Modern Indian History-Events and Personalities

In news: Partition of Bengal


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Partition of Bengal

Mains level: Partition of Bengal and its significance

West Bengal Governor drew widespread condemnation over his tweet referring to a table, apparently used by Lord Curzon to sign papers pertaining to the Partition of Bengal in 1905, as “iconic”.

Who was Lord Curzon?

  • Curzon, India’s Viceroy between 1899 and 1905, was one of the most controversial and consequential holders of that post.
  • The partition of the undivided Bengal Presidency in 1905 was one of his most criticised moves, which triggered widespread opposition not only in Bengal but across India, and gave impetus to the freedom movement.
  • Curzon was deeply racist, and convinced of Britain’s “civilizing mission” in India.
  • In 1901, he described Indians as having “extraordinary inferiority in character, honesty and capacity”.
  • He was deeply intolerant of Indian political aspirations.

The Partition of Bengal

  • In July 1905, Curzon announced the partition of the undivided Bengal Presidency.
  • The Presidency was the most populous province in India, with around 8 crore people, and comprised the present-day states of West Bengal, Bihar, parts of Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Assam, as well as today’s Bangladesh.
  • A new province of East Bengal and Assam was announced, with a population of 3.1 crore, and a Muslim-Hindu ratio of 3:2. Bengal, the western province, was overwhelmingly Hindu.
  • While the move was ostensibly aimed at making the administration of the large region easier, Curzon’s real intentions were far less benign.

Aftermath of the partition

  • The partition provoked great resentment and hostility in Bengal.
  • It was clear to the Bengal Congress and patriotic Indians in both Bengal and elsewhere that Curzon’s motive was to crush the increasingly loud political voices of the literate class in the province, and to provoke religious strife and opposition against them.
  • But the protests against the partition did not remain confined to this class alone.
  • A campaign to boycott British goods, especially textiles, and promote swadeshi began.
  • There were marches and demonstrations with the protesters singing Bande Mataram to underline their patriotism and challenge the colonialists.
  • Samitis emerged throughout Bengal, with several thousand volunteers.
  • Rabindranath Tagore led the marches at many places, and composed many patriotic songs, most famously ‘Amar Sonar Bangla’ (My Golden Bengal), which is now the national anthem of Bangladesh.
  • The message of patriotism and Bengali nationalism was showcased in Jatras, or popular theatre.

Scrapping of the partition

  • Curzon left for Britain in 1905, but the agitation continued for many years.
  • Partition was finally reversed in 1911 by Lord Hardinge in the face of unrelenting opposition.

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