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Partition of Bengal (1905)

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  • Difficulty Level : Expert
  • Last Updated : 11 Jul, 2022

During the British Rule, Bengal was one of the largest areas covering provinces with a huge population of 78 million. This wide expanding area was making its administration problematic to govern. This huge province was under the Lieutenant Governor who could not look after the administrative needs, governance, requirements efficiently. The vastness of the province hindered the development of the backward areas as the Lieutenant Governor could not travel or take tours overall effectively.  Owing to the vastness of the area and huge population density, it was suggested that province boundaries should be redrawn and parted into two landmasses for its effective administrative purpose and needs.

Roleplay of Lord Curzon:

Lord Curzon took over the position of viceroy of India on 30th December 1899. He was considered a capable and efficient administrator of that time. He planned and executed extensive roundabouts of the province of Bengal and felt that the province was too massively spread to be administrated efficiently. The earlier provincial Governors had already highlighted the issue of administrative challenges being faced by them in managing the large province. These challenges for the governance of the province owing to its size and big population paved the path for Partition. Quite a lot number of partition proposals were considered and discussed which, however, could not be implemented. Lord Curzon, the viceroy of Bengal then, considered the issue too seriously and came up with the proposal of partitioning the Bengal province into two provinces. He designed and prepared a comprehensive, feasible plan of the partition of Bengal in 1905 and sent it to England for its overview and approval. The British Crown had immense trust in Lord Curzon approved the plan of the partition of Bengal into two provinces namely East and West Bengal.

Political Framework Behind the Partition:

The Indian National Congress observed the partition as an attempt to ‘Divide and Rule‘ and to widen the bridge between the Hindus and Muslims. The Bengali Hindus who considered their land as Mother-goddess and worshipped it viewed the partition as a disrespect to their ‘Mother Province‘.

The partition of Bengal was viewed as a political move to destroy the political and economical influence of the educated middle class among whom the Hindu Bengali multitude were in majority. This political move sought to sow the seed of hatred, communal disharmony, and the gulf between the Muslims and the Hindus. The Indian National Congress was highly against the partition and condemned it by the various programmes.

Official Steps are Taken for Partition of Bengal (1905):

Sir John Brodrick was the secretary of state for India during that period, and impressed by the partition proposal he stamped his approval. The British administration was aware of the vastness of the Bengal presidency and knew that it was difficult for one governor to administer it effectively. In June, Sir John Brodrick, the secretary approved the partition proposal.

On 16th October 1905, the Partition of Bengal came into force and the proposal was legally implemented. The British Governance decided to redraw the boundaries and geographically split the areas into two parts. The overall district of Assam and Bengal was subjected to partition into two provinces of feasible size. The province of West Bengal consists of proper Bengal along with parts of Orissa and Bihar with a multitude population of 54 million of which 42 million were Hindus and 18 million were Muslims. It was basically Bengali speaking dominated area. The new province of Eastern Bengal had a population of 31 million among which 18 million were Muslims and 12 million were Hindus. The new province had almost 30 districts namely Dacca, Assam, Chittagong, Chittagong, Rangpur, Rajshahi area excluding Darjeeling, Malda, and Bogra, and many more. The eastern province had Dhaka (Dacca) as its capital and subsidiary headquarters at Chittagong.

The new province of East Bengal would have its own Legislative Council, furthermore a Board of Revenue consisting of two members under the jurisdiction of the Calcutta High Court. The government mentioned that the new province would have a well-defined demarcated boundary that unified geographical, ethnological, linguistic, and social culturing multitude under one area. The most highlighting feature of the new province was that it would focus Muslim population of Bengal which were mainly ignored or neglected in the past. Furthermore this new geographically demarcated area brought all the jute growing areas and the whole of the tea industry (except Darjeeling) under a single administration.

Reaction from the Masses:

The ill-strategized and fast implemented action of the partition outraged the masses, especially the Bengalis. This led to many protests, strikes, boycotts, mass movements raging on the streets.

  • Agitation against the partition resulted in mass meetings, rural unrest, and a Swadeshi movement was launched to boycott the import of British manufactured goods. Swadeshi and Boycott were the main weapons of this nationalism and Swaraj were highly predominant at that time.
  • Surendranath Banerjee, one of the top leaders at that time along with prominent editors journalists like Krishna Kumar Mitra urged the masses to boycott British goods, to observe the partition day mourning, and cut contacts with official bodies.
  • On 7th August 1905, meetings were held in Calcutta Townhall to take a resolution to abstain from buying British goods and items unless and until ‘Partition resolution is withdrawn‘.
  • Pujas were offered to Maa Kali offered to as a token of the belief that their Mother goddess is not divided.
  • There was widespread agitation on the streets and in the press. The agitation was so strong that students, as well as teachers, participated in it.
  • Tagore announced October 16 the day of partition, as the national mourning day. Tagore announced rakhi to be chosen as a sacred thread to symbolize the unity bond between Bengali Hindus and Muslims. Tagore announced that Hindus and Muslims should tie the sacred rakhis on each other hands, to symbolize the bond of Unity and bond of protection.
  • The “Mourning day” was observed with outcry raging in a high pitch of “Vande- Mataram” echoed all over in the streets.
  • The protest reached so extreme end that assassinations were also committed and several attacks were made on the officials such as on Sir Andrew Fraser. The terrorist movement soon became active and the younger generation naively drawn into politics, adopted extreme terrorist methods using artillery, firearms, pistols, and bombs.

Abrogation of the Partition

The agitation and protest were so rigorous that they shook the Government’s foundation and thus the government could not withstand the extreme pressure. The forthcoming tour of King George to India was threatened and the protesting mob swore to boycott it. The move to threaten the government proved successful and the British Government surrendered to the rebellions. The partition of Bengal was finally abrogated on 12th December 1911 announced by King George at the Royal meeting known as Delhi Darbar.

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