The era of Lord Curzon’s office as the Viceroy (1899-1905) started with controversies. The Partition of Bengal (1905) was one of his administrative measures which resulted in strong resentment. Provoking people against the British was made an offence as per the Curzon’s Act of 1898.
Scheme of Partition
The area of Bengal was very large and it was mostly densely populated and because of this, it was difficult to administer with the same efficiency. On 20th July 1905, Lord Curzon announced the division of the Province of Bengal. The scheme of the Partition of Bengal was implemented on 16th October , 1905.
Lord Curzon’s Motive Behind the Partition
- Administrative necessity was the main motive cited by the British behind the Partition of Bengal.
- The partition of the state was intended to curb Bengali influence by not only placing Bengalis under two administrations, by by reducing them to a minority in Bengal itself.
- Curzon’s real motive behind the partition was to break ‘the growing solidarity of Bengali Nationalism’. Another motive was to drive a wedge between the Hindus and the Muslims.
- The Partition was meant to foster divisions on the basis of religion. East, Bengal would be predominantly a Muslim majority state and Paschim Bengal would have a Hindu majority.
Reasons Behind the Partition of Bengal (1905)
- According to the British administrators, the main objective behind the Partition of Bengal was that, it was an administrative necessity. They explained that the Province was very large, hence it was to be divided.
- At that time, Bengal was the main centre of Indian Nationalism. So, the British expected to regulate the rising tide of Nationalism by the division of Bengal.
- The main reason for the Partition of Bengal was to destroy the political influence of the educated middle class among whom, the Bengali ‘intelligentsia’ were the most prominent.
The Anti-Partition Movement
- The Partition of Bengal was opposed by the Indian National Congress and the Nationalists of Bengal. Various sections of the population like the landholders, merchants, lawyers, students and women rose up in opposition to the division of their province.
- Many protest meetings were organised by the prominent leaders like Surendranath Banerjee, Krishna Kumar Mitra, PC Ray, BC Pal and Ananda Mohan Bose. Both the Moderates and the Assertive Nationalists cooperated with one another during the course of the movement. Some newspapers like ‘Bengali’, ‘Hitabadi’ and ‘Sanjibani’ played and important role.
- On 7th August, 1905, the Anti-Partition Movement was initiated in the town hall of Calcutta. A massive demonstration against the Partition was organised on that day.
Nationalist Reaction to the Partition of Bengal
Reactions of the Nationalists to the Partition of Bengal were as follows:
- The Partition of Bengal led to a mighty upsurge, which brought people and political leaders together. The nationalists were opposed to the Partition of Bengal.
- The streets of Kolkata were full of cries of Vande Mataram, which became the theme song of the National Movement.
- They celebrated 16th October as the ‘day of Mourning.’ The newspapers ‘The Bengalee’ and the ‘Amrit Bazar Patrika’ criticised the government severely.
- People of Bengal tied rakhis on one another’s wrists as the symbol of unbreakable unity of Bengal.
People’s Reaction to the Partition of Bengal
People’s reactions to the Partition of Bengal were as follows:
- On 16th October, 1905, the Partition of Bengal came into effect. This day was declared to be a day of ‘National Mourning’ by the Nationalists. It was also observed as a ‘day of fasting.’
- The singing of Vande Mataram (Written by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee) was forbidden in the streets of Bengal. The leaders of the movement were ill-treated. Hindu and Muslims tied rakhis on one another’s wrists as the symbol of unbreakable unity and the ceremony of Raksha Bandhan was celebrated in a new way.
Impact of the Anti-Partition Movement
The Partition of Bengal led people towards the idea of Swadeshi and Boycott and the people now lost their faith in the justice of British. The agitation of Anti-partition backfired the plans of Lord Curzon.
Repressions by the Britishers against the Anti-Partition Movement
Following were the main steps taken for repressions by the Britishers:
- Thousands of people were arrested and put behind bars.
- Lathi charge became common.
- Lala Lajpat Rai, Sardar Ajit Singh, Surendranath Banerjee and many other leaders got arrested.
- Institutions were warned to stop participating in the movement.
- Grants of many suspected institutions were cancelled.
- Crying of ‘Vande Mataram’ was strictly forbidden.
- Government made use of several repressive measures such as the Prevention of Seditious Meeting Act, the Explosive Substance Act, the Criminal Law Amendment Act and the Newspaper Act.
Swadeshi and Boycott Movements and their Impact
- The Boycott and Swadeshi Movements had their genesis in the Anti-Partition Movement, which was started to oppose the British’s decision to divide Bengal. With the start of the Swadeshi Movement the Indian National Movement took a major leap forward.
- Swadeshi, as a purely economic measure for the development of the industries, had been preached by some nationalists like Gopal Rao Deshmukh, GV Joshi and MG Ranade of Maharashtra and Rajnarain Bose, etc. In the year 1896, Bal Gangadhar Tilak had led a full fledged Boycott campaign.
- On 7th August, 1905, a resolution to Boycott British goods was adopted at a meeting of the INC held in Kolkata. It was started as a purely economic measure for the development of the Indian industry.
- The Swadeshi and Boycott movements brought into politics new classes of people. They encouraged the indigenous industries. This movement provided employment to many craftsmen in the indigenous industries.
- The Assertive Nationalists played an important role during the National Movement. They clarified its objectives, taught people self-reliance and prepared the social base of the movement by including the middle class, the students, the youth and also women. Thus, these movements with a wide social base paved the way for future Mass Movement led by Gandhiji
Surat Split (1907)
- In December, 1906, at Kolkata, the Indian National Congress under the leadership of Dadabhai Naoroji adopted ‘Swaraj’ as the goal of the Indian people.
- The Assertive Nationalists wanted to extend the Swadeshi and Boycott to the rest of India and make it a vehicle for a full fledged political mass struggle leading to Swaraj, but the Moderates did not approve it for the whole India and wanted it to be continued only in Bengal.
- In the year 1907, the Annual Session of the Congress was held in Surat, Assertive Nationalists wanted to adopt revolutionary methods as announced by them, but the Moderates were not in favour of such methods.
- The INC split into two groups at the Surat session, the Extremists were led by Tilak, Lajpat Rai and Bipin Chandra Pal and the Moderates were led by Gopal Krishna Gokhale.
- The Extremist Nationalists proposed the name of Lala Lajpat Rai as the president of the Surat Session whereas the Early Nationalists proposed the name of Rashbihari Bose. Finally, the Extremists were expelled from the Congress.
Formation of the Muslim League (1906)
In December, 1906, the All India Muslim League was set-up by Nawab Salimullah at Dhaka. The League supported the Partition of Bengal, opposed the Swadeshi Movement and demanded special safeguards for its community and separate electorates for Muslims. This led to communal differences between the Hindus and the Muslims.
Objectives of the Muslim League
The objectives of the Muslim League were as follows:
- To promote feeling of loyalty among the Indian Muslims towards the British Government.
- To protect the political and other rights of the Muslims and present them before the Government in a mild language.
- One of the main objectives of the Muslim League was to keep the Muslim intelligentsia away from the mainstream National Movement.
Events Leading to the Formation of the Muslim League
- In 1893, the Foundation of Mohammedan Anglo Oriental Association promoted the support for the British and prevented Muslims for participating in any political movement.
- The Partition of Bengal (1905) created a wedge between the Hindus and the Muslims. The Britishers won the support of the Muslims on the ground that the new province would have a Muslim majority province. The Partition of Bengal was welcomed by Nawab Sallimullah of Dacca (Dhaka), who led the Muslims of East Bengal.
- Arundale Committee, which was appointed by the Viceroy Lord Minto was to work out on expansion of the Legislative Council, the reason behind was to create a possible opposition for the Congress by using Muslims. Lord Minto received a deputation of Muslims at Shimla in October, 1906 and assured the Muslims that their political rights would be safeguarded.
The Muslim Deputations Demands to Viceroy Lord Minto
It asked for representation of the Muslims in elected bodies and separate electorates for themselves. The Representation had to be on the basis of their political importance and not on their numerical strength.
They asked for their right to send their representatives to the provincial council and the Imperial Legislative Council by the separate communal electorates.
They demanded for the reservation of seats in the state services. State aid was asked for by them for promoting new Muslim Universities. The deputation also asked for the foundation of a Muslim University.
Factors Leading to the Formation of the Muslim League and its Objectives
In India, the Hindus and the Muslims had lived for centuries, and there prevailed some sort of unity between the two. Such a unity between the two communities posed a danger to British imperialism.
The following factors were responsible for the formation of the Muslim League:
Loss of Sovereignty by Mughal Rulers
In India, after the dethroning of Mughal rulers, the British established their supremacy. The Mughals were the followers of Isam. Due to this, the Muslims became bitter enemies of the British. Muslim took part in the Wahabi Movement. The aim of this movement was restoring the Islamic rulers in India.
British Policy of Divide and Rule
After the First War of Independence in 1857, the British became apprehensive of the safety and stability of their empire in India. In the war of 1857, both the Hindus and the Muslims took part in a large number. Britishers saw the unity between the Hindus and the Muslims took part in a large number. Britishers saw the unity between the Hindus and the Muslims as a threat to them. To check the growth of a United National feeling in India and encourage communal and separatist tendencies in Indian politics, they decided to follow the policy of ‘Divide and Rule.’
The Muslims were made to fight with the Hindus, with one class or caste used against the other and the high caste Hindus were excited against the low caste Hindus and the Sikhs alike.
Britishers tired to create hatred among the Hindus and the Muslims by portraying Muslims rulers as plunders and Hindu rulers as cruel kings to their Muslim subjects. They tried to spread communal hatred through the use of press, posters, literature and public platform.
Relative Backwardness of the Muslim Community in Education, Trade and Industry
After 1858, the Muslims were consciously discriminated by the British Government holding them responsible for the uprising of 1857. Muslims were also discriminated in the recruitment of Civil and Military Services.
Impact of the Muslim League on the National Movement
- Initially the Muslim League stood apart from the National Movement, opposed the Anti-Partition Movement and the Swadeshi and Boycott Movements.
- The radical and nationalist ideas among the Muslims were promoted by a group of educated and young men. Among them the most prominent were Maualan Abul Kalam Azad, Habib-ur-Rahman, Hakim Ajmal Khan and Mazhar-ul-Haq.
- In the World War I, when the safety of Turkey was threatened, Indians reacted and anti-British sentiments started to grow among the Muslims. As a result many more radical young Muslims like Maulana Mohammed Ali, Hakim Ajmal Khan and Mazhar-ul-Haq joined the Nationalists towards the common cause. The emergent section of Nationalists Muslims changed the attitude of the Muslim League towards the Congress. The Lucknow Pact was signed in 1916.
- In 1930, the demand for Pakistan was raised by the Muslim League and in the 1940 session of the Muslim League at Lahore, Jinnah put forward his ‘Two Nation Theory’. Ultimately, the activities of the League brought about the creation of Pakistan in 1947.
Role of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan
- Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, who was also known as a great educationist and social reformer played an important role in the establishment of the Muslim League. He was the founder of the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College (MAO) (later Aligarh Muslim University) at Alighar. He opposed the Indian National Congress.
- According to Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, “The continuance of British rule was a guarantee for the welfare and progress of the Muslim community.” It was declared by him that if the educated Muslims support the British, the latter would reward them with government jobs and other various special favours.