideal

At the Calcutta Congress, under the presidentship of Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji, it was resolved that the goal of Congress should be Swaraj on the lines of the Self-Governing British Colonies, and this goal was accepted by all, Moderates and Nationalists, without a single dissentient voice. The resolution on Self-Government passed there is as follows:–
Self-Government:–This Congress is of the opinion that the system of Government obtaining in the Self-Governing British Colonies should be extended to India and that as steps leading to it, urges that the following reforms should be immediately carried out.” (Here followed certain administrative reforms such as simultaneous examinations in England and India, reform of Executive and Legislative Council, and of Local and Municipal Boards.)
The Congress Reception Committee at Surat did not publish the draft Resolution till the commencement of the Congress Sessions; but a draft Constitution of the Congress, prepared by the Hon’ble Mr. Gokhale, was published a day or two earlier. In this draft the goal of the Congress was defined as follows:–
“The Indian National Congress has for its ultimate goal the attainment by India of Self-Government similar to that enjoyed by other members of the British Empire and a participation by her in the privileges and responsibilities of the Empire on equal terms with the other members; and it seeks to advance towards this goal by strictly constitutional means, by bringing about a steady reform of the existing system of administration, and by promoting national unity, fostering public spirit and improving the condition of the mass of the people.”
“Those who accept the foregoing creed of the Congress, shall be members of the Provincial Committee.”
“All who accept the foregoing creed of the Congress … shall be entitled to become members of a District Congress Committee.”
“From the year 1908, delegates to the Congress shall be elected by Provincial and District Congress Committee only.”

Remarks: It will at once be seen that the new Constitution intended to convert the Congress from a national into a sectional movement. The goal of Swaraj on the lines of self-government Colonies, as settled last year, was to be given up; and in its stead Self-Government similar to that enjoyed by other members (not necessarily self-governing) of the British Empire, was to be set up as the ultimate goal, evidently meaning, that it was to be considered as out of the pale of practical politics. The same view is expressed by Sir Pherozeshah Mehta in his interview with the correspondent of the Times of India, published in the issue of the Times dated 30th December 1907. The Hon. Mr. Gokhale must have taken his cue from the same source. The reform of the existing system of administration, and not its gradual replacement by a popular system, was to be the immediate object of the Congress according to this constitution; and further no one, who did not accept this new creed, was to be a member of Provincial or District Committees, or possibly even a delegate to the Congress after 1908. This was the chief feature of retrogression, which Sir P.M. Mehta and his party wanted to carry out this year at a safe place like Surat. It is true that the old resolution on Self-Government was subsequently included in the draft Resolutions, published only after the commencement of the Congress Session. But the draft Constitution was never withdrawn.

Swadeshi Movement

The Calcutta Resolution on the Swadeshi Movement was as follows:–
“This Congress accords its most cordial support to the Swadeshi Movement and calls upon the people of the country to labour for its success by making earnest and sustained efforts to promote the growth of indigenous industries, and to stimulate the production of indigenous articles by giving them preference over imported commodities even at some sacrifice.”
At Surat, the draft Resolution on the subject was worded as follows:–
“This Congress accords its most cordial support to the Swadeshi Movement, and calls upon the people of the country to labour for its success by earnest and sustained efforts to promote the growth of indigenous industries and stimulate the consumption of indigenous articles by giving them preference, where possible, over imported commodities.”

Remarks: Last year the words “even at some sacrifice” were introduced at the end after great discussion and as a compromise between the two parties. The Hon. Mr. Gokhale or Sir P.M. Mehta now wanted to have these words expunged, converting the old resolution into a mere appeal for preference for the indigenous over imported goods.

Boycott Movement

The Calcutta Resolution was as follows:–
“Having regard to the fact that the people of this country have little or no voice in its administration and that their representations to Government do not receive due consideration, this Congress is of opinion that the Boycott Movement inaugurated in Bengal by way of protest against partition of that province was and is legitimate.”
The proposed Resolution at Surat was:–
“Having regard to the fact that the people of this country have little or no voice in its administration and that their representatives to the Government do not receive due consideration, this Congress is of opinion that the boycott of foreign goods resorted to in Bengal by way of protest against the partition of that province was and is legitimate.”

Remarks: This subject was not included in the list of subjects published at first but seems to have been subsequently inserted in the draft Resolutions, when the first omission in the list was severely noticed in the press. The words Boycott Movement in the old resolution have, however, been changed into Boycott of foreign goods.

National Education

The Calcutta Resolution was as follows:–
“In the opinion of this Congress the time has arrived for the people all over the country earnestly to take up the question of National Education for both boys and girls and organise a system of Education — Literary, Scientific, Technical — suited to the requirements of the country on National lines and under National control.”
The proposed Resolution at Surat runs thus:–
“In the opinion of this Congress the time has arrived for the people all over the country earnestly to take up the question of National Education for both boys and girls and organise an independent system of Education — Literary, Scientific, Technical — suited to the requirements of the country.”

Remarks: The change is significant inasmuch as the words “on National lines and under National control” are omitted in the Surat draft, for “control” is the most important factor in this matter. The phrase “an independent system” does not convey all that is desired.

1 See Document 2.

2 The names given to Prof. Gajjar were as follows:– United Bengal — Babu Surendranath Bannerji, A. Chaudhari, Ambikacharan Mazumdar, Arabindo Ghose, Ashwinikumar Dutt; United Provinces — Pandit Madan Mohan, Jatindranath Sen; Punjab — Lala Harkisonlal, Dr. H. Mukerji; Central Provinces — Raoji Govind, Dr. Munje; Berars — R.N. Mudholkar, Khaparde; Bombay — Hon’ble Mr. Gokhale, B.G. Tilak; Madras — V. Krishnaswami Iyer, Chidambaram Pillai; Dr. Rutherford. This Committee was to meet immediately and decide on the question at issue. The names of the Nationalist representatives in the above list, except Mr. A.K. Dutt, were those of the members of the Committee appointed at the Nationalist Conference on the previous day.



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