Pakistan Affairs (CSS Paper 2015 )
Question: “It was over-reaction of Hindus to the partition of the Bengal in 1905 that widened the gulf between Muslims and Hindus”. Comment.
Over-Reaction of Hindus to “The Partition of the Bengal” Widened the Gulf Between the Muslims and The Hindus
The annulment of the partition greatly disappointed the Muslims and their faith in the justice of the British government was shaken badly. In addition, the Hindu agitation against the partition convinced the Muslim community that the Hindus were bent upon damaging its interests at all costs.
1. According to I.H Qureshi
“Muslim reaction to these decisions was naturally bitter. For years the government of India and Home government had been telling the Muslims that the decision regarding the partition of Bengal was final and would not be reopened. Such flagrant disregard for solemn promises created a feeling of distrust among the Muslims. They lost all faith in British pledges. They were convinced that the Government listened only to sedition and clamour, that constitutional approaches did not pay, that loyalty was rewarded with treachery………….”
2. Prospects for the Muslims
“The partition of Bengal bestowed new life and new image to the Muslims.” Nawab Salimullah
The prospects for the Muslims in the eastern Bengal were very bright. They were in a majority. This meant that they could bargain with the democratically inclined British on almost any matter. The new province was to have its own civic facilities e.g. its Railway Station, its Secretariat, its High Court, a Governor House, etc. This meant new intellectual exposure for the Muslims. When Lt. Governor Bampfylde Fuller arrived in Dhaka, the Muslims accorded him a rousing reception. On 16th October 1905, Mohammedan Provincial Union was founded with Nawab Sir Salimullah as its patron. The All India Muslim League founded in 1906 supported the partition.
3. Over-Reaction of Hindus to the Partition of the Bengal
Commenting on the Hindu reaction against the partition, I.H. Qureshi, the renowned historian, has written,
“The net result was that the Hindu agitation definitely estranged the Muslims from the Congress” and convinced them “of the futility of expecting justice and fair play from the Hindu majority“.
This was a crucial development in the struggle for Pakistan. The Hindus reacted with hostility to the partition. The Hindu lawyers, Hindu press and Hindu religious groups all protested and criticised the British Government. The Indian National Congress also joined the protests and started a Swadeshi Movement as early as August 1905. In its annual meeting of 1906, it passed a resolution condemning the partition and calling for its annulment.
The first part of a news item, which appeared in the Amrita Bazar Patrika of 17th October 1905 entitled “Calcutta in Mourning – A Unique Sight”, describing the situation in Calcutta on 16th October 1905, the day Bengal was partitioned, is given below.
‘Yesterday was one of the most memorable days in the history of the British administration of India. It being the day on which the Bengal Partition scheme took effect, the day on which our unsympathetic government forced a measure by a proclamation in the official gazette against the wishes of the whole population, the day on which our rulers tried to separate the Bengali speaking people of the East Bengal from those of the West Bengal, the people of Calcutta, irrespective of nationality, social position, creed and sex, observed it as a day of mourning.”
Jugantar (which along with Vande Mataram and Sandhya was one of the leading magazines representing this trend) wrote about the police assault on the peaceful Barisal conference:
“The 30 crores of people inhabiting India must raise their 60 crores of hands to stop this course of oppression. Force must be stopped by force.”
But the main consequence of the Partition of Bengal was the Swadeshi and Boycott Movement.
4. Swadeshi & Boycott Movement
The spark for the Swadeshi Movement was the British decision to partition Bengal. Swadeshi, meaning of one’s own country, implied that people should use only the goods produced in India and boycott foreign goods. On August 7, 1905, in a public meeting at the Calcutta Town Hall, the Boycott Resolution was passed.
The Swadeshi movement also saw a remarkable upsurge in labour organisation, with the added feature of active public sympathy with the strikers. Among the strikes of this period (1905-8) in Bengal were those of clerical staff, Calcutta tram workers, jute workers, railway workers (of various categories, from clerical staff to coolies), and press workers.
K.B. Sayeed writes about Swadeshi,
“The aim was to put pressure on important textile interests in British who the agitators thought would in their turn pressure the home is abandoning the partition scheme. Hundreds meetings are held and students took an active part.”
5. The Congress Revealed
The true face of the Indian National Congress as a Hindu-sympathetic party was clearly revealed to the Muslims.
This episode led the Muslim intellectuals to shift their role from educational reformers to political leaders. Many prominent men including Nawab Sir Salimullah, Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk, Nawab Viqar-ul-Mulk and many others were led to form the All India Muslim League.
To quote Latif Ahmed Sherwani:
“The partition of the unwieldy province of Bengal was a purely administrative measure but the Muslim leaders soon realised that it suited Muslim interests also inasmuch as a new Muslim majority province had come into being. The partition was however opposed by the Congress because the Bengali Hindus felt that they had been divided and their economic interests also would suffer. The Hindus started a movement to have the partition undone. The Muslims opposed this movement and were encouraged in their attitude by the assurances given by a number of British administrators and statesmen that the partition was a settled fact. Hindu-Muslim relations came under strain also because the movement developed a number of Hindu religious associations. The Hindus also established a number of terrorist societies, thus creating the problem of law and order. As a result of these various factors, the Muslims rallied behind the Government. In 1911 when the partition was undone most abruptly, the Muslims were naturally shocked and their faith in Government pledges was greatly weakened. In fact, they began to feel that, compared with loyalty, opposition to Government was more rewarding and it might be more advantageous to them if they sought cooperative relations with the Hindus.”
(Source: Pakistan in the Making Documents and Readings, p. 138)