Bipin Chandra Pal

Early life and background

Bipin Chandra Pal was born on 7th November 1858 in Poil Village, Habiganj District, now a part of Bangladesh, in a wealthy Hindu Vaishnava family. B.C. Pal is known as the 'Father Of Revolutionary Thoughts'   He was imprisoned for six months on the grounds of his refusal to give evidence against Sri Aurobindo in the Vande Mataram sedition case. and was one of the freedom fighters of India. He was one of the mightiest prophets of nationalism who fought bravely for a noble cause of India’s independence. He was a great patriot, orator, journalist and a great warrior who till the end fought for the freedom of India.

 

He was admitted to Presidency College in Calcutta but unfortunately could not complete his education and started his career as a headmaster. In the later years, while Bipin was working as a librarian in Calcutta public library he met many political leaders like Shivnath Shashtri, S.N Banerjee and B.K. Goswami. He was influenced to quit teaching and start up a career in politics. He was further inspired by the work, philosophy, spiritual ideas and patriotism of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat rai and Sri Aurbindo. Being highly influenced and inspired by all these political leaders, Bipin decided to devote himself to the freedom struggle. He also went to England to study comparative ideology in 1898. In a span of one year he returned to India and since then he started preaching local Indians with the idea of Swaraj. Being a good journalist and orator he always used articles, speeches and other write ups to spread nationalism, humanity and social awareness and the need for complete independence. Pal had ‘never say die’ attitude and with great courage he participated in Bombay session of Indian National Congress in 1904, Partition of Bengal in 1905, Swadeshi Movement, Non Cooperation Movement and Bengal Pact in 1923.

In his youth Bipin Chandra Pal was inspired by his political Guru, Surendra Nath Banerjee. He started taking interest in politics in the early eighties of the last century. He shared the views of the Moderate leaders of the Congress. There was a certain change in him during 1904, due to the official announcement that Bengal was going to be partitioned. There was an anti partition agitation which cropped up against the decision of the government. Bipin Chandra like a true leader flung himself into the movement. He laid stress on the futility of the old methods of agitation through prayers, petitions and protests.  According to Sri Aurobindo, Bipin Chandra Pal was one of the mightiest prophets of Nationalism. He was a man of mission, a great publicist and a magnificent orator. Bipin Chandra Pal was destined to become the chief propagator of the Swadeshi Movement.

 

Even though he understood the positive aspects of Empire as a `great idea', the `Federal-idea is greater'. In both public and private life he was radical. He married a widow (he had to sever ties to his family for this). At the time of B. G. Tilak's ("Bal") arrest and government repression in 1907, he left for England, where he was briefly associated with the radical India House and founded the Swaraj journal. However, political repercussions in the wake of Curson Wyllie's assassination in 1909 by Madanlal Dhingra lead to the collapse of this publication, driving Pal to penury and mental collapse in London. In the aftermath, he totally moved away from his 'extremist' phase and even nationalism, as he contemplated an association of free nations as the great federal-idea. His plea for a transcendence to a broader entity than nation derived from the notion of the sociability of human beings, which he thought would create a common bond between nations. He was among the first to criticize Gandhi or the 'Gandhi cult' since it `sought to replace the present government by no government or by the priestly autocracy of the Mahatma.' His criticism of Gandhi was persistent beginning with Gandhi's arrival in India and open in 1921 session of the Indian National Congress he delivered in his presidential speech a severe criticism of Gandhi's ideas as based on magic rather than logic, addressing Gandhi: 'You wanted magic. I tried to give you logic. But logic is in bad odor when the popular mind is excited. You wanted mantaram, I am not a Rishi and cannot give Mantaram...I have never spoken a half-truth when I know the truth...I have never tried to lead people in faith blind-folded', for his 'priestly, pontifical tendencies', his alliance with pan-Islamism during the Khilafat movement, which led to Pal's eclipse from political life from 1922 till his death in 1932 under conditions of abject poverty. Comparing Gandhi with Leo Tolstoy during the year he died, Pal noted that Tolstoy 'was an honest philosophical anarchist' while Gandhi remained in his eyes as 'a papal autocrat' Firm and ethically grounded, not only did he perceive the 'Congress Babel' in terms of its shortsightedness in late 1920s or, Congress as an instance of repudiating debt's folly, composed of a generation 'that knows no Joseph', Pal's critical comments should be located in context, since nobody can jump out of his skin of time. An estimation of Bipin Chandra Pal's entire corpus and the depth of his published writing cannot produce a fair idea or provide due justice if that is produced with the benefit of post-independence hindsight. Though there are many articles and books written about him from India and Europe, most of which is not hagiographical, his 'pen played not an inconsiderable part in the political and social ferments that have stirred the alters of Indian life', as the Earl of Ronaldshay wrote in 1925, what Nehru said in a speech during Pal's birth centenary in 1958 surmises 'a great man who functioned on a high level on both religious and political planes' opens a gate for enquiring this high-minded yet anomalous persona.

 

The trio had advocated radical means to get their message across to the British, like boycotting British manufactured goods, burning Western clothes made in the mills of Manchester or Swadeshi and strikes and lockouts of British owned businesses and industrial concerns.

 

Pal’s fierce Journalism and oration

A journalist himself, Pal used his profession in spreading patriotic feelings and social awareness. . He had also published a lot of journals, weekly and books to spread nationalism and the idea of Swaraj. Most prominent books of Pal include Indian Nationalism, Nationality and Empire, Swaraj and the Present Situation, The Basis of Social Reform, The Soul of India, The New Spirit and Studies in Hinduism. He was the editor of the 'Democrat', the 'Independent' and many other journals and newspapers. ”Paridarsak” (1886-Bengali weekly), “New India”: (1902-English weekly) and “Bande Mataram” (1906-Bengali daily) and “Swaraj” are some of the journals started by him.

He was among the first to criticize Gandhi or the 'Gandhi cult' since it `sought to replace the present government by no government or by the priestly autocracy of the Mahatma. Pal opposed Gandhiji's Non-cooperation Movement of 1920. His criticism of Gandhi was persistent beginning with Gandhi's arrival in India and open in 1921 session of the Indian National Congress where he delivered in his presidential speech a severe criticism of Gandhi's ideas as based on magic rather than logic. Pal virtually retired from politics from 1920 though he expressed his views on national questions till his death. He expired on 20th may 1932 leaving behind a remarkable feeling of free India and India had then lost its ardent freedom fighter!

 

He came under the influence of eminent Bengali leaders, not as a hero-worshipper or somebody looking for a guru for guidance, of his time such as Keshab Chandra Sen and Sibnath Sastri, as his family were in Brahmo Samaj.

Role in congress

  • In 1886 he joined the Indian National Congress. At the Madras session of congress held in 1887,Bipin Chandra made a strong plea for repeal of the Arms Act which was discriminatory in nature.

  • Along with Lala Lajpat Rai and Bal Gangadhar Tilak he belonged to the Lal, Bal and Pal trio that was associated with revolutionary activity. In fact Aurobindo Ghosh and Pal were recognized as the chief exponents of a new national movement revolving around the ideals of Purna Swaraj, Swadeshi, boycott and national education.

  • His programme consisted of Swadeshi, Boycott and national education. He preached the use of Swadeshi and the Boycott of foreign goods to eradicate poverty and unemployment.

  • He wanted to remove social evils from the form and arouse the feelings of nationalism through national criticism.

  • He had no faith in mild protests in the form of Non-Cooperation with the government. On that one issue, the Assertive nationalist leader had nothing common with Gandhi.

  • During last six years of his life he parted company with the Congress and led a secluded life. Sri Aurobindo referred to him as one of mightiest prophets of nationalism.