There is a story included in some of the biographies of Rishi Dayananda. The Rishi is reported to have met Lord Northbrook, the Viceroy of India, in Calcutta in March, 1873.
The Viceroy asked whether the Swami needed any special security from the British Government in view of the fact that his persistent attacks on Islam and Christianity had aroused very bitter hostilities, which could spell danger to his life.
Rishi Dayananda responded: I enjoy full freedom of speech under the British Raj. I don’t need any additional protection from the Government.
The Viceroy, happy to hear such a remark, asked: If that is so, Pandit Dayananda, would you mind expressing your appreciation of the blessings of British Rule in India. And in your prayers which precede your discourses, would you please include a prayer for the long continuance of British sovereignty over India.
Rishi Dayananda responded: I cannot include any such prayer for the perpetuation of British Rule over India. It is my firm conviction that India should attain complete independence. That is my prayer morning and evening. I pray to God to liberate my country from foreign yoke.
The Viceroy was taken aback, even alarmed, by such a discordant note found in the midst of high praise for the British Raj at that time. He gave orders for British intelligence services to keep watch over the activities of “this rebel mendicant [faqir]”.
The foregoing episode is not substantiated by some Dayananda biographers, and it is possible that it might not have taken place. But, even so, there is a moral attached to it. Had Swamiji indeed met Lord Northbrook, there is no doubt that this is what the Viceroy would have suggested and this would have been the exact response Dayananda would have given. The Rishi was a man of truth and he many times credited the British government for maintaining law and order in India after chaos and anarchy of a hundred and fifty years. The supposed response to the highest British official undoubtedly reveals the fearless and nationalist character of Dayananda.”
Tulsi, Soor, Kabir, Buddha, Shankar Acharya and other illustrious personalities were focused on religion, spiritualism and philosophy and they took no interest in the fate of India as a nation. Dayananda’s heart bled when he came face to face with the slavery among his people and he yearned for the freedom and independence of the motherland. A study of the events of his life shows that, at least on two occasions, his devoted followers saw him seated very disconcerted, and when asked, he acknowledged that the pitiable condition of India was uppermost in his mind, greatly troubling him. He lamented that Indians were trampled upon by foreigners. He many times proclaimed that up to the time of the Mahabharata War, India was the international center of power, wealth and knowledge, and that India, because of its military prowess, had controlled dominions in many parts of the world. When the Mahabharata war was to be fought, both Duryodhana and Yudhisthira had summoned armies of foreign dominions loyal to each of them. And so, because the word Swaraj [independence] was first uttered by Dayananda, and because the Rishi had advocated the cause for a free India before the formation of the Indian National Congress, Dr Annie Besant of the Theosophical Society of India once said definitively that Dayananda was the first to proclaim India for Indians.
DR SATISH PRAKASH