Partition of Bengal


The decision on the Partition of Bengal was announced on 19 July 1905 by thenViceroy of IndiaLord Curzon. The partition took effect on 16 October 1905. Due to the high level of political unrest generated by the partition, the eastern and western parts of Bengal were reunited because of Hindu pressure in 1911.

The province of 
Bengal had an area of 489,500 km2. and a population of over 80 million. Eastern Bengal was almost isolated from the western part by geography and poor communications. In 1836, the upper provinces were placed under a lieutenant governor, and in 1854 the Governor-General-In-Council was relieved of the direct administration of Bengal. In 1874 Assam, includingSylhet, was severed from Bengal to form a Chief-Commissionership, and the Lushai Hills were added to it in 1898. It was hard to manage a province as large as Bengal with this large population


Finding the Bengal Presidency too large for one governor to administer, in 1905 the English decided to redraw its boundaries and divided it into two parts.
The provinces of Bengal and Assam were reconstituted so as to form the two provinces of manageable size. Western Bengal, with a population of 54 million (42 million Hindus and 9 million Muslims); and Eastern Bengal and Assam with a population of 31 million (12 million Hindus and 18 million Muslims). The territory to be transferred from Bengal to the new province consisted of the districts of Chittagong and Dhaka Divisions, Rajshahi Division excluding Darjeeling, and the District of Malda.
Curzon, the Viceroy of India, sent the proposal to London in February 1905. The Secretary of State for India St. John Brodrich sanctioned it in June, and the proclamation of the formation of the new province was issued in September. The province of Bengal and Assam came into being on October 16 1905.
Incidentally, the partition went in favor of the Muslims. Before the partition, Western Bengal, being the first area to come under western influence, was developed and industrialized. It was a striking contrast to the eastern part where the Muslim peasantry was crushed under the Hindu landlords, the river system was infested with pirates, and very few funds were allocated for education. It was dreaded as a place of banishment. The partition helped boost Bengali literature and language; efforts were also made towards the social, economic and educational uplift of the Muslims.


The Muslims outnumbered the Hindus in Eastern Bengal and this alleviated the Bengali Muslims politically and economically. This resulted in a series of unprecedented agitation by the Hindus. They alleged that Lord Curzon had deliberately tried to divide the Hindus and the Muslims by drawing a line between the Hindu and the Muslim halves of Bengal. And by favoring the Muslims by giving them a new province in which they were in a clear majority, had struck a deadly blow to Bengali nationality. They branded him as the upholder of the devilish policy of 'divide and rule'.
The Muslims of India welcomed the partition of Bengal, but the Hindu community strongly opposed it. They launched a mass movement, declaring October 16 as a day of mourning in Calcutta. Influenced by the Chinese boycott of American goods, the Hindus started the Swadeshi Movement against the British. In the meantime, the Hindus raised the Band-i-Mataram as the national cry protecting worship of Shivaji as a national hero. This organized anarchist movement took a terrorist turn resulting in political sabotage and communal riots.


After a huge political crisis the Muslims in 
East Bengal had the impression that a separate region would give them more opportunity for education, employment etc. However, the partition was not liked by the people in West Bengal and a huge amount of nationalist literature was created there during this period. Opposition by Indian National Congress was led by Sir Henry John Stedman Cotton who had been Chief Commissioner of Assam, but Curzon was not to be moved. Later, Cotton, now Liberal MP for Nottingham East coordinated the successful campaign to oust the first lieutenant-governor of East Bengal, Sir Bampfylde Fuller. In 1906, Rabindranath Tagore wrote Amar Shonar Banglaas a rallying cry for proponents of annulment of Partition, which, much later, in 1972, became the national anthem of Bangladesh.

Due to these political protests, the two parts of Bengal were reunited in 1911. A new partition which divided the province on linguistic, rather than religious, grounds followed, with the Hindi, Oriya and Assamese areas separated to form separate administrative units. The administrative capital of British India was moved from Calcutta to New Delhi as well.
However, conflict between Muslims and Hindus resulted in new laws having to be introduced so as to satisfy the political needs of both groups.


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