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Partition of Bengal 1905 History, Causes and Conclusion

Partition of Bengal is a very important topic for the UPSC Exam. In 1905, Bengal was split into two parts by the British, even though many Indians didn’t like the idea. The British wanted to make it easier to govern because Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa together were too big. So, they made East Bengal into its own part called East Bengal and split the rest into West Bengal and Bihar. This decision made the Indian National Congress, which was a group of middle-class people fighting for India’s rights, grow bigger and more powerful.

Partition of Bengal 1905 Background

  • Bengal, including present-day West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Bangladesh, and Assam, was under British rule since 1765.
  • The province faced challenges in administration due to its large size and rapidly growing population, reaching almost 80 million by the early 20th century.
  • Rural areas in eastern Bengal were neglected in terms of industry, education, and employment, with development centred around Calcutta.
  • The idea of partitioning the province existed before Lord Curzon’s arrival, with Assam separated in 1874.
  • Initially proposed as an administrative measure, Curzon later viewed partition as a political tool against growing nationalism.
  • The proposed partition would create two provinces: Bengal (including West Bengal, Odisha, and Bihar) and Eastern Bengal and Assam.
  • Bengal would lose five Hindi-speaking states to the Central Provinces but gain Odia-speaking states.
  • Eastern Bengal would comprise Hill Tripura, Chittagong, Rajshahi, and Dhaka divisions, with Dhaka as its capital.
  • Bengal would have a Hindu majority, while Eastern Bengal and Assam would have a Muslim majority. Calcutta would remain the capital.

Mauryan Empire

Partition of Bengal 1905 Causes

In 1905, Lord Curzon, the British administrator in India, implemented the Partition of Bengal on October 16th. The motive behind this division primarily stemmed from administrative considerations. Bengal, being a vast province with a significant population, was divided to establish a more streamlined and proficient governance structure in the eastern region.

  • The division of Bengal sparked significant political unrest and widespread opposition across the region.
  • Bengalis perceived the partition as an affront to their nationhood and called for the reunification of Bengal.
  • The Indian National Congress, a prominent political entity of the era, decried the partition on racial grounds.
  • The majority of Bengalis in the western part of the province opposed the division, fearing they would become a linguistic minority within their province.
  • Many Bengali Muslims supported the partition, viewing it as a means to advance their educational, economic, and political interests by achieving majority status in the new province.
  • Lord Curzon’s pledge to establish a university in Dhaka was seen as an avenue for Muslims to enhance their education and living standards.
  • The partition of Bengal was perceived as a tactic employed by the British government to implement their “divide and rule” strategy, aimed at weakening nationalist sentiments within the nation.
  • Opposition to the partition spurred the emergence of nationalist organizations like the Swadeshi and Boycott movements, which advocated for boycotting British goods and fostering Indian industries.
  • The religious schisms resulting from the partition also contributed to the formation of the Muslim League in 1906.

Role of Lord Curzon

During Lord Curzon’s tenure as Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905, he left a lasting impact on the country’s history. His decision to announce the Partition of Bengal in 1905 sparked widespread protests, marking a contentious period. However, amid the turmoil, Curzon demonstrated an unmatched understanding of India, as recognized by his contemporaries due to his extensive knowledge. Notably, he authored three insightful books on Asian issues.

Under his rule, several significant milestones were achieved, including the implementation of the Calcutta Corporation Act in 1899, the establishment of the University Commission and Police Commission in 1902, the passing of the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act in 1904, and the initiation of Younghusband’s mission to Tibet in 1904. These events collectively shaped India’s trajectory during his administration.

Partition of Bengal 1905 Reaction 

The announcement of the partition sparked significant political unrest and protests throughout Bengal. The Bengali populace viewed the partition as a disrespectful action against their homeland, leading to a widespread call for the reunification of Bengal.

  • Rabindranath Tagore composed the famous song ‘Amar Sonar Bangla,’ which later became the national anthem of Bangladesh, as a response to the partition.
  • The Indian National Congress strongly opposed the partition, viewing it as a divisive move along communal lines.
  • Protesters in the western part of Bengal voiced concerns about potentially becoming linguistic minorities within their province, as Odia and Hindi speakers would outnumber Bengalis.
  • Certain Bengali Muslims embraced the partition, perceiving it as advantageous for their educational, economic, and political interests as the predominant group in the new province.
  • Lord Curzon’s commitment to establish a university in Dhaka was viewed as an opportunity for Muslim progress in education and living standards.
  • The partition encountered widespread opposition across the country, with many recognizing it as a tactic employed by British authorities to implement their “divide and rule” strategy.
  • Protests commenced well in advance of the partition date, marked by a day of mourning.
  • Tagore advocated for Hindus and Muslims to symbolically tie rakhis (threads) to each other as a form of protest.
  • Some Muslims also expressed opposition to the partition.
  • The partition of Bengal played a pivotal role in catalyzing the Swadeshi and Boycott movements, as people initiated boycotts of British goods and rallied behind indigenous industries.
  • The partition contributed to a communal rift in the country and eventually led to the formation of the Muslim League in 1906.
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Partition of Bengal 1905 Annulled

  • The partition of Bengal was revoked in 1911 amidst widespread political protests.
  • Following its annulment, new provinces were delineated based on linguistic rather than religious lines.
  • Bihar and Orissa Provinces were carved out of Bengal, eventually gaining separate provincial status in 1936.
  • Additionally, a distinct province of Assam was established.
  • The relocation of the capital of British India from Calcutta to Delhi took place in 1911.
  • Despite the reversal of the partition, it left a lasting impact on the communal dynamics between Hindus and Muslims in Bengal.
  • The divisive policies and communal tensions sparked by the partition persisted even after its annulment.
  • The legacy of the partition continued to shape the political landscape and communal relations in Bengal for years to come.

Partition of Bengal and Swadeshi Movement

  • Bengali Hindus spearheaded the movement for increased participation in administration, while Muslims advocated for the partition to establish Muslim rule in the East.
  • Following the partition, a nationwide anti-British movement erupted, marked by boycotts, protests, and an assassination attempt on the head of West Bengal province.
  • The partition of Bengal endured for only five years before being deemed invalid in 1911, yet the repercussions of Britain’s “Divide Et Imperia” policy persisted in the region.
  • Separate elections for Hindus and Muslims were introduced in 1919, exacerbating communal divisions.
  • The call for two separate states, one for Hindus and one for Muslims, gained momentum nationwide.
  • In 1947, Bengal underwent religious partition again, resulting in the formation of East Pakistan.
  • Bangladesh, an independent state, emerged in 1971 due to cultural aspirations and the struggle for independence from East Pakistan.
  • Partition often exacerbates existing problems and deepens societal rifts.
  • The partition of Bengal resulted in bloodshed, loss of lives, and a fractured community.

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What were the motives which led to the partition of Bengals?

To curb the radical Bengali nationalists and to weaken the nationalist's movements.

How did the partition of Bengal affect the national movement?

The partition triggered radical nationalism and nationalists all over India supported the Bengali cause, and were shocked at the British disregard for public opinion and what they perceived as a "divide and rule" policy.

Who was responsible for partition of Bengals?

The ideology that religion is the determining factor in defining the nationality of Indian Muslims was undertaken by Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

What was the cause of the partition of Bengal?

Muslims began to demand the creation of independent states for Muslims, where their interests would be protected. In 1947, Bengal was partitioned for the second time, solely on religious grounds, as part of the Partition of India.

What was the effect of the partition of Bengal?

Bengal would have a Hindu majority and Eastern Bengal and Assam would have a Muslim majority population. Its capital would remain Calcutta.

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