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Partition of Bengal 1905
The first Partition of Bengal (Bengali: বঙ্গভঙ্গ) was a territorial reorganization of the Bengal Presidency implemented by the authorities of the British Raj in 1905. The partition separated the largely Muslim eastern areas from the largely Hindu western areas on 16 October 1905 after being announced on 20 July 1905 by Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy of India.
The Hindus of West Bengal, who dominated Bengal’s business & rural life, complained the division would make them a minority in a province that would incorporate the province of Bihar and Orissa. Hindus were outraged at what they saw as a “divide and rule” policy (gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces), even though Curzon stressed it would produce administrative efficiency.
The ultimate motive remains questionable, as in two letters dated 7 February and 6 December 1904, Herbert Risley, Lord Curzon’s Home Secretary, wrote, “Bengal united is a force, Bengal divided will go in different ways. That the Partition Plan is opposed by the Congress is its merit for us. Our principal motive is to weaken a united party against the government.
The partition animated the Muslims to form their own national organization along on communal lines. To appease Bengali sentiment, Bengal was reunited by Lord Hardinge in 1911, in response to the Swadeshi movement’s riots in protest against the policy and they began an angry agitation, featuring belief among Hindus that East Bengal would have its own courts and policies.
The middle class of Bengal saw this as the rupture of their dear motherland as well as a tactic to diminish their authority. In the six-month period before the partition was to be effected the Congress arranged meetings where petitions against the partition were collected and given to impassive authorities. Surendranath Banerjee had suggested that the non-Bengali states of Orissa and Bihar be separated from Bengal rather than dividing two parts of the Bengali speaking community, but Lord Curzon did not agree to this. Banerjee admitted that the petitions were ineffective and as the date for the partition drew closer began advocating tougher approaches such as boycotting British goods. He preferred to label this movie as “swadeshi” instead of boycott. The boycott was led by the moderates but minor rebel groups also sprouted under its cause.
Banerjee believed that other targets ought to be included. Government schools were spurned and on 16 October 1905, the day of partition, schools, and shops were blockaded. The demonstrators were cleared off by units of the police and army. This was followed by violent confrontations, due to which the older leadership in the Congress became anxious and convinced the younger Congress members to stop boycotting the schools. The president of the Congress, G.K. Gokhale, Banerji, and others stopped supporting the boycott when they found that John Morley had been appointed as Secretary of State for India. Believing that he would sympathize with the Indian middle class they trusted him and anticipated the reversal of the partition through his intervention.
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