The Bengal Partition
The decision to effect the Partition of Bengal was announced in July 1905 by the Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon. The partition took effect in October 1905 and separated the largely Muslim eastern areas from the largely Hindu western areas. Indians were outraged at what they say as a "divide and rule" policy, while Curzon stressed it would produce administrative efficiency. The partition animated the Hindus and led the Muslims to form their own national organization. Bengal was reunited in 1911
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The province of Bengal had an area of 189,000 miles2 and a population of nearly 8 crores (80 million). Eastern Bengal was almost isolated from the western part by geography and poor communications. In 1836, the upper provinces were placed under a lieutenant governor, and in 1854 the Governor-General-In-Council was relieved of the direct administration of Bengal. It was hard to manage a province as large as Bengal with this large population.
Partitioning Bengal was first considered in 1903. There were also additional proposals to separate Chittagong and the districts of Dhaka and Mymensingh from Bengal and attaching them to the province of Assam.
The government officially published the idea in January 1904, and in February, Lord Curzon made an official tour to eastern districts of Bengal to assess public opinion on the partition. He consulted with leading personalities and delivered speeches at Dhaka, Chittagong and Mymensingh explaining the government’s stand on partition. The idea was opposed by Henry John Stedman Cotton, Chief Commissioner of Assam 1896-1902.
The Partition of Bengal in 1905 was made on October 16 by Viceroy Curzon. Partition was promoted for administrative reasons: Bengal was as large as France but with a significantly larger population. Curzon decided The eastern region was neglected and under-governed. By splitting the province, an improved administration could be established in the east where, subsequently, the population would benefit from new schools and employment opportunities. However, other motives lurked behind the partition plan. Bengali Hindus were in the forefront of political agitation for greater participation in governance; their position would be weakened, since Muslims would now dominate in the East. Hindus tended to oppose partition, which was more popular among Muslims. What followed partition, however, stimulated an almost national anti-British movement that involved non-violent and violent protests, boycotts and even an assassination attempt against the Governor of the new province of West Bengal.
The new province would consist of the state of Hill Tripura, the Divisions of Chittagong , Dhaka and Rajshahi (excluding Darjeeling) and the district of Malda incorporated with Assam province. Bengal was to surrender not only these large eastern territories but also to cede to the Central Provinces the five Hindi-speaking states. On the western side it was offered Sambalpur and five minor Oriya-speaking states from the Central Provinces. Bengal was left with an area of 141,580 square miles (366,700 km2) and population of 54 million, of which 42 million were Hindus and 12 million Muslims.
The new province was named Eastern Bengal and Assam with Dhaka as its capital and subsidiary headquarters at Chittagong. Its area would be 106,540 square miles (275,940 km2) with a population of 31 million, where 18 million were Muslims and 13 million Hindus. The governor would deal with a Legislative Council, a Board of Revenue of two members, and the jurisdiction of the Calcutta High Court would be left undisturbed. The government pointed out that Eastern Bengal and Assam would have a clearly demarcated western boundary and well defined geographical, ethnological, linguistic and social characteristics. The partition took effect on October 16, 1905.
Partition sparked a major political crisis along religious lines. Hindu resistance exploded as the Indian National Congress began the swadeshi movement that included boycotting British goods, terrorism, and diplomatic pressure. The Muslims in East Bengal hoped that a separate region would give them more control over for education and employment, but they instead lost ground. In 1906, Rabindranath Tagore wrote Amar Shonar Bangla as a rallying cry for proponents of annulment of Partition; in 1972, it became the national anthem of Bangladesh.
Opposition was supported by Sir Henry John Stedman Cotton who had been Chief Commissioner of Assam, but Curzon was not to be moved. Later, Cotton, now Liberal MP for Nottingham East coordinated the successful campaign to oust the first lieutenant-governor of East Bengal, Sir Bampfylde Fuller.
Due to these political protests, the two parts of Bengal were reunited in 1911. A new partition which divided the province on linguistic, rather than religious, grounds followed, with the Hindi, Oriya and Assamese areas separated to form separate administrative units. The administrative capital of British India was moved from Calcutta to New Delhi as well.
In 1919, separate elections were established for Muslims and Hindus. Before this, many members of both communities had advocated national solidarity of all Bengalis. Now, distinctive communities developed, with their own political agendas. Muslims, too, dominated the Legislature, due to their overall numerical strength of roughly twenty eight to twenty two million. Nationally, Hindus and Muslims began to demand the creation of two independent states, one to be formed in majority Hindu and one in majority Muslim areas with most Bengali Hindus now supporting partitioning Bengal on this basis.
The Second Partition
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. East Bengal became East Pakistan, and in 1971 became the independent state of Bangladesh after a successful war of independence with West Pakistan in the partition of Bengal congress leaders also supported this revolt.