Partition of Bengal and Swadeshi Movement: SEBA Class 10 History

Partition of Bengal and Swadeshi Movement
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This article gives a brief summary of the chapter "Partition of Bengal and Swadeshi Movement" which is the first chapter of the History textbook of Class 10 under the Board of Secondary Education, Assam (SEBA). The facts mentioned in this article is in accordance with the textbook.

The background

The partition of Bengal under the Viceroy Lord Curzon was an important event in the political history of India. The reason behind the partition given at that time was that the Bengal province was too large to be administered by a single Lieutenant Governor though many believe it was a move to divide the people and suppress any uprising against the government.

A total area of 1,06,540 sq. mile comprised of Dhaka, Chattagram and Rajshahi was annexed to Assam and came to be known as Eastern Bengal and Assam. Dhaka was established as the capital of Eastern Bengal and Assam. Through the partition of Bengal, Lord Curzon tried to break the centre of Indian nationalism. It resulted in the division of Bengal into two parts and Hindu-Bengalis were turned into minorities in both the provinces. In order to continue the British imperialism undisturbed, the British tried to divide and rule Indians on the basis of castes, creeds, religions and regions.

The partition of Bengal and Swadeshi Movement

The decision to effect the partition of Bengal was announced in July 1905 by Lord
Curzon the then Viceroy of India. The actual partition took place on 16 October 1905 creating mass agitation among the people of Bengal. Following the partition, an anti-British movement broke out which involved both non-violent and violent protests as well as boycotts.

Irrespective of caste, creed and religion, people from all walks of life took part in the movement. The partition also sparked a major political crisis which resulted in the beginning of the Swadeshi movement including boycotting British goods and trusting Swadeshi goods. Although the centre of the Swadeshi movement was undivided Bengal province, it spread out not only in Bengal but throughout India. The Swadeshi movement was regarded as a successful and active movement. It had a far-reaching impact on the literature, society, education, economy etc. of the country. The effect of the Swadeshi movement reached even up to Assam.

The emergence of the Muslim League

Another significant event during the Swadeshi movement was the creation of the Indian Muslim League, established by a section of Muslim elites in the direct instigation of the British. The Muslim League emerged as an active political organization and an opponent to Indian National Congress representing the Indian Muslims. This league soon became a big force to weaken the Indian National Congress.

The emergence of violent movement is also an important event of the period of the Swadeshi movement. The philosophy of INC changed after the partition of Bengal. INC believed that the development of Indians would be possible only through a mass movement. The capital of Assam was shifted from ShiIIong to Dhaka as a result of the partition of Bengal.

The reunification of Bengal

The British predicted support from moderate group leaders of Congress on the issue of the partition of Bengal. Lord Curzon even offered the leaders various titles, posts, medals etc to make them loyal to the British. In spite of all these, Curzon failed to control the anti-partition movement. The firm stand of Congress leaders like Surendranath Banerjee, Gopal Krishna Gokhle etc. against the partition of Bengal set the government into the trap. Bipin Ch. Paul urged every leader to give up and return titles, posts and honours offered by the British government. The first response to this was Gopal Krishna Gokhle who returned the 'Knighthood' title to the British immediately.

After six years of the Swadeshi Movement, the British government was compelled to go for the unification of Bengal. This brought about an opportunity for the people of India to unite for freedom and self-government. Bengal was reunited on 12 December 1911 as per the royal proclamation of Delhi. As a result of reunification, the capital of India was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi. The administration of Assam came under the Chief Commissioner and the capital of Assam was again shifted to Shillong.

The decision to repeal the partition of Bengal clearly showed the defeat and discontentment of the British Government. The success story of the Swadeshi movement inspired the Indians to join and strengthen the national freedom struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi. The success of the anti-partition movement will ever remain an important event in the history of the freedom struggle of India.

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  1. What were the initial programmes of the Swadeshi Movement? Mention briefly about them.