History- Important places, persons in news

United Bengal Plan of 1947


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : United Bengal Plan, Partition of Bengal

Mains level : Two nation theory

In a recent election rally, a politician spoke about the contributions of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee in the making of West Bengal immediately after independence.

This newscard contains some archaic statements and thoughts (that may seem like polarized opinions) which are directly reproduced from the newspaper. 

The 1947 independence era circumstances are discussed with context to the United Bengal Plan and its subsequent partition.

The United Bengal plan

  • A most striking aspect of the Partition of Bengal was the fact that the same people, who had vociferously opposed the 1905 partition of the region by Lord Curzon, were the ones who demanded the division of the province on communal lines.
  • One way to understand this is by noting the fact that the communal skirmishes that had started in 1905, reached its peak by 1947.
  • But there was also the fact that Bengal politics changed dramatically in 1932 with the introduction of the Communal Award.
  • It gave more seats in the Legislative Council to Muslims than Hindus. It also provided separate electorates for the Dalits.
  • Consequently, Bengali Hindus ceased to be as significant and visible in provincial politics as they were before.
  • What further aggravated the situation was the communal violence in Calcutta in August 1946 and those in Noakhali just seven weeks later.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2013:

Q.The Partition of Bengal made by Lord Curzon in 1905 lasted until

(a) The First World War when Indian troops were needed by the British and the partition was ended.

(b) King George V abrogated Curzon’s Act at the Royal Darbar in Delhi in 1911

(c) Gandhiji launched his Civil Disobedience Movement

(d) The Partition of India, in 1947 when East Bengal became East Pakistan

Mukherjee and the Plan

  • Mukherjee, who was president of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha between 1943 and 1946, is known to have been the man behind the Partition of Bengal in 1947.
  • Calcutta riots (1947) led the Hindu Mahasabha under Mukherjee to put forward the demand for dividing Bengal on religious grounds.
  • He was one of the strongest voices to have opposed the united Bengal plan of the Bengal provincial League leader and PM Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy.
  • As per the plan, Bengal would be a separate nation, independent from both India and Pakistan.

Debate over partition

  • In the meantime Suhrawardy along with few other top Bengal politicians like Sarat Bose and K.S. Roy came up with an alternative for the Partition.
  • They argued for a united Bengal, independent from India and Pakistan.
  • Suhrawardy had realized that the Partition of Bengal would mean economic disaster for East Bengal since all jute mills, coal mines and industrial plants would go to the western part of the state.
  • Suhrawardy argued strongly for a united Bengal because Bengal was indivisible in view of its ‘economic integrity, mutual reliance and the necessity of creating a strong workable state.

Why did Mukherjee oppose the united Bengal plan?

  • The Hindu Mahasabha under Mukherjee spearheaded a fierce attack against the united Bengal scheme, which he thought would force Hindus to live under Muslim domination.
  • He further defended the Partition to the Viceroy by drawing upon Jinnah’s two-nation theory.
  • Finally, for Mukherjee, the idea of a united Bengal was not appealing because he believed that a ‘sovereign undivided Bengal would be a virtual Pakistan’.
  • Eventually, the idea of a united Bengal failed to garner sufficient support from among the Muslim League and the Congress.
  • It also did not find sufficient support from the grassroots as most Hindus favoured the Partition of Bengal.

Back2Basics: Partition of Bengal

  • The first Partition of Bengal (1905) was a territorial reorganization of the Bengal Presidency implemented by the authorities of the British Raj.
  • The reorganization separated the largely Muslim eastern areas from the largely Hindu western areas. Announced on 19 July 1905 by Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy of India.
  • It was implemented on 16 October 1905, it was undone a mere six years later.
  • Hindus were outraged at what they saw as a “divide and rule” policy, even though Curzon stressed it would produce administrative efficiency.
  • The partition animated the Muslims to form their own national organization along communal lines.
  • To appease Bengali sentiment, Bengal was reunited by Lord Hardinge in 1911, in response to the Swadeshi movement’s riots in protest against the policy.
  • In 1947, Bengal was partitioned for the second time, solely on religious grounds, as part of the Partition of India following the formation of the nations India and Pakistan.
  • In 1955, East Bengal became East Pakistan, and in 1971 became the independent state of Bangladesh.
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