Documents in the Life of Sri Aurobindo
THE POLITICAL SITUATION IN PONDICHERRY 1910-1915
GENERAL SITUATION IN PONDICHERRY
Extract from diary of A.B. Purani (PT MS5 (1924), 86)
In old days when A.G. [Aurobindo Ghose, i.e. Sri Aurobindo] came here first his idea was that it would take 6 months only (for him) to finish the sàdhanà & then they would all go from here to British India & begin work. Then one year passed & he did not go & then it was 4 years & the war came[.] All people from here then went to Bengal for the 1st time only he remained here. Bijoy went after they came & then he got arrested till 1919.
From Government of India. Foreign & Political Dept., General, Conf. B. 1914. No. 2, 13, 1213.
CRIMINAL INTELLIGENCE OFFICE.
NOTE ON PONDICHERRY.
The last account of affairs in Pondicherry was brought down to the middle of 1910. Till the end of the year very little of importance took place. The usual stock of seditious literature, the Bande Mataram, the Indian Sociologist, etc., was imported, partly direct from Europe and partly from America through the agency of George Freeman of the Gaelic American in New York, but the actual number of copies of these publications received was comparatively trifling, and they do not seem to have succeeded in disseminating this literature to any extent in British India.
The revolutionaries in Paris obviously regarded Pondicherry as their most important agency in India. In September, 1910, M.P. Tirumal Acharya wrote from Paris to a member of the staff of the India of Pondicherry a letter containing a remarkable passage in which he said that if they could not do or did not care to risk doing things worth doing at Pondicherry, the next best thing was to determine to put their plans into practice at some safe and suitable place. He added that he expected they would do something of the sort soon.
It is obvious from this that some outrage was intended, but nothing serious seems to have been done till V.V.S. Aiyar arrived on December 4th, 1910, having got through from Europe disguised as a Muhammadan. For some time after his arrival very little was heard of his doings, but it came out afterwards that the plot which led to the murder of Mr. Ashe was hatched almost from the moment he appeared on the scene.
Mr. Ashe, Collector of Tinnevelly District, was shot at Maniyachi, a railway junction in the district, about midday on June 17th, 1911, and died within half an hour. His assassin Vanchi alias Sankara Aiyar of Shencotta in Travancore State committed suicide a few minutes after; he was accompanied by a youth named Sankara Krishna Aiyar who ran away, but was afterwards caught and convicted.
An important member of the conspiracy named Nilakanta Aiyar, who absconded to Benares but eventually gave himself up in Calcutta, threw a great deal of light on what had happened. His first statement was made to the Deputy Commissioner of Police in Calcutta, who had no previous knowledge of any of the facts, and it was afterwards repeated in Madras. In his statement he admitted that he used to travel about in the company of Sankara Krishna Aiyar, the youth who was with Vanchi Aiyar at the time of the murder, and that he had met Vanchi Aiyar himself frequently. The most important part of his statement was that relating to Pondicherry. He said he was there for fifteen days at the end of November, 1910, and the beginning of December, and that V.V.S. Aiyar came there at that time, but he did not see him. He again passed through Pondicherry in January, 1911, and after going home returned there in February and stayed four or five days. At this time, he says, Vanchi Aiyar came to see me at Pondicherry in connection with the publication of my books. He stayed there three or four days; every day he used to go and see V.V.S. Aiyar. I also met V.V.S. Aiyar at this time. I did not go with Vanchi Aiyar. V.V.S. Aiyar advocated violence and assassination to free the country. I asked him what his aim was; he said violence is the best method in the present state of the country, young men should be induced to violence. No one else was present when I saw V.V.S. Aiyar. V.V.S. Aiyars idea was that Europeans in India should be assassinated, that the country had been quiet too long. He said many nationalists were working for India in America, England, France and Switzerland. At another place he explains that he was asked to go and see V.V.S. Aiyar by two young men of Pondicherry named Nagaswami Aiyar and Balu alias Balkrishna Aiyar; the former was already known as one of Aiyars associates, and was seen going to Maniyachi junction the day after the murder.
Nilakanta added that he quarrelled with Vanchi Aiyar in February 1911, and that the latter accused him of being a spy and threatened to shoot him. Thereupon he left Pondicherry and after wandering about in various places reached Benares at the end of April. Having heard of the murder he came down to Calcutta on the 28th June, and after a few days consideration wrote a letter to the Commissioner of Police. Nilakanta was convicted of complicity in the crime and sentenced to seven years rigorous imprisonment.
At the end of May, 1911, and again a few days before the murder, two revolutionary leaflets appeared in Tinnevelly, Madura and other places, the first entitled A Friendly Word to the Aryans and the second Oath of Admission into the Abhinav Bharat Society. They both purported to be printed by the Feringhi Destroyer Press, both referred to a prophecy of Vyasa that the white empire will be destroyed between the years Nandana and Andana, and they contained many other points of resemblance. Internal evidence therefore suggested that they came from the same source. Again the second leaflet was all about the Abhinav Bharat (New India) Society. This was the name given by V.D. Savarkar to the secret revolutionary society started by him in Nasik and continued in London and Paris. When it is remembered that Aiyar was V.D. Savakars right hand man in London and Paris the inference is that the leaflet about the society was issued by him. Any doubt that both the leaflets emanated from Aiyars gang in Pondicherry was removed by the fact that when the one entitled A Friendly Word to the Aryans was shown to Nilakanta Aiyar he pointed out, without the slightest hesitation, that it was printed in two different types which were, except for the headings, the only two types possessed by the Dharma office in Pondicherry; further that the composition was irregular and evidently not the work of a professional printer, and that the invocation at the end had been used by V.V.S. Aiyar on former occasions.
It appears, therefore, that V.V.S. Aiyar brought to Pondicherry the name, and with it the principles, of the Abhinav Bharat Society, and that the Pondicherry gang issued the revolutionary leaflets which appeared before the murder of Mr. Ashe, and were largely, if not entirely, responsible for the murder. It will be remembered that the murder of Mr. Jackson, Collector of Nasik, on December 1st, 1909, a crime precisely similar in character and execution was carried out by the Nasik branch of Savarkars Abhinav Bharat Society. The evidence of the connection of the Pondicherry gang with the Ashe murder was so strong that warrants for complicity in it were issued against.
C. Subramania Bharati,
S. Srinivasa Achari,
S. Nagaswami Aiyar, and
S. Madaswami Pillai.
These warrants are still in force.
Arabindo Ghose, who came to Pondicherry early in 1910, is not known to have associated much with V.V.S. Aiyar at first. In February 1911 he wrote to the Hindu of Madras a letter published in the issue of that paper dated February 24th in which he complained of the attentions of people he believed to be detectives, and said, I am living in entire retirement and see none but a few local friends and the few gentlemen of position who care to see me when they come to Pondicherry.1
In April, 1912, his associates were a certain Surendra [Saurindra] Nath Bose, who acted as his secretary, and two other Bengali suspects named Bejoy Kumar Nag of Khulna, and Nalini Kanta Sirkar alias Gupta. They were said to be practising yog under Arabindo Ghose and worshipping the Goddess Kali, but their worship apparently permitted unbridled licence of which they took the fullest advantage. They took in the Amrita Bazar Patrika and the Nayak of Calcutta and said they received them gratis.
On 15th August, 1912, a meeting was held at the house of Arabindo Ghose, in celebration, it is believed, of his 40th birthday. The meeting was attended by V.V.S. Aiyar, C. Subramania Bharati, a well-known writer of sedition, against whom a warrant is out for complicity in the murder of Mr. Ashe, and a few other revolutionaries. During the proceedings five pictures were garlanded with flowers, namely those of (1) the goddess Kali, the patron saint of the Bengal revolutionary movement, (2) Bharat Mata, the personification of Mother India, (3) B.G. Tilak and (4) and (5) Khudiram Bose and Profulla Chaki, the two young Bengalis who threw the bomb which killed Mrs. and Miss Kennedy at Muzaffarpur in April, 1908. It was remarked that Arabindo Ghose was now in closer touch with V.V.S. Aiyar and his dangerous gang.
Enquiries made in 1913 showed that there had been no recent unusual activity amongst the suspects here. Their European correspondence is conducted through the French post-office. Madame Cama and V.V.S. Aiyar correspond regularly, and she would have no difficulty in sending him the automatic pistols which she is rumoured to have done on two occasions in the last two years. He is known to have asked her to send him a number of books on military subjects, including Clausewitzs standard book on war. The absurdity of Aiyars studying strategy and tactics at the present stage of the movement he aspires to lead is apparent, but the fact indicates his state of mind and that he dreams of an armed revolution. Copies of the Bande Mataram are regularly sent out by Madame Cama. According to a report received from Paris as recently as August 1913 she sends 50 copies to Pondicherry.
V.V.S. Aiyar has naturally taken care to maintain good relations with the French authorities. On the evening of July 5th, 1913, a meeting was held by V.V.S. Aiyar near the house of the suspect Srinivasa Achari. About 150 people were present, including some 14 refugees from British India. Aiyar said that wherever the British went they oppressed the people, and recently the high officials, by misleading members of Parliament, had succeeded in passing new laws which were against the interests of India. The police had also harrassed the people; 30 or 40 people had been unnecessarily arrested and were now being prosecuted in Barisal. It was for this reason that he and Arabindo Ghose and the others had had to leave British India and settle in French territory. They were tired of British law. They had received better treatment in French territory, and the French officers were very kind and courteous. He had received a letter from his friend Shyamaji Krishnavarma in Paris to say that the new Governor of Pondicherry would leave Paris in October next, and he appealed to Arabindo Ghose to prepare an address of welcome. It is stated that Arabindo agreed to do this, and the report indicates that Arabindo Ghose and V.V.S. Aiyar continue to be on good terms.
The interest known to be taken by the British Government in Pondicherry affairs has encouraged some local men to come forward with exaggerated and false reports. The most notorious false informer is named Mayoresin, but there are others, and information received from Indian informers in Pondicherry has to be received with more than the usual caution.
List of the anarchists, political suspects of Pondicherry, and their associates.
[Note. These individuals are to be shadowed closely, followed and arrested if they move into British Territory.]
[Note. These persons are to be shadowed closely, followed when they move and cards issued in accordance with the instructions laid down in Departmental Notice No. II, published in Madras Secret Abstract No. 40, dated 14th October 1911].
[Note. The undermentioned individuals are released from active surveillance. The Inspector will cause them to be watched while in Pondicherry, but they will not be followed either in or out of Pondicherry. Arrival and departure from Pondicherry to be noted, and any unusual activity e.g., if they call meetings, start any new business, move about in a suspicious manner, etc.
The Railway Police will note and report their journeys (copies of G.D. extracts to be sent to the District Superintendent of Police of destination and to Deputy Superintendent, Muhammad Abdul Karim Sahib Faruki, Khan Sahib, Cuddalore, by the Superintendent of Railway Police); but will not shadow them or point them out, or in any way interfere with them. The Superintendent of Railway Police, Trichinopoly, is requested to issue instructions to this effect.]
[Note. This class is composed of persons who are suspects and may very likely resort to Pondicherry in future. They should be watched for.]
From Government of Madras, Judicial (1912) Department, Ordinary MS. G.O., No. 1335, Confidential, 21.8.12.
STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL No. 161
Office of the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, C.I.D. and Railways,
From: C.C: Longden, Esq.
To: The Inspector-General of Police, Madras.
I have the honour to refer you to G.O. 160 dated February 1912, sanctioning the present establishment in Pondicherry, and calling for a further report at the end of July.
2. In revising the list of suspects recently I was able to strike off 15 names from the list of those marked for active surveillance, but even in the case of these men it is necessary for our Pondicherry party to watch very carefully what they are doing while in Pondicherry, as on their conduct there depends the question as to whether they need active surveillance outside. Otherwise the list of suspects remains the same as it was in February.
3. As regards the actual state of affairs in Pondicherry the extremists are showing more activity now than they have for some little time, as already reported the arrival of T.S. Srinivasamurthi has undoubtedly cheered them up, and it seems to me that they have got more money than they had. No active propaganda is, as far as I know, going on, but at Harikatha performances, which they are very fond of attending, the extremists are given honours and any lines in the play that are at all appropriate are obviously spoken at them. I hear that Professor Ramamurthi gave them money on his recent visit, and they are certainly one of the lions of Pondicherry. The moment we remove our men, they will be up to their tricks again; they will regard any withdrawal as an immediate and direct triumph and they will take very good care that the surrounding country knows of it with the result that they will speedily gather an admiring gang of sympathisers. V.V.S. Aiyar is trying to import sham jewels into Pondicherry, and to export skins and poppadams to Paris. Bharathi has two books ready for the press; the whole lot of them have been holding frequent meetings during the last three weeks in Dhamalaya and other places.
4. Turning to detail our work is:
The party consists of one C.I.D. Inspector and nine Sub-Inspectors and 45 men.
5. The detailed work of the party is as follows:
The allotment of parties is as under.
6. It will be seen that every man has a full days work, and that none of the work to be done can be left undone without leaving a gap. The only reductions I could recommend at present are very trifling, so much so that I do not think it worthwhile to recommend them; I will however, detail them:
The total of this reduction would only be the substitution of one Head Constable for one Sub-Inspector and the saving of five men, and it is hardly worthwhile upsetting the present work for so petty a reduction. As it is, T.S. Srinivasamurthi has escaped surveillance and moved off to Villianur by road three or four times already, but we have always been on his track within 3 to 4 hours.
7. On the whole, therefore, I do not recommend any reduction at present. I do not like the present recrudescence of activity and I note that violently seditious leaflets of the Jugantar type are already beginning to appear in Bengal. I will watch the matter of this reduction most carefully and will recommend a reduction as soon as I can. There is, of course, a point beyond which it will not be prudent to reduce the force, on account of frequent local disturbances, but we have not yet reached that.
8. I have laid down a roster of duty whence we are to draw Sub-Inspectors, and I have ordered that the party shall, as near as possible, be of the following strength:
South Arcot, 15; City, 5, Madras R.P., 5; Trichinopoly R.P., 5; Tanjore; 5; Trichinopoly, 5; Chingleput, 5.
So that the loss of men will not be a tax on any district.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
CONFIDENTIAL No. 160/8.8.12
Notes on Pondicherry
I attach A, a copy of the latest revised list of extremists in Pondicherry with my instructions as to their surveillance. The only addition to the inner ring which consists of Arabindo Ghose and his five (four) satellites, V.V.S. Aiyar, Srinivasa Chari, Bharathi, Nagaswami and Ramaswami, is T.S. Srinivasamurthi, whose history is given in para 86 of our current Secret Abstract.
The party is still comparatively quiet, but there are signs of renewed activity which broke forth especially at the time of T.S. Srinivasamurthis arrival in Pondicherry. V.V.S. Aiyar has been, and is, busy composing a History of India, and has finished an epitome of the Ramayana, and Bharathi has been with Nagaswami as his amanuensis, composing further patriotic poems. We have copies of some of these recent compositions but they have steered clear of anything seditious. They have been more ready to go out to Dramas and entertainments and are, as a rule, received with a good deal of honour and given prominent seats at these places. When suitable lines occur in plays, I understand that they are very obviously spoken at the extremists, who quite acknowledge them. They are still in correspondence with Madame Cama, D.S. Madava Rao, M.P. Tirumala Chari and still receive, to the address of others, the Indian Sociologist and Bande Mataram and a recent post brought them a copy of the July Liberator.
Without being absolutely on their last legs they are distinctly in straitened circumstances. V.V.S. Aiyar and Arabindo Ghose are both changing their houses from motives of economy. Bharathi has the greatest difficulty in getting his poems printed at all and a Pondicherry press does not charge prohibitive rates. T.S. Srinivasamurthi has practically nothing and if A.G. does lend the others money (he has lent Srinivasa Chari money), he takes extra-ordinarily good care that he gets it back sharp, even if his young men have to wait all day for it. Local support is forthcoming; I know of one Chetty who gives Rs. 3/- a month but it is not lavishly paid, and the older folk have set their faces very strongly against their sons associating with the extremists. V.V.S. Aiyar has been importing sham jewels which D.S. Madava Rao sends him, and is trying to export skins and poppadams and so make a bit of money by trade. Arabindo Ghose of course has money which he gets through the banks, and his Bengalis spend their time in a reading room and are apparently shining lights at the local games clubs, football and hockey especially, as far as I hear, being their favourites.
4. Noteworthy events
(1) [See Document 6]
(2) [See Document 9]
(3) The arrival of T.S. Srinivasamurthi created a prompt impression. As his history is given in the Abstract I need not go into details regarding him. The effect of his arrival on the others was, however, an outburst of social activity; my impression of him is that he is a blustering youth but very shallow. He was the first new man for months that had openly gone about with the extremists and after his arrival, there was a constant succession of picnics and dinner parties, meetings at Bhamalaya (a press where the extremists meet), visits to A.G. and so forth. I was rather afraid, and, if I may guess, I think that they thought that they had got another like Nilakanta Aiyar, who carried the message of sedition to Tinnevelly, or like Vanchi the assassin. And we were very watchful. But he has toned down wonderfully; my information is that the others are down on him as his continually dodging of our our party in Pondicherry has made them more active than ever and the others have suggested that he should leave but he replies I dare not, I have given the police so much trouble that they will break my bones. And I hear that he has never been allowed to see Arabindo Ghose at all, a privilege which is carefully preserved for the worthy.2 He knew Bharathi and others in Madras, and he had spent most of his money in his native village; a warrant was out against him for evading the plague regulations and in consequence of this he bolted to Pondicherry. The warrant is now in the hands of the special party Inspector and he will be arrested the moment he steps across the Frontier, unless he gets away unbeknownst to us; he will get a good fright when he is arrested and he may give us certain information. I may be mistaken but I dont think he is really dangerous.
(4) A possible future event is the arrival of M.P. Tirumala Chari, lately in Constantinople. I have already reported this to the Director of Criminal Intelligence in my D.O. letter No. 706 dated 20th July 1912. I have informed Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Rangoon and Colombo and all these ports have his photograph and description. The Commissioner of Police has a case against him absolutely ready if he does fall into our hands.
As far as I can see, the extremists are marking time. We have discovered no lectures and nothing like drills or revolver practice going on and no emissaries are being sent out. V.V.S. Aiyar, Arabindo Ghose and Bharathi are busy with literary work. Srinivasa Chari seldom goes out and the younger ones amuse themselves in their own way. But it is no time to give up any of our vigilance. I regard V.V.S. Aiyar as very determined character and a capable originator; Arabindo Ghose is important as he commands general respect and Srinivasa Chari is fairly steadfast; Bharathi is a much more disreputable character but has gone too far to retreat and must go on with it. A curious air of expectancy seems to pervade the party. Arabindo Ghose says in reply to a friend that he will not go back to Bengal as there will be trouble there shortly and the police will be sure to attribute it to him if he is back; Bharathi writing to a friend in Natal says that all their bad times and troubles are past; for some reason I have not yet fathomed, they think 1915 to be the year of trouble. I can see no connection between them and any centre in Madras City. But I do not know how far the wires are pulled from Bengal through Arabindo Ghose and his party. But they will certainly require a longer subsidy if they are to be really active.
The following is a revised list of the anarchists, political suspects of Pondicherry and their associates:
Note:These individuals are to be shadowed closely, followed and arrested if they move into British Territory:
Note:These persons are to be shadowed closely, followed when they move and cards issued according to the present system:
Note: The undermentioned individuals are released from active surveillance. The Inspector will cause them to be watched while in Pondicherry, but they will not be followed either in or out of Pondicherry. Arrival and departure from Pondicherry to be noted, and any unusual activity, e.g., if they call meetings, move about in suspicious manner, start any new business, etc.
The Railway Police will note and report their journey (copies of G.D. extracts to be sent to the District Superintendent of Police at destination and to Deputy Superintendent, Muhamad Abdul Karim Sahib Faruki, Khan Sahib, Cuddalore, by the Superintendent of Railway Police), but will not shadow them or point them out, or in any way interfere with them. The Superintendent of Railway Police, Trichinopoly, is requested to issue careful instructions:
Note: This class is composed of persons who are suspects and may very likely resort in future to Pondicherry. They should be watched for:
From Government of Madras, Judicial (1913) Department, G.O. No. 42, Confidential No. 3, 8.1.1913.
G.O. No. 42 (1913)
The following information is communicated to me by a reliable agent of mine.
There is a movement in Pondicherry to petition the French Governor by mohazar signed by the people of Pondicherry to remove the C.I.D. Police from Pondicherry. Some of the people went to Aravinda Ghose and consulted him whether such a mahazar should be submitted. Aravinda is said to have advised them not to send the mahazar as that might lead to the British Government asking the French Government to expel the extremists from Pondicherry.
The cause that gave rise to the movement is said to be the kidnapping of a child from Pondicherry about 20 days ago. The child was found three days after at Aryalur near Kandamangalam, but without the jewels he had on his person. The child was 8 years old. The Pondicherry people consider that thieves sit on the poyaux of houses and answer when questioned that they are C.I.D. men. That if the C.I.D. men are removed from Pondicherry the thieves will not be able to commit crime in the disguise of C.I.D. men.
A C.I.D. Policemans Pocket Diary. (ed. R.A. Padmanabhan), Indian Review, May 1976, 29-39.
A Class nil
Absconders with Warrant for them:
S. Srinivasachari, B.A.,
Father House No. 10, Dupleix St. This man knows well English, French, Tamil and Tulukku (Urdu). Mother-in-law: Yagni Ammal. Brother-in-law: Sampat Kumaran. Age 28. Cook: Varadaraja Iyengar. Belongs to Mannargudi. This man (the cook) has the same seditious tendencies as his employer.
Bijoy Kumar Naik
This man hails from Pasupati village of Khulna Dt. Father: Bepin Behari Naik. Was involved in the Alipore Bomb Case. Elder brother: Profulla Chandra Chakrabarthy.
Nalini Kanta Sen Gupta
This man plays football well. Hails from Rachubari village of Faridpur Dt. Father: Rajnikanta Sen Gupta. He is a Vakil in Nilpamari, Rampur Dt. This man was involved in the Alipore Bomb Case along with Aurobindo Ghose.
Picks up quarrels like a mad man some times. A close relative of Aurobindo Ghose.
Father: Sheel Chandra Chakrabarthy. Elder brother: Profulla Chandra Chakrabarthy. Plays football well. Home town, Bhowanipur in Calcutta.
Ramasami Iyengar alias Ramasami alias Narayana Iyer.
This mans father, Varadaraja Iyengar. Is employed under Rajagopalachari in Srirangam.
[Page 13 & 14]
Jagendranath Pal Kshatriya.
Brahmin. Is Bengali Translator in the French court.
No. 1, Chinna Brahmin St. Born in Senegal in Africa. Studying in B.A. class. A close friend of the Bengalis. Knows French and English. It is learnt that letters for the Bengalis come addressed to this man.
V.V. Subramania Aiyar
No. 89, Dharmaraja Iswaran Koil St. Relatives: Father-in-law: Subramania Iyer alias Swadeshi Subramania Iyer, Karur Taluk, Appipalayam Village. Brother-in-law: K.R. Venkita Subramania Iyer. Clerk in the Railway Medical Office, Tiruchi. K. Ramachandra Iyer of Appipalayam previously came to Pondicherry, worked in the London-Paris Hotel, and posing as the Manager of the hotel, swindled money and went away.
Wife: Bhagyalakshmi. Can read. All the mail by post comes addressed to her name only.
Friends: 1) Ratnasabapathy Naicker, Proprietor, Sarada Press. (2) Suspect Thangavelu Pillai. (3) Muthukumaraswami, No. 82, Pooniser St. Pondicherry. (4) Varadarajulu, studying in B.A. class, in Angu Pillais house, No. 41, Brahmin St., Pondicherry. (5) B.S. Satyanageswara Iyer, No. 72, Ambalattaduvar Madathu St., Pondicherry. (6) Cochin Sami Iyer, Vaidyar. (7) Jagannatha Naidu, lecturer in Kural in Krishnagana Sabha.
C. Subramania Bharati
No. 47, Dharmaraja Iswaran Kovil St. Wife: Chellammal. Daughter: Sakuntala. Grandfather: Guruswami Iyer. Maternal uncle: Sambasiva Iyer, Ettiyapuram. He is Gymnasium Teacher in Ettiyapuram school. Friends: (1) Thangavelu Pillai, suspect. (2) Muthukumaraswami Pillai, No. 82, Rudi Pooniser St., Pondicherry (3) Sultanpet Suleiman Sahib, Villianur. Shaddakar: Viswanatha Iyer, Panda, Hanumantha Ghat, Kashi. Viswanatha Iyers younger brother Vedarama Iyer also stays with him there. A child named Swarnammal by the first wife is in Kadayam in her grandfathers house.
No. 89, Dharmaraja St. This man stays in V.V.S. Iyers house and eats there. Vaiyapuri Kandasami Chetty helps him with money.
Friends: Ratnasabapathi Naicker, Thangavelu Pillai, Kannu Pillai, Sivakolunthu Rajam Naicker, Arumugam Chetty.
No. 43, Iswaraj Dharmaraja St., Father: Murugesa pillai. Elder brother is in Paris reading for Engineering. Maternal uncle: Govindarajulu Mudaliar, B.A. B.L., High court Vakil, No. 41 Poonamalli High Road, Madras.
This man is one who is helpful to Bharati. Two Vagabonds, Ranganathan and Siva Prakasam are his friends. Has a kept woman, Ammakannu in Cuddalore.
No. 32, Komuti St. Seems to have read till the 5th form in the St. Joseph College, Cuddalore. Maternal uncles, Kuppusami Iyer and Sambamurti Iyer, are dealers in groundnut. Sambamurti Iyer was previously Telegraphist in Calcutta, Allahabad, Lucknow etc. and had resigned his job and come.
This Swami (Venkitesan) is not particularly strict in religion. Is very fond of Brahmo religion. It seems he is getting political journals from Europe and America.
No. 98, Muthu Mariamman Kovil St., Mudaliarpet. Is Teacher in French school. Is very helpful to Aurobindo Ghose, V.V.S. Iyer parties.
Relatives: Brother-in-law: Thangavelu Pillai. Father-in-law.
Wife: Ponnukkannammal. Father: Soma Annamalai Pillai. Brother-in-law Ratnam Pillai.
Brother-in-law of Kannu Pillai.
Extract from Government of Madras. Judicial Department. Confidential No. 160/8.8.12 Notes on Pondicherry [see Document 3].
4. Noteworthy events
(1) The French Government have strengthened their hand by prescribing a Police regulation for the registration of foreigners, and by prescribing certain Press regulations for Pondicherry which are, I believe, in force in Paris. I have a copy of the regulations but the legal terminology of the French regulation is too much for me and I am having the rules translated. Roughly, they make the starting of any seditious newspaper a difficult matter but the rule does not go so far as to include all seditious documents.
From Reminiscences of Srinivas Achari. National Archives of India. Private Papers Collection. History of the Freedom Movement B 34/2.
The next attempt was to tease us through the Pondicherry Government itself either by influencing the local authorities or by bringing pressure upon them from France. One fine morning the Pondicherry Government issued an order that all foreigners in the French Establishments should register themselves in the police; and the newcomers should do so within 24 hours of their arrival, stating the purpose of their visit and the time they intend to stay. The British police had a strong suspicion that one Madasami, a staunch Nationalist in Tirunelveli Dist. and who had disappeared after the murder of Ash[e], was hiding in Pondicherry. By finding him out they thought they could easily implicate us in the murder. They tried their best to find him, and this police registration may[have] be[en] an attempt to know whether any of his relatives are coming and going. Whether they succeeded or not we had to get ourselves registered according to the rules. We knew that these pinpricks were all due to the stay of the British Indian secret police in Pondicherry.
From Nolini Kanta Gupta, Reminiscences. (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1959), 55.
Now let me say a few nice things, about some good people, for such people too had their abode here [in Pondicherry]. At the very outset I should speak of the Five Good Men. It is quite possible that there was a law in French India that applied to foreigners. But now the law was made stringently applicable to refugees from our own country. It was laid down that all foreigners, that is, anyone who was not a French citizen, wanting to come and stay here for some time must be in possession of a certificate from a high Government official of the place from where he came, such as a Magistrate in British India, to the effect that he was a well-known person and that there was nothing against him; in other words, he must be in possession of a good-conduct certificate. Or else he must produce a letter to the same effect signed by five gentlemen of standing belonging to Pondicherry. I need hardly say that the first alternative was for us quite impossible and wholly out of the question. We chose the second line, and the five noble men who affixed their signatures were these: (1) Rassendren (the father of our Jules Rassendren), (2) De Zir Naidu, (3) Le Beau, (4) Shanker Chettiar (in whose house Sri Aurobindo had put up on arrival), (5) Murugesh Chettiar. The names of these five should be engraved in letters of gold. They had shown on that occasion truly remarkable courage and magnanimity. It was on the strength of their signatures that we could continue to stay here without too much trouble.
The House Search Incident of April 1912
Extract from Government of Madras. Judicial Department. Confidential No. 160/8.8.12 Notes on Pondicherry.
(2) An event which hit the extremists hard was the enquiry by a French Magistrate into a supposed plot against the French. I may begin by saying that Pondicherry is full of the most unprincipled false informers, two of the most notorious being Mayoresan and his father Devanayagam, who have made probably quite a good living by the trade for years. Actuated by hard times (as we distrust them consistently now) and by hopes of reward, these two went to the French Inspector with a tale of conspiracy against all Europeans including the French.
A Society of National Life Guards and Armed Heroes was mentioned and sannads of admission to the Society were produced purporting to be signed by Srinivasa Chari. The Inspector went to H.E. [His Excellency] M. Duprat, the Governor, who ordered the Parquet to enquire. The Magistrate pumped the Inspector until he found out who the real informants were, and then went on with his enquiry. The houses of the extremists were searched, but the day before V.V.S. Aiyars house was searched, he sent for the Magistrate and asked for his well to be searched; this was done and certain sannads and other documents, which he alleged had been put in the well, were found. The enquiry was very confidential and the net result was that warrants for perjury were issued against Mayoresan and Devanayagam and they have fled from Pondicherry. Of course there can be no doubt that the aim of the extremists is against the French just as much as the British and I fancy M. Duprat realises that quite well, but the Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite idea suits them quite well for the present, outwardly. And I should say that though the subject matter of the information against the extremists was perfectly true, the actual informants twisted and exaggerated facts until they got themselves into trouble. The episode has, however, shaken the extremists a good deal, they did not expect the French Government to take so prompt and definite a line; the absence of Mayoresan and Devanayagam will probably be a godsend to Pondicherry. My Sub-Inspectors were strictly forbidden ever to speak to Mayoresan, but he used to follow them, begging even for half an anna.
From Government of India. Home Department. Political-A. May 1912. Nos. 14-18, 11.
Weekly report of the Director of Criminal Intelligence dated Simla, the 16th April 1912.
6. Pondicherry. It is reported that, on information supplied by other Indian residents of the place that they were collecting arms and distributing seditious literature, the French authorities searched the houses of Arabindo Ghose, V.V.S. Aiyar, S. Srinivasa Chari, and C. Subramania Bharati on April 8th. It is said that they found only an old revolver and a seditious picture in the well near V.V.S. Aiyars house, and that before the search began Aiyar produced a bundle of seditious papers in Tamil before the Magistrate and complained that some one had placed them in his house. Evidently, therefore, the information had leaked out, and in the end the conspirators were allowed to go and have since attempted to turn the tables by bringing a claim for damages against the informers.
7. It is futher reported that the French authorities have addressed the Government of Madras on the subject of removing the British police from Pondicherry.
From Reminiscences of Srinivas Achari. National Archives of India. Private Papers Collection, History of the Freedom Movement B 34/2.
Their [the British polices] present plan was to represent us as running a big plot in Pondicherry not only against the Englishmen but against the Frenchmen also. For this they made use of a young man who was known to be a violent revolutionary and was moving with us in Madras, he was arrested in northern India at the time of Ash[e]s murder and brought to Madras. As he had known us before he was utilized to allot to each one of us our post in the conspiracy.
We were supposed to recruit members in French India. To give it an international character and to show that we had close connection with the Indian movement in London, Shyamaji Krishna Varma who was running the India House there and who had then retired to Switzerland was made the President of this conspiracy and I as secretary was to admit members and sign printed receipts in proof of their admission with a rubberstamp facsimile of my signature impressed on them. The counterfoil of those receipts bore the names of the members enlisted. Among such names it is but natural to find that of the arrested young man and my present Swadeshi companions, Bharati, Aiyar, Nagasamy and others. Another item was a photo of a temple of Kali with the heads of Europeans separated from their bodies scattered before the image made as offerings to her. Some copies of such photos, the receipt-book with counterfoils, the rubberstamp facsimile of my signature with a pad and some printed pamphlets were placed in a porcelain jar which was afterwards hermetically sealed.
The back side wall of Aiyars house which had fallen owing to recent heavy rains allowed any outsider to have easy access to a small well in the backyard. Into this well was thrown the hermetically sealed jar with a weight attached to it so that it may remain sunk till the French police come and examine the well on their complaint. By this time Aiyar had shifted to his house from mine as troublesome days were over. He was living in that house just as before with his wife and children and the servant was attending to her work as usual. The jar must have been put into the well the previous night when all were asleep. At daybreak when it was yet dim the servant as usual went to the well and threw her bucket into it to draw water holding the other end of the rope. The bucket when filled with water went down and hit the jar which getting loose from the weight attached to it rose up to the level of the water and began to float visibly. The servant woman seeing it come up suddenly and float was taken aback and took [it] to be a child.
She ran to Aiyar and told him her suspicions. He went to the well and found something floating over the water. He got into the well and took hold of the object and finding it to be a jar, brought it to his room. On opening it he found all the above mentioned articles carefully packed. At about 8 or 9 A.M. Bharati and himself came to my house with the jar and its contents. We wrote a petition to the Governor Duprat with the jar and the other articles, and asked for an interview. When it was granted we went in and placed before him all these and told him how we found them and how they want to foist them upon us and bring us to trouble. He looked at them and said that it was a matter for the police to enquire find out the culprit and as such we were asked to make the complaint to the police. When we left him he gave us the impression that he had already some knowledge of it. We went to the French police and delivered the jar with the contents with the necessary complaint.
The next Saturday all the three of us, Aiyar, Bharati and myself received summons from the Magistrate to be present at his court on the next day which was a Sunday at seven in the morning. It looked somewhat strange to us to be called on a Sunday at such a hour. It might be[,] we thought, for the sake of convenience and leisurely enquiry. We went there and found the Procureur de la Republique, one M. Nadau was there and we were called in. From the conversation we learnt that a complaint had already been lodged by a young man and his father, both of them French citizens, living in Pondicherry. It took us by suprise and we [were] wondering who those blessed citizens were. I felt greatly relieved when I learnt that they were no other than Mayuresan and his father. I knew this young man as a spy in the pay of the British police, even as early as 1909 when the India weekly was being published. In those days he would come to me occasionally and once even confessed to me that he was receiving some money from the British police through Babu Rao their head at Pondicherry, by giving them some false information or other. Some months later he once came to me and bitterly complained against the same head of the police. He told me that for the informations he had been giving he was receiving only payments with big promises [of] better payments next time which were never paid. He wanted me to publish a strong article in the weekly against these police methods undertaking the responsibility for it by putting his own signature on it. I told him that I cannot do it on his oral report, but if he puts them in writing in his own hand and gives me all his correspondence in support of his complaint then alone I would be able to publish it in the Weekly.
The next day he brought to me a long complaint against Babu Rao, the head of the British secret police with a bundle of letters to him by the same Babu Rao in that connection. To make sure that the complaint was in his own hand I asked him to write a letter in Tamil requesting to publish it as it is well supported by the letters accompanying it. It was published as desired and I took care to preserve the originals.
This was the person who with his father has come forward to lodge a complaint with the French police against us as dangerous persons who by their secret conspiracies are disturbing the peace of Pondicherry. So when I found that this was the man I had to deal with, I was quite confident of success. After hearing the complaint and the complainants name[s] we were told that a few policemen will go with us immediately and search our houses to find out if there are incriminating documents or other articles there. When we said we had no objection a batch of French Indian policemen were sent with us to search our houses. In my house the search began at about 10 A.M. and lasted till 2 to 3 P.M. In Bharatis house, it was over by midday. In Aiyars house it went on till 4 p.m. and the only objectionable article that the police confiscated in house was the Nepalee kukree that I had lent him for the Ayudha Puja worship during the Dusserah. Sri Aurobindos house was also searched towards the evening by two European officers from the Magistrates court who on entering his house told him Nous sommes venus pour en montrer linanité (We have come to show its uselessness) and the search there was over within an hour. The police report was that nothing incriminating was found in the houses searched.
On the day on which we were called upon to answer the charges made by the complainants, we told the Magistrate that we had already given a complaint to the police with the necessary materials as evidence, as to how the British secret police contingent that is kept in Pondicherry is setting up unscrupulous people to bring us to trouble and the two who are accusing us in this case are the worst among them. The young man who with his father has come forward to accuse us of conspiracy and of disturbing the peace of Pondicherry, he was already in the pay of the British secret police many years ago and was kicked out by it for the wrong informations he was furnishing in order to get money. Here is his own statement in his own handwriting published in the India weekly some years ago and here are the letters written to him by the head of that police here in Pondicherry at that time (1909-1910).
On seeing the bundle of letters with the British Indian police Imprints on it addressed to Mayuresan some years ago Nadau the investigating officer was greatly astonished at the audacity of the complainants in coming forward with their shameless accusations. He looked at them with contempt and what they had to say in reply. They themselves were equally astonished. They were taken aback and could not reply immediately as they themselves did not know what to say. Either they had forgotten completely all about this matter or perhaps they had thought that I would not have preserved the original manuscripts of the article and the bundle of letters connected with it. They were in a fix and could not give an answer; they looked at each other and begged for time to reply. Nadau was quite convinced that the complaint was false from top to bottom and warned the complainants strictly to be ready with their answer by 3 oclock that evening otherwise they will be put in lock-up. He put as a few questions about the contents of the porcelain jar. We explained to him that it was a mischievous concoction by the British police who were using a prisoner in their hands and ready to do anything to get their favour even though he posed himself as an ardent nationalist when he was moving with us in Madras in the early days of the National Movement, when the political agitation was at its height. We were asked to come in the evening when the complainants come with their answer. When we came to the Court in the evening the complainants were not there and a policeman was sent to fetch them. When the police man returned he told Nadau that the complainants made themselves scarce and had left the French territory. They seemed to have escaped to Cuddalore, the chief town of the South Arcot district 20 miles from Pondicherry. As the complaint was withdrawn we returned home wondering at the strange turn the things have taken. Later we learnt that before leaving Pondicherry they had lodged a complaint with the Governor that Nadau sided with the Swadeshis and was about to beat them during the enquiry for proffering a false complaint. To dispose of this new complaint the Governor had to call for an explanation from Nadau who had to defend himself by saying that it was utterly false and had to refer him to us who were the only persons present in his room at that time. So the poor investigating officer, Bharati said later on, had to cite us the accused as witnesses to get himself clear of a false charge brought by the complainants against him, in a departmental enquiry. This anomalous situation was described by him to Sri Aurobindo while conversing about it.
On the other side the situation had not been so funny as it had become to us. The complainants had become a burden to the British secret police. If the two that had run away from Pondicherry are to be kept in Madras they are sure to come back to Pondicherry for some reasons or other, because they have so many interests there which would require their presence and they will be constantly on the look out to go there. If they are caught and prosecuted there by the French police they will pitilessly expose all the intrigues, machinations of the British police there and the inducements that they are constantly offering to men of their stamp to bring the Swadeshis to trouble. Their concoction of the supposed conspiracy, in the present case will be laid bare in public. The photos of the dismembered heads of Europeans, the receipt-book, the rubberstamp facsimile and the way in which the hermetically sealed [jar] was dumped in the well in Aiyars house would all be mercilessly exposed. Even their attempt to kidnap Aiyar may come out.
To avoid all these risks to them they began to frighten the poor victims of horrible intrigue, and exaggerating the danger that might befall them if they remain nearby they suggested to them the idea of a trip for them to Singapore. Being themselves terribly afraid of the severe punishment they will have to undergo if caught of by the French, especially after their false complaint to the Governor against Nadau they gladly accepted the offer and ready to go there. They remained there for a year or so and came back to Pondicherry. A few [days] after their arrival the young man who was the cause of all this trouble went to Bharati and was pardoned by him. But he dared not come to any one of us ever afterwards.
From Nolini Kanta Gupta. Reminiscences. (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1969), 44-45.
At one time, they [the British authorities] made up their minds that Sri Aurobindo should be kidnapped in a car with the help of one of the chiefs of the local bandes. We had to patrol all night the house in which Sri Aurobindo lived, lest there should be a sudden attack. I gather the ringleader behind this move showed repentance later and said that to act against a holy man and yogi was a great sin and that a curse might fall on the evildoer himself.
Nevertheless, force having failed they now tried fraud. An attempt was made to frame a trumped-up charge at law. Some of the local ghouls were made to help forge the documents some photographs and maps and charts along with a few letters which were to prove that we had been engaged in a conspiracy for dacoity and murder. The papers were left in a well in the compound of one of our men, then they were discovered after a search by the police. The French police had even entered Sri Aurobindos residence for a search. But when their Chief found there were Latin and Greek books lying about on his desk, he was so taken aback that he could only blurt out, Il sait du latin, il sait du grec! He knows Latin, he knows Greek! and then he left with all his men. How could a man who knew Latin and Greek ever commit any mischief?
In fact, the French Government had not been against us, indeed they helped us as far as they could. We were looked upon as their guests and as political refugees, it was a matter of honour for them to give us their protection. And where it is a question of honour, the French as a race are willing to risk anything: they still fight duels in France on a point of honour. But at the same time, they had their friendship, the entente cordiale, with Britain to maintain, and it is this that got them into a dilemma.
From A.B. Purani. Life of Sri Aurobindo (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1978), 149-50.
In July 1912 some secret service men threw a tin containing seditious literature into the well of V.V.S. Aiyars house. As the British agents could not openly act in French territory, they employed Mayuresan, a French Indian, to complain against Bharati and other patriots, alleging that they were engaged in dangerous activities and that, if a search of their house was made, proof of the complaint would be found. He had not mentioned Sri Aurobindo by name but as Bharati, V.V.S. Aiyar and Srinivasachari were friends of Sri Aurobindo, the French government included his name on a list of those whose houses were to be searched.
But the scheme of the secret agents fell through, because the tin came up from the well when V.V.S. Aiyars maid-servant drew water. Bharati went to Sri Aurobindo immediately and asked his advice. Sri Aurobindo told him to inform the French police and to ask them to come and see the tin to find what it contained. The French government took charge of the tin and found that it contained seditious pamphlets and journals. On some there was the image of Kali and some writing in Bengali. The suspicion was supposed to be created that all these refugees were carrying on correspondence with Shyamji Krishna Varma, Madame Cama and other leaders of the revolutionary movement in Europe and were trying to hatch an Indian conspiracy with their help.
The investigating magistrate who came to search Sri Aurobindos house was one M. Nandot, who arrived with the chief of police and the public prosecutor. He found practically no furniture in the house, only a few trunks, a table and a chair. On opening the drawers of the table he found only books and papers. On some of the papers Greek was written. He was very much surprised and asked if Sri Aurobindo knew Greek. When he came to know that he knew Latin, Greek and other European languages, his suspicion waned, yielding place to a great respect for Sri Aurobindo. He invited Sri Aurobindo to meet him in his chambers later and Sri Aurobindo complied with his request.
Mayuresan, threatened with a charge of making a false complaint, disappeared from Pondicherry and took refuge in British India.
Extract from letter Sri Aurobindo to Motilal Roy 3 July 1912, (Sri Aurobindo, Supplement (1973), 427).
Other difficulties are disappearing. The case brought against the Swadeshis (no one in this household was included in it although we had a very charmingly polite visit from the Parquet and Juge dInstruction) has collapsed into the nether regions and the complainant and his son have fled from Pondicherry and become, like ourselves political refugees in Cuddalore. I hear he has been sentenced by default to five years imprisonment on false accusation, but I dont know yet whether the report is true. The police were to have left at the end of Pondicherry3 but a young lunatic (one of Bharatis old disciples in patriotism and atheism) got involved in a sedition-search (for the Indian Sociologist of all rubbish in the world!) and came running here in the nick of time for the police to claim another two months holiday in Pondicherry. However, I think their fangs have been drawn.
The Incident of Biren Roy
Extract from diary of A.B. Purani (PT MS5 (1924), 63-67)
We had a talk with Moni about the story that was told by P. Richard to Tirupati & some version of it we had also heard that a certain C.I.D. [agent] came & stayed with A.G. [Aurobindo Ghose, i.e. Sri Aurobindo] & then bowed to him and went away.
Moni said Yes[.] It is a fact. It happened this way. A.G. was then staying in the European Quarters [Quarter a house on Rue St. Martin] but as they could not take the house for two years lease (they had no money) they [had] to go [to] the Indian Quarters Road near the Calvé College [Mission Street] & hire a house for Rs. 15/- per month for 6 months. It was a good house for the rent, having two court-yards & so on.
A.G. was then trying to cure diseases also Bijoy had a cousin at Khulna who was suffering from Thisis [phthisis, i.e. tuberculosis]. The idea was to bring him to Pondy for change & to keep him under A.Gs influence for curing him & the secondary idea was that as he was rich, the monetary difficulty could partly be removed by his help.
He was accompanied by only one Bhramin [Brāhman] attendant, his name was Biren(kumar) (nath?) Roy. He was necessary to attend on the patient & to cook for him. The year was 1913 perhaps When they came they stayed with A.G. in the house in the Indian Quarters. This new attend[ant] used to work very hard. He used to boil milk in the morning for the patient and also for others. Much of the work of other people he used to do himself. He was rather obsequious also in some respects. He used to go [to] the pier & everything passed on quietly. One day he took a fancy to shave Monis beard & then he used to come upstairs & drink wine also. From the talk one could understand that he used to drink even before & also that he used to frequent prostitutes quarters. But that he would be a C.I.D. was absolutely beyong anybodys most distant imagination. A man coming with a sick patient as an attend[ant] on Bijoys cousin & coming from Khulna one could never imagine he could be a C.I.D.
One day he took a fancy to shave off his hair & become bald So had a clean shave over the head.4 Suddenly, Moni also got the impulse to adopt the same fashion. But Biren Roy took objection to Monis following him. But Moni persisted. By this time they had come to 41, Rue Francois Martin.5 Some days after this shaving affair, Roy used to go to the pier & used to ask Moni what he should do; that he did not like Pondy etc. Moni said, he must decide himself[.]
One day there was drinking. At 11 oclock of the night, some one put the idea that Roy must go around & kiss the company-?? Then he went round & kissed everybody & suddenly he said he was going to say something that night. No one heeded[.] But he said somebody must go & bring wine (more) somehow [a certain]6 house was opened and three bottles were brought at night. Biren said that he was a C.I.D. All were taken aback But he went on relating his story saying that he received certain sums of money from the Department. Even Rs. 50/- he gave was from the same. He then said that he never had reported anything against him & his shaving off his hair was necessary in order to give identification to some one who came & lodged at Magris Hotel & so he wrote a letter telling the new comer that a fair man with shaven head & shaven beard & so on will be the C.I.D. Moni also was shaven, so that when Moni pressed for being shaved he thought that probably all people here had come to know him as a spy. Those days there were letters to [ ]7 other things. But he put his head at A.Gs feet & said he had never reported anything against them. But he afterwards was afraid & shut himself up in his room while sleeping was very restless & then Moni & others were thinking of going (in February 1914) he left one month before. When the war came he went to Mesopotamia & then returned & Moni saw him in 1922 March when he went to Khulna his house is at one end of the city & [he] had a tea shop in Khulna[.] He received Moni very cordially & gave him a feast & said that he had given up Govt. Service having quarrelled with [a] certain police Insp. who owed him Rs. 500/- & gave him 300/- & said he should not ask for more. On this matter, he said he quarrelled & resigned.
Extract from Nolini Kanta Gupta, Reminiscences. (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1969), 52-53.
The British Indian police set up a regular station here, with a rented house and several permanent men. They were of course plainclothes men, for they had no right to wear uniform within French territory. They kept watch, as I have said, both on our visitors and guests as well as ourselves. Soon they got into a habit of sitting on the pavement round the corner next to our house in groups of three or four. They chatted away the whole day and only now and again took down something in their note-books. What kind of notes they took we found out later on, when, after India had become independent and the French had left, some of these notes could be secured from the Police files and the confidential records of Government. Strange records, these: the police gave reports all based on pure fancy, they made up all sorts of stories at their sweet will. As they found it difficult to gather correct and precise information, they would just fabricate the news.
Nevertheless, something rather awesome did happen once. We had by then shifted to the present Guest House. There were two new arrivals. One was a relative of Bejoys, Nagen Nag, who had managed to get away from his family and had come to stay here on the pretext of a change of air for his illness. The other was a friend and acquaintance of his who had come with him as a companion and help; his name was Birendra Roy.
One day, this Birendra suddenly shaved his head. Moni said he too would have his head shaved, just because Birendra had done it. That very day, or it was perhaps the day after, there occurred a regular scene. We had as usual taken our seats around Sri Aurobindo in the afternoon. Suddenly, Biren stood up and shouted, Do you know who I am? You may not believe it, but I am a spy, a spy of the British police. I cant keep it to myself any longer. I must speak out, I must make the confession before you. With this he fell at Sri Aurobindos feet. We were stunned, almost dumbfounded. As we kept wondering if this could be true, or was all false, perhaps a hallucination or some other illusion māyā nu matibhramo nu Biren started, again, Oh, you do not believe me? Then let me show you. He entered the next room, opened his trunk, drew out a hundred rupee note and showed it to us. See, here is the proof. Where could I have got all this money? This is the reward of my evil deed. Never, I shall never do this work again. I give my word to you, I ask your forgiveness. No words came to our lips, all of us kept silent and still.
This is how it came about. Biren had shaved his head in order that the police spies might spot him out as their man from the rest of us by the sign of the shaven head. But they were nonplussed when they found Moni too with a shaven head. And Biren began to suspect that Moni, or perhaps the whole lot of us, had found out his secret and that Moni had shaved on purpose. So, partly out of fear and partly from true repentance, for the most part no doubt by the pressure of some other Force, he was compelled to make his confession.
After this incident, the whole atmosphere of the house got a little disturbed. We were serious and worried. How was it possible for such a thing to happen? An enemy could find his entry into our apartments, an enemy who was one of ourselves? What should be done? Bejoy was furious, and it was a job to keep him from doing something drastic. However, within a few days, Biren left of his own accord and we were left in peace. I hear he afterwards joined the Great War and was sent to Mesopotamia with the Indian army.
Threatened Expulsion after the Start of the War
Extract from Government of India. Home Department Political-B. September 1915, Nos. 145-48. 13-14, 22.
9. At the same time, there is one factor which creates a difficulty. The Governor in Council believes that there can be no possibility of successful local negotiation as long as the present Administrator, M. Vergnol, is there. He has received, it is believed, orders to hold himself in readiness for duty elsewhere. M. Feltz and M. Lefers who might take his place temporarily would not have sufficient authority. It is not known when M. Vergnols permanent successor may be expected. But in any case the local officers would act only on orders from Pondicherry; and His Excellency in Council believes that if such an order for expulsion were received, it would be carried into effect. As stated above, the officers of the Bengal Government cannot hope that any negotiations can be usefully undertaken except with a substantive administrator. In case there may be any possibility of such action being taken without reference to them, the Bengal Government would strongly deprecate the expulsion of Arabindo Ghosh from Pondicherry. If he were driven out, he would almost certainly make straight for Bengal, and be received with enthusiasm. The risk is too great; and it is understood that there are suitable arrangements for watching him in Pondicherry.
[From communication Chief Secretary, Government of Bengal to the Secretary of the Government of India, 31 August 1914]
2. The replies of the two local Governments have now been received. The Madras Government advocate a policy of quieta non movere with regard to the seditionists in Pondicherry as their expulsion would involve the initiation of proceedings against them with consequential outcry from certain sections in the press. They are under close surveillance and the French Governor-General is being moved unofficially to search their houses and intercept their correspondence. The Bengal Government are averse from the expulsion of Arabinda Ghose from Pondicherry, but they are in favour of action being taken in respect of certain suspects now in Chandarnagore whom they name because of the increased facilities for watching their movements which would be secured in British territory and the moral effect of disturbing the general sense of security which the existence of this Alsatia has engendered. Unfortunately, however, two of these are French subjects and it is thought unlikely that the local authorities would agree to expel any but British subjects. The Bengal Government point out the further difficulty of local negotiations through the present Administrator, Mr. Vergnol, but as he is believed to be under orders of transfer, they hope that his permanent successor may be more amenable.
[From a proposal sent to the Viceroy, 24 September 1914]
The Invitation to Darjeeling, etc.
From notes of A.B. Purani, 3 January 1939. PT MS16, 36-37.
[Disciple] Since you did not go out there was a general idea all over India that there was a ban against your entry.
They thought you to be the head of the Revolutionary movement.
[Sri Aurobindo] That was the idea of all English-men[.] You know Olive Maitland Marsh who was friendly with nobles & had friends in the Royal family. When she went from here to England she tried to persuade them that I was a rather innocent person & the Ashram was a nice place[.] She found that instead of being able to convert them to her view they began to look askance at her.
Of course the Government was afraid that I would revive the agitation that was going down and also because assassinations were continuing & so Lord Minto said that he could not rest his head on the pillows till he had crushed Aurobindo Ghose[.]
But there was no question of Ban. On the contrary it was Lord Carmichael who sent somebody to persuade me to return & settle somewhere near Darjeeling & discuss philosophy with him. I refused the offer.
From notebook of Nirodbaran, 3 January 1939. NT MS10, 34
That was the idea of all Eng. men. You know Olive Maitland M[arsh] who was friendly with [nobility] and had friends in the Royal family[.] When she went back from here [she] tried to persuade them that I was rather an innocent person and the Ashram was a nice place. She found that instead of being able to convert them to her view they began to look askance at her.
Lord Minto said that he could not rest his head on the pillows till he had crushed A. Ghosh. He feared that I would start Revol. movement again and assassinations were going on at that time. But there was no ban. On the contrary it was Lord Carmichael who sent somebody to persuade me to return and settle somewhere in Darjeeling and discuss philosophy with him. I refused the offer.
From Nolini Kanta Gupta. Reminiscences. (Pondicherry. Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1969), 45-46.
In addition to force and fraud, the British Government did not hesitate to make use of temptation as well. They sent word to Sri Aurobindo which they followed up by a messenger, to say that if he were to return to British India, they would not mind. They would indeed be happy to provide him with a nice bungalow in the quiet surroundings of a hill station, Darjeeling, where he could live in complete freedom and devote himself to his spiritual practices without let or hindrance. Needless to add, this was an ointment spread out to catch a fly and Sri Aurobindo refused the invitation with a No, thank you.
Threatened Deportation to Algeria
From Government of Madras. Fortnightly Reports to the Government of India (Judicial Dept.) 2 March 1915.
The French authorities in Pondicherry and Karikal are working harmoniously with the British police, and it is reported that the refugees in the former place are discussing the desirability of emigrating to Algiers, for the sake of the protection which M. Paul Richard professes to be able to extend to them. M. Richard left for France on the 22nd February, however, before any arrangements could be made.
Extract from Nolini Kanta Gupta. Reminiscences. (Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1969), 45-46.
Afterwards came a more serious attack, perhaps the one most fraught with danger. The First World War was on. India had been seething with discontent and things were not going too well abroad on the European front. The British Government now brought pressure on the French: they must do something drastic about their political refugees. Either they should hand them over to the British, or else let them be deported out of India. The French Government accordingly proposed that they would find room for us in Algeria. There we could live in peace; they would see to our passage so that we need have no worry on that score. If on the other hand we were to refuse this offer, there might be danger: the British authorities might be allowed to seize us forcibly.
I can recall very well that scene. Sri Aurobindo was seated in his room in what was later called Guest House, Rue François Martin. We too had come. Two or three of the Tamil nationalist leaders who had sought refuge in Pondicherry came in and told Sri Aurobindo about the Algeria offer and also gave a hint that they were agreeable. Sri Aurobindo paused a little and then he said, in a quiet clear tone, I do not budge from here. To them this came as a bolt from the blue; they had never expected anything like this. In Algeria there would be freedom and peace, whereas here we lived in constant danger and uncertainty. But now they were helpless. Sri Aurobindo had spoken and they could hardly act otherwise. They had no alternative but to accept the decision, though with a heavy heart.
From diary of A.B. Purani. PT MS5 (1924), 75.
Once there was a talk about extradition when V.V.S. Aiyar & Bharati were also in Pondy. All got flurried & nervous. Some thought of Tripoli & all sorts of places & Bharati came to A.G. nervous & angry & told him where he preferred going. A.G. turned his back to him for 5 minutes, turned round & told him Mr. Bharati I am not going to budge an inch from Pondy I know I am not going to be bothered you may do what you like & then sat tight in his chair.
From Reminiscences of Srinivas Achari. National Archives of India. Private Papers Collection. History of the Freedom Movement B 34/2.
When the Pondicherry Government and especially the ruling class were in this perturbed state of mind [due to the war and in particular to the presence of the German battleship Emden off Pondicherry] it was but natural for them to ask us, perhaps at the instigation of the [British] Indian Government, to be ready to go to their North African colonies if required. Each one of us gave his own answer with a general request to kindly put it as a last resort if our other terms are not acceptable. So far as I remember this was our last correspondence with the Pondicherry Government. We lived there afterwards for five or six years without any trouble like the other citizens of the town. The British secret police stayed there a year or so without giving us any trouble except that of following us at some distance. We began to lead a peaceful quiet life, each one of us attending to our own work.
1 For the complete text of this letter see A & R, vol. 5 (1981), 1867.
2 Srinivasamurthi is apparently the young lunatic (one of Bharatis old disciples in patriotism and atheism) mentioned by Sri Aurobindo in Document 14.
3 The beginning of this sentence, reproduced here as it appears in Sri Aurobindos manuscript, should probably read: The police were to have left Pondicherry at the end of the month.
4 Marginal annotation: football with a kerchief tied.
5 This house was occupied in October 1913.
6 Name illegible.
7 Two illegible words.