Read this article to learn about the partition of Bengal British and their failure.

Partition of Bengal:

The greatest weapon of imperia­lism is creation of dissension among the subjects, development of mutual suspicion and mistrust and thereby preventing unity among them to perpetuate rule.

During the second half of the nineteenth century, particularly after the revolt of 1857, there was a gradual growth of patriotism and nationalism among the Indians which naturally became a matter of uneasiness among the British rulers.

The foundation of the Indian National Congress in 1885 and its criticism of the British administra­tion as well as its demand for the redress of the grievances of the Indian people all the more strengthened the national feeling of the Indians.


The anti-Congress movement of Sir Syed Ahmad, if not entirely encouraged by the British, at least created the opportunity of sowing the seeds of dissension between the two great Indian commu­nities—the Hindus and the Muslims, by the British imperialists. The seed of communalism thus sown by the British and nurtured by them with every care began to grow into a mighty tree which brought forth its bitter fruit in the partition of India.

In the nationalist movement of India, Bengal and the Bengalees were at the vanguard. By that time the Bengalees had become deeply imbued with the sense of nationalism and when in 1904-05 in the Russo-Japanese War a small country like Japan had defeated so vast a country Russia, there was a general enthusiasm as well as aspira­tion to win freedom from foreign dependence or influence among the Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Persians etc.

The Indian nationalist movement was naturally influenced by courage shown by Japan. This apart the barbarous treatment of the coloured people of South Africa by the British all the more increased the anti-British feeling of the Indians. Bengalees being a highly sentimental people, all these events made a deep impression on their mind.

The governor-general and viceroy of India at that time was Lord Curzon who was a highly educated and efficient administrator but was a die-hard imperialist. “He was, in fact, the epitome of intel­lectual imperialism”. He believed that the destiny of the Indian people had been entrusted by Providence to the British. “With such a creed, Curzon could admit no meaningful place for the Indian themselves except as recipients of British beneficence. The Indian intellectuals, Indian nationalists who claimed the right to lead the masses, had to be brushed aside…” He naturally became inimical to Indian nationalism and began to apply his policy in a subtle way. Under him the Bengali nationalism was faced with a terrible opposi­tion.


The Bengalees were then at the vanguard of the Indian national movement. The autocratic rule of Curzon, his policy of disregarding public opinion and his impolite utterances naturally pushed the Bengalees and for the matter of that the Indians into the ways of active opposition to the British. Curzon’s curtailment of the autonomy of the universities and bringing them under govern­ment control, exercising government control over the Calcutta Cor­poration, his highly derogatory utterances about the Indians combined to create a great resentment against the British among the Indians.

Against this background Curzon in order to disrupt the national unity of the Bengalees sought to divide the Bengalees by partitioning Bengal. On the ostensible ground of administrative convenience Curzon prepared a plan to partition Bengal in 1903. According to this plan Dacca, Mymensingh, Chittagong Divisions were to be joined with Assam to form a new Province.

But as the plan came to be known to the public, there was a great protest by the Hindus and Muslims of Bengal against it and the plan had to be abandoned. The unity of the Hindus and the Muslims in their protest against the plan of partition (1903) made it all the more clear to Curzon that it would be more dangerous to allow the national feeling of the Bengalees to grow further.

Now he secretly began to plan for the partition of Bengal. But the plan did not remain a secret and even before the plan was pub­lished in 1905, the Bengalees began to express their opposition to any scheme of partition of Bengal. In the same year (1905) in the month of July the government decision to partition Bengal was announced. Argument adduced in favour of partition was that a vast province comprising Bengal, Bihar and Orissa was not suitable for effective and efficient administration by a single Provincial government.


For this reason Rajsham, Chittagong, Dacca Divisions, Tripura Hill tracts and Darjeeling, in other words east and north Bengal were joined to Assam and formed into the Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam. The administration of the new province was placed on a Lieutenant Governor and the capital of the new province was Dacca. Original Province of Bengal retained West Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.

If the argument of an unwieldy province be considered valid, then Bihar and Orissa could easily have been separated from the original province of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. But by cutting out portions of Bengalee inhabited parts of the province Curzon sought to weaken the Bengalees and their nationalism. Obviously, administrative convenience was a mere eye-wash. Divide et impera was the real motive behind Partition of Bengal by Curzon. Another motive behind the partition was to further incite the feeling of com­munalism.

The Hindus in the province of Eastern Bengal and Assam were reduced to a minority, while the Bengalees in the original province of West Bengal, Bihar and Orissa were reduced to a minority. By these subtle methods the national as well as racial unity of the Bengalees was sought to be disrupted. With these ends in view it was announced that with effect from August 16, 1905, Partition of Bengal would come into force.

Swadeshi Movement:

Curzon’s Partition of Bengal adminis­tered a strong blow to the unity and nationalism of the Bengalees. But the Bengalees instead of being stunned, stood up against the imperialistic step of Curzon with unprecedented strength, unity and firmness. To the Bengalees, Partition of Bengal was no less than the dismemberment of the body of their own mother, and equally sad and unbearable. Surendranath Banerjee took up the leadership of the movement against partition.

In his journals Bengali and Sandhya and in other news papers like Hitabadi partition of Bengal was described as national calamity. Stateman, Englishman, Pioneer etc. which were British owned papers also strongly protested against the partition. Even London news papers like Manchester Guardian, the London Times, London Daily News etc. criticized the action of Curzon in Partitioning Bengal disregarding the opinion of the Ben­gali people and called it an un-statesman-like act. The English chamber of merchants—Bengal National Chamber of Commerce, strongly protested against the partition. But when the movement against the partition acquired both strength and momentum, these news papers changed their attitude towards partition.

The movement that had started against the Partition of Bengal received the spontaneous support of Hindus and the Muslims, the rich and the poor, urban and the rural people. Under the leadership of Surendranath the movement acquired more and more strength and became an irritable force.

The intensity as also the vastness of the movement somewhat un­nerved Curzon. He now determined to stamp it out by injecting the poison of communalism among the Muslim community. By subtle diplomacy he won over Nawab Salim Ullah of Dacca by dang­ling before him the prospect of Dacca becoming one of the most prosperous cities and he himself would be the most powerful and respectable person of the new province. Salim Ullah could not resist these temptations thrown before him by Curzon and became a strong supporter and advocate of the Partition of Bengal. In this way Curzon succeeded through Salim Ullah to dissociate a large section of the Muslims from the anti-partition movement.

The anti-partition movement was not confined to mere protest against the measure. When protest failed to influence the British, the movement assumed active anti-British character. Krishna Kumar Mitra, editor of Sanjibani advocated use of economic weapon against the British. His proposal for boycott of all British-made articles received overwhelming support all over Bengal.

Boycott of British Articles:

The movement of boycott of British-made articles first began in the sub-divisional town of Bagerhat. In a very largely attended meeting the people of Bagerhat pledged not to use any British-made goods or articles until the parti­tion of Bengal was annulled and for six months to follow nobody would attend any social function or celebration.

In Amritabazar Patrika, Lalmohan Ghosh gave the proposal that the best way to wrest proper respect for the Indian public opinion from the British would be to boycott all types of cloth made in England. In this way the anti-partition movement took the shape of boycott of English made articles, particularly cloth.

The leadership of the boycott movement was given primarily by Surendranath Banerjee and Kaliprasanna Kavyavisharad. The boycott movement did not remain confined to British-made cloth or articles only, but resignation from Municipal and District Boards, Village Panchayats, the posts of honorary magistrates also was brought within the purview of the boy­cott movement.

The student community also came forward to take part in the boycott movement. The students of the different colleges of Calcutta assembled in a meeting and pledged fullest support to the boycott movement. On August 7, 1905, a largely attended meeting in Calcutta Town Hall under the presidentship of Maharaja Manindra Chandra Nandy of Cossimbazar was held in which the Partition of Bengal was called a great national calamity. A strong protest was voiced against the partition which was to come into effect from October 16, 1905.

The Calcutta students also did not lag behind. A huge procession of students came to attend the meeting at Calcutta Town Hall. As the gathering was too large for accommodation in the Town Hall two more separate meetings were held outside the Hall simultaneously, one under the presidentship of Bhupendra Chandra Bash and the other under Ambikacharan Majumdar.

On October 16, 1905, the day on which the partition was to take effect the Bengalees did not cook their food and remained fasting. They observed the day as a day of mourning. Rabindranath Tagore initiated Rakhi-bandhan on that day and the Bengalees irrespective of caste and creed were tying Rakhi in one another’s hand as a symbol of brotherliness and inalienability despite the British measure of parti­tion.

On the same day the foundation stone of the Federation Hall, as a symbol of unity of the Bengalees was laid. Anandamohan Basu, one of the illustrious sons of Bengal came to lay the foundation stone despite his serious illness. Fifty thousand people assembled on this occasion of foundation laying of Federation Hall who took an oath that they would strive to maintain the unity of Bengal and the Bengalees though the British government had partitioned disregard­ing the opinion of the people.

On that day (Oct. 16, 1905) Calcutta and the rest of Bengal witnessed an unprecedented scene. The whole of Bengal seemed to have suddenly stopped moving. The shops were all closed, no vehicular traffic was on the roads, the students and the youths were moving up and down the streets singing Bandemataram. Multitudes of people took their dip in the holy Ganges to wash away the sin of the sinful day, the 16th of October, 1905.

The boycott movement that had begun in the wake of the anti-partition movement was a negative movement. This movement administered a great blow to the economic interests of the British no doubt but from the Indian point of view it was a negative aspect of the movement.

It became therefore necessary to fill the vacuum created by the boycott of British articles by manufacture of indigenous goods and articles and their use. Thus use of Indian manufactures was a supplement to the boycott movement. The Swadeshi movement therefore had two aspects, one, boycott of British made articles and use of swadeshi i.e. country-made articles. Both boycott and swadeshi made the anti-partition movement extremely powerful against the British.

Manufacture and use of Swadeshi Articles:

Swadeshi, that is, (manufacture and use of indigenous goods was the positive aspects of the anti-partition movement and was supplementary to the boycott movement. The programme was now to resuscitate the dead or nearly dead indigenous small and cottage industries which had been ousted by unequal competition of machine-made cloth and articles imported from England. Cloth made in England was to be totally boycotted and thereby to strike an economic blow to England and create pressure for annulling the partition. These were the aims of the Swadeshi movement.

The student community played a very important role in the Swadeshi movement. They collected England made cloth and made bonfire of them. They picketed the shops so that they might not sell English made cloth or articles. These activities of the student community helped to develop the sense of nationalism among the common people. The anti-partition movement developed a deep sense of nationalism among the Indians in general and the Bengalees in particular.

Rabindranath Tagore, Rajanikanta Sen, Dwijendralal Roy, Rangalal Bandopadhyaya, Hemchandra Bandopadhyaya com­posed many nationalist songs which were sung in towns and villages of Bengal and created a nationalist upsurge. The songs of Rabindranath— Mayer deya mota kapar mathay tule ne re bhai, Mukunda Das’s Chhere dao reshmi churi Banga nari kabhu hate ar paro na rent the skies of Bengal. The superb oratory of Surendranath Banerjee and Bepin Chandra Pal stirred the people of Bengal to their depths and they plunged into the Swadeshi movement.

The Bengalees gave up wearing English dress, the lawyers gave up attend­ing courts, students boycotted schools and colleges and the Swadeshi movement as the anti-partition movement was called became a great anti-British force. Many zamindars, merchants etc. openly joined the anti-partition movement braving the wrath of the British govern­ment and without caring for their economic security.

As an inevitable part of the Swadeshi new cloth mills were being established besides reviving the moribund small and cottage indus­tries. Apart from textile mills, banks, life insurance companies, sugar, salt, match-stick, soap, medicine manufacturing companies were established. Both small and large scale industries grew up in this way.

The Swadeshi movement while dealt a severe blow to the British economy opened the way for economic regeneration of India on in­digenous initiative and enterprise. Gradually a great love for every­thing national developed in the minds of the Indians. The Indian national movement had made, much progress as a result of the Swa­deshi movement.

Salim Ullah, the Nawab of Dacca, was won over by Curzon and he kept a good section of the Muslims away from the Swadeshi move­ment. Yet marry respectable Muslim leaders like Abdul Halim Gaznavi, Liaqat Hussain, Abdul Rasul, Mohammad Ismail and others took active part in the Swadeshi movement.

The Swadeshi movement was not confined to Bengal only. Bom­bay, Punjab, Madras and in other parts of India this movement had gradually spread. Bal Gangadhar Tilalk, Sin. Joshi, Sm. Ketkar made the Swadeshi movement a forceful anti-British movement in Bombay. In Punjab, Chandrika Datta, Ramgangaram Munshiram (later Sraddha-nanda), in Madras Ananda Charlu, Subramaniam Iyer, T. S. Nayar etc. gave leadership to the Swadeshi movement. In this way the anti-partition movement of Bengal spread over whole of India as an anti-British, national movement.

Participation of the Bengalee students in the Swadeshi movement while on the one hand added to the strength and dimension of the nationalist movement, on the other it made the British govern­ment nervous. The government naturally tried to prevent the students from participating in the movement.

The Chief Secretary (temporary) of Bengal Government Mr. R. W. Carlisle in a circular, dated October 10, 1905, called after him Carlisle Circular, secretly notified all schools and colleges that participation in the Swadeshi movement by the students would be regarded as act of indiscipline and if the school or college authorities would not prevent their students from participating in the movement their affiliation would be cancelled.

Pursuant to this circular Director of Public Instruction Mr. Pedler called for explanation from the Principals of some colleges as their students had taken part in the picketing of shops. Carlisle Circular and Pedlar’s calling for explanations from college. Principals caused great resentment among the people of Bengal.

The circular and Pedler’s asking for explanations were severely criticised by the news papers of the time. A public meeting under the Presi­dent ship of Abdul Rasul was held on October 24 in which Carlisle Circular was severely criticised and a resolution to make arrangements for national education was unanimously taken. This was the initial step towards the formation of the National Council of Education. On the same date two thousand Muslims assembled in a meeting at College Square and pledged to take part in the Swadeshi movement.

Within a few days in a meeting presided over by Rabindranath Tagore and attended by Bhupendranath Basu, Krishna Kumar Mitra, Satish Chandra Mukherjee, Monoranjan Guha Thakurta, Bepin Chandra Pal and others Carlisle Circular was condemned and students participation in the Swadeshi movement was supported. The meeting was held in the residence of Cham Chandra Mallick at Pataldanga. Students of different colleges also attended the meeting.

In the newly formed province of Eastern Bengal and Assam the Chief Secretary Mr. P. C. Lyon issued a circular in imitation of Carlisle Cricular and the students of Rangpur were fined for attend­ing a meeting in connection with the Swadeshi movement. In this way when repression of students began in both Bengals the need for the establishment of a national university was felt. Further, in order to oppose the government policy of regression of students, an Anti-Circular Society was formed. In the meantime, the Lieutenant Governor Sir Bamfylde Fuller of the new province of Eastern Ben­gal and Assam carried on medieval barbarity on the people.

Many of the students and teachers who had joined the Swadeshi movement had left schools and colleges, many had been expelled for participation in the movement. For the education of the students and the employment of the teachers who had left schools and colleges in the wake of Swadeshi movement a number of national schools were set up in different parts of Bengal.

The Anti-Circular Society and Satish Chandra Mukherjee’s Dawn Society played a very important part in this regard. Satish Chandra convened a meeting of eminent personalities like Rabindranath Tagore, Brajendra Kishore Roychaudhuri, Subodh Chandra Mallick, Bepin Chandra Pal, Hirendra Datta etc. on November 16, 1905 which was attended by a large number of citizens of Calcutta. In this meeting the National Educa­tional Council was established. For national education Brojendra Kishore Roychaudhuri contributed five lacs, Subodh Mallick one lac, Surjakanta Chaudhury two and half lacs worth of properties.

National Educational Council arranged for the study of English language and literature, History, Philosophy, Science and Technology besides Bengali language and literature. Extension of technical and scientific knowledge along with the knowledge in subjects aimed at by National Educational Council was mainly due to the encouragement of Bhupendranath Basu, Taraknath Palit, Nagendranath Ghosh, Nilratan Sircar and Maharaja Manirrdra Chandra Nandy.

In 1906 a national college was established and Aurovinda Ghosh was made its Principal. In the same year a technical Institute was set up which later developed into Jadavpur Engineering college. Besides Calcutta, national schools were also established in mofussil areas. In this way an educational system entirely at the initiative and expense of the people grew up. Not only in Bengal, national educational system had also been developed in Bombay, Madras, Oudh, Allahabad and other parts of India. Development of national education was an important aspect of the Indian national movement which grew out of the anti-partition movement.

National Movement till the Foundation of the Indian National Congress (1885):

When the British imperialism was busy in ex­ploiting India after having brought her under control, a change was going on unobserved, in, the world of ideas of the Indians. As a result of the impact of the Western education and culture on the Indians, a sense of nationalism was developing in them. Study of English language and literature enlightened the educated Indians about European politics, economy, nationalism and patriotism.

Con­tribution of the Christian missionaries of Bengal and Madras was of particular importance in this regard. Among the Christian missio­naries whose efforts helped the spread of English education, the name of William Carey of Serampore deserves special mention. David Hare and Raja Ram Mohan Roy followed lead given by Carey.

With spread of Western education democracy and nationalism made a deep impression upon the minds of the Indians. Gradually demo­cracy and nationalism became the two national ideals of the Indians. The great upheavals like the French Revolution, American War of Independence and the success of democracy and nationalism there, had deep influence on Indian minds.

The ideology of the British liberals and their sympathy with the democratic and nationalistic aspirations of the Indians all the more helped the expansion of these ideas. Writings of Mill, Bentham etc. created a new feeling among the Indians. Researches in ancient Indian history and culture, litera­ture and religion etc. made it clear to the educated Indians that everything Indian was not fit to be discarded.

The contributions of the Asiatic Society of Bengal founded by Sir William Jones were particularly important in this regard. Sir William Jones’ translation of Sakuntala into English opened the gateway to the treasure of Sanskrit literature of India to the West. The name of Max Muller is equally noteworthy in this connection. Further, under the British administration similar laws were in force all over British India. This resulted in same kind of advantages as also same kind of grievances against the administration which helped the development of unity among the Indians.

At different stages of the British administration there had been instances of directives from the home authorities to follow a liberal policy in matters of administration as well as expression of good will towards the Indians. At the time of the Impeachment of Warren Hastings Edmund Burke and other liberal English politicians empha­sised the need of following a liberal policy in the Indian administra­tion.

In the Charter Acts of 1813 and 1833 there were directives to make the Indian administration more mindful of public welfare. In the Queen’s Proclamation, 1858 it was stated “We hold ourselves bound to the natives of our Indian territories by the same obligations of duty which bind us to all our other subjects”.

But it be­came gradually evident to the Indians that in spite of the fact that in the Charter Act of 1833 and in the Queen’s Proclamation as also in the Civil Service Act there were directives and wishes for the recognition of the rights of the Indians, the British government had the least intention to obey these.

The promises of the British govern­ment continued to remain unredeemed which naturally gave rise to an anti-British feeling among the educated Indians. The educated Indians rightly realised that the first step to induction of Indians in greater number in the administration would be to get more Indians appointed in the Indian Civil Service.

The British government, on the other hand, continued to follow their usual policy of discrimina­tion against the Indians. Surendranath Banerjee although he had competed successfully in the I.C.S. examination in England, was about to be deprived of the post. It was after moving the court of law that he could secure appointment in the I.C.S. But soon, after his appointment Surendranath was dismissed on a minor technical ground.

What the British administration lost, Indian nationalism gained. Surendranath joined the national movement and became one of its foremost leaders. In 1876 it was due to his efforts that the Indian Association was founded. The aims and purposes of this association-were to weld the Indians into a national unity and to develop in them a deep sense of nationalism, and to protect the in­terests of the Indians.

At a time when the Indians were agitating under the leadership of Surendranath for greater opportunities for the educated Indians to enter the I.CS, the British government declared (1877) 19 years as the upper age limit for the candidates for the I.C.S. examination.

This led to a great resentment among the educated people all over India. In Calcutta meetings were held to protest against this declaration of the government. Surendranath toured all over India and held meetings on this’ issue at Lahore, Amritsar, Agra, Meerut, Allahabad Delhi Aligarh, Luck-now, Kanpur, Benares etc. Ostensibly the objectives of the meetings were to demand increase of the upper age limit of the I.C S. candidates, to appoint I.C.S. officers on the basis of open and free competition, and to hold I.C.S. examination simultaneously both in India and England.

But the real objective was to develop Indian national unity. Surendranath’s tour and his inimitable oratory in meetings held all over India from East Bengal to Punjab created an unprecedented national feeling among the Indians. The Indian people comprising numerous races, religions, manners and customs roused to a sense of unity by the leadership of Surendranath, showed unmistakable signs of future all India political unity in the struggle for independence.

The movement did not end there. In order to submit a memorandum to the British House of Commons a renowned Bengalee Barrister Lalmohan Ghosh’s was sent to London. In a largely attended meeting held in London under the president-ship of John Bright Lalmohan Ghosh’s oratory explaining India’s case made a deep impression in England. Within twenty-four hours of his speech, proposals for changes in the ‘rules relating to the recruitment of I.C.S. were placed before the House of Commons. Success of the movement regarding change in the rules of appoint­ment in the Indian Civil Service created much enthusiasm among the Indians.

They began movement for the repeal of the Arms Act and the Vernacular Press Act passed by Lord Lytton. Movement against the British government although initially began as a protest against laws passed by the government which were contrary to Indian interests, yet gradually its aims and objectives widened to include self- government. Secretary of State Lord Salisbury’s reactionary policy all the more increased the intensity of the nationalist movement.

When the spirit of nationalism had acquired much strength among the Indians the Europeans started an agitation against the Ilbert Bill which sought to remove the invidious distinction between the Euro­pean and Indian magistrates and judges with Regard to status, power, etc. While the Europeans had begun a movement against the bill, the educated Indians started a movement in its support. Ultimately the bill had to be changed; and although the bill could not remove the invidious distinction between the Indian and the European judges; the agitation of the educated Indians in favour of the bill had largely increased the sense of Indian nationalism.

In 1883 Sudrendrarrath convened the Indian National Conference in Calcutta. Representatives from different parts of India came to attend the conference. In order to give a permanent foundation to the national organisation a National Fund was established. When the Indian national movement was about to acquire further strength by basing itself on a permanent organisation, steps for the founda­tion of the Indian National Congress were taken.