Partition of Bengal 1905
Lord Curzon was unpopular despite of some of his popularity works. His tenure was termed “Curzonshahi” which was compared to the “Nadirshahi”. The large number of Nationalists- in and outside Congress had learnt the art of protests and agitation and now the Curzon’s unpopularity gave them an opportunity to initiate mass movements for the first time.
The question in Bengal was of effective administrative control. In 1874, Bengal had become too large unit to be administered as a single unit. Initially some districts were set off under the Chief commissioner of Assam, but this aroused a public outcry. But the government wanted to solve the problem permanently. It was thought that Assam should be extended and it should include some eastern districts of Bengal.
The question was under consideration for several months and finally on October 16, 1905, the Bengal was partitioned and the Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam came officially into existence.
Eastern Bengal and Assam
Rest of Bengal (Western Part)
The partition was opposed by Henry John Stedman Cotton, Chief Commissioner of Assam 1896-1902.
The Chief Commissioner of Assam, J. B. Fuller, became lieutenant-governor of the enlarged province.
But, Curzon thought as if he was dividing an American county for better administrationJ. The Lord Curzon, who had once written to the Secretary of State for India that:
“I would dig the grave of the Indian National Congress before leaving office……One of my greatest ambitions in India is to assist it (Congress) to a peaceful demise…”
The over intelligent Viceroy could not understand that Congress would cash it as a “political opportunity” and would lay the foundation of the tomb of the British Empire.
The eastern part was thought to be under governed. The Government had the idea that by splitting Bengal, the eastern districts would be governed effectively, however the politico-economic motive behind this was something different which created a havoc.
The Eastern Bengal roughly comprised of Manipur, Assam, Chittagong. Dhaka, Rajshahi (Now Bangladesh) with its capital at Dhaka. The administration was left under a lieutenant-governor with a legislative council and board of revenue, but the jurisdiction was under the high court of Calcutta.
The two provinces had no racial or linguistic difference but the only difference was that western part was dominated by the Hindus and Eastern Part by the Muslims. But still there was a loud outburst of Bengali patriotism against the partition of their “country”.
Why they must split Bengali from Bengali? Every Bengal asked…..Government have its own reasons but this was explained by the Bengali Leaders and Congress to the masses. They insisted that the main political motivation of the British was that Government wanted to deprive Calcutta of its position. Chittagong was a harbor much smaller but at almost same locational advantage as Calcutta. So now, Chittagong would prosper at the cost of Calcutta, because the trade of the eastern part would pass on to Chittagong.
So, this was a golden opportunity for Congress to take the matter effectively which it did.
Congress insisted that the Government could separate the Non Bengali speaking areas (Bihar or Orissa) rather than splitting the Bengali speaking area. The new Western Bengal made the Bengali people minority in their own country because now the population of Hindi and Oriya speaking people was 37 Million while the population of Bengali Speaking people was only 17 Million!
The educated Indians and the Indian National Congress made an effort to create the waves at all India level and they were successful in that.
The partition of Bengal was now dubbed a “political intrigue” of Lord Curzon to break India in pieces.
This was the most notable manifestation of the political activity in India. Vang Bhang
(Partition of Bengal)
was seen as an intrigue to divide Hindus and Muslims. It was seen as dividing the Bengalis from Bengalis.
It was not acceptable. The result of this political wave was “Boycott” and “Swadeshi Movement”.
The agitation had started months before the Government formally announced the partition. In July 1905, the Government had shown intention of dividing Bengal. The Bengali patriots carrying flags of “United Bengal” and slogans of “Unity is strength” marched through the streets of Calcutta and they reached Town hall. On 7 August 1905, the huge meeting was organized in the Town Hall in Calcutta. In this meeting the partition was denounced as arbitrary. The resolution was passed criticizing the manner of partition. A principle of “Boycott” of the British goods was adopted. The resolution said that until the Government annuls the partition, agitation shall continue.
The Vande Mataram, which is now our national song became the symbol of this agitation.
The India was on the right path of national awakening. On the date of partition, Gurudev Rabindranath declared that it should be observed as a day of unity, people should tie threads to each other’s wrists.
On that particular day, every Bengali kept a fast and took bath on the holy river of Ganges. The streets of Calcutta echoed Bande Mataram and Amar Sonar Bangla Amey Tomay Bhalobashi. The Boycott of British Goods was urged by all the newspapers.