The Congress which ended in Chaos
In July 1906, Swami Abhedananda paid a visit to Chennai. As a disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and colleague of Vivekanannda, he was accorded a royal reception in Chennai.
“Just a grand reception will not do, we should follow his teachings also. We should abide by the courage and spirit of unity that he is advocating,” pleaded Bharathi. He also composed a song in praise of Abhedananda.
Next year in 1907, Bharathi got up arrangements to invite to Chennai Vipin Chandra Pal, a fierce orator who was likened to a volcano. He proceeded to Vijayawada to welcome Pal and escorted him to Chennai.
At this time another hard-line leader, Lala Lajpat Rai, was constrained to live in Burma on exile. In the province of Chennai, V.U. Chidambaram Pillai and Subramania Siva were accused of treason and convicted.
“The placid outlook of Chennai-ites flew away in the very presence of Vipin Chandra Pal,” noted Bharathi. The songs, ‘Lajapat Rai Pralapam’ and ‘Lajpat Rai Thuthi’ were born at this time.
At this juncture, Congress session was to be held in Surat in Dec. 1907. In this Congress session, the hard-liners planned and tried to wrest the Congress from the hold of the moderates.
Bharathi announced the plan to take the hard-line representatives in a reserved railway coach and appealed to them to register their names. He sent a telegram to the Tuticorin lawyer, V.U.Chidambaram Pillai to go over to Chennai. ‘Chennai Jana Sangam’, the set-up of hard-liners, met and discussed.
V.U.C. has mentioned in his memoirs on Bharathi, “Bharathi Mama said that we should take a contingent of not less than a hundred representatives to Surat. .. We sent a telegram to Tilak that we would bring a hundred representatives.”
The plan was that Mandya Srinivasacharya and V.U.C. would defray the expenses of the delegates who could not afford the journey.
The response from the youth was overwhelming that they had to book two carriages instead of one for the journey. The youth of Chennai reached Surat in two days.
In Surat, the moderates also had come with their entourage. The efforts for conciliation between the two groups did not fructify.
Trouble broke out on the very first agenda item of the session. No sooner was the name of Rash Behari Ghosh proposed for the president of the session by the moderates than Tilak jumped on his feet and raised objection. The moderates shouted, ‘Don’t talk. Go to your seat.’ Tilak stood his ground.
In the meantime, Rash Behari Ghosh took the podium and started to read his presidential address. Shouts arose from the hardliners, “You are not yet elected the president. Do not read.” Confusion abounded. Arguments strengthened. Fisticuffs ensued. Chairs flew. A pair of Maharashtrian red footwear also flew in the sky! The Chennai delegates encircled Tilak as a fortress.
Rajaji, who had gone to Surat, recalls, “When the pandemonium was in progress, Bharathiyar was watching the fun from afar with G.A.Natesan.”
Police came on the scene to quell the riot. The session was postponed. The hard-liners did not approve of it. They held a ‘national conference’ under the leadership of Arvind Ghosh.
Bharathiyar published on return to Chennai a pamphlet titled, ‘Our Congress Journey’. Sri S.G.Ramanujulu, an editor of those days, has said that the pamphlet was sold for just two annas and that a booklet of Tilak’s speech was also released called, ‘Tenets of the new party’.