Saturday, November 11, 2006

Partition of Bengal 1905 and its annulment in 1911..

Map of Province of East Bengal and Assam 1907

British Officers assemble in Ramna Race course in 1890

In 1904, Lord Curzon Governor General and Viceroy of India at Shahbagh Dhaka on a visit with Lady Curzon in fleet of Dechamp Tonneau- model 1902 car. (photo: Fritz Kapp)

Viceroy Curzon's Escort at Dhaka in 1904 (photo: Fritz Kapp)

In 1902, Nawab Sir Khwaja Salimullah (centre in robes) with local elites in Ahsan Manzil Dhaka (photo: Fritz Kapp)

Lord Curzon with Nawab Sir Salimullah in Ahsan Manzil 1904, Dhaka (photo: Fritz Kapp)

Honour Guards on the ground of Ahsan Manzil, Dhaka awaiting arrival of Lt. Governor Sir Bampfylde Fuller in 16 Oct 1905. (photo: Fritz Kapp)

Elephants on the march at Peelkhana Dhaka (photo: 1895-90 Fritz Kapp)

Mass Prayer by Muslims on 27 Oct 1906 at Dhaka

Dhaka 1906- All India Muslim League gathering at Ishrat Manzil

Foundation stone of Curzon Hall Dhaka laid by Lord Curzon in 1904

Curzon Hall, Dhaka (later became the base of the science dept of Dhaka Univ) has been named after Lord Curzon who laid the foundation stone of the building in 1904 as a Town Hall/College. It was completed in 1908.

Bengal, Bihar and Orissa had formed a single province under British India since 1765. After the British crushed the Sepoy Rebellion of 1875, they dissolved the East India Company and took direct control of the province. British control extended from Eastern Bengal across the entire Ganges plain, to the Indus valley in distant north-western India, with Calcutta as capital. The British officials also moved into the Chittagong Hills. The British officials governed the local hill peoples, who had remained independent in their remote corner of East Bengal.

The Lt. Governor of Bengal appointed by the Govt. in Calcutta (Kolkata) had to administer an area of 189,000 sq miles, and by 1903, the population of the province rose to 78.50 million. The eastern part of Bengal, because of poor communications was left isolated and neglected in favour of west Bengal and Bihar. Its countryside was cut off by numerous rivers and creeks. Robbery and piracy in waterways were rampant and the peasants lived in extreme misery. Till the last decade of 19th century the region was thought to be under-developed and under-governed. On the other hand, Calcutta (Kolkata) and its nearby districts of West Bengal attracted all energy and attention of the administration.

By the end of nineteenth century, rivalry between Hindu and Muslim factions in Bengal increased. Hindus made majority of landlords and investors whereas most Muslim worked as landless farmers with much less influence in the administration of the region. To fight for further independence from British rule, the elite members of the Hindu community formed the Indian National Congress in 1885. Muslims under the leadership of Syed Ahmed Khan opposed the organisation. He believed Muslims would benefit by full cooperation with the British and promotion of English-language education.

Lord Curzon during Vice-Royalty (1899-1905) of India chose out one of the several schemes for partition: to unite Assam, which had been a part of the province until 1874, with 15 districts of East Bengal and thus form a new province of Eastern Bengal and Assam with a population of 31 million. The capital would be in Dacca (now Dhaka) and the people were mainly Muslim.

The Government officially published the idea of Partitioning Bengal in the month of January of 1904, and in February, Lord Curzon himself went on an official tour to East Bengal to get an assessment of public opinion on partition. He discussed with leading political personalities of Bengal and delivered speeches explicating Government`s position and stand on partition at Dhaka, Mymensingh and Chittagong.

Government`s idea was that the new province would include the state of Hill of Tripura, divisions of Chittagong, Dhaka, Rajshahi (excluding Darjeeling) and Malda district would be incorporated with Assam province ( On the other side, Sambalpur and five minor Oriya speaking states from Central Provinces were offered to be incorporated with Bengal. After this reconstruction, Bengal would be left with an area of 141,580 sq. miles and a population of 54 million of which 42 million would be Hindus and 9 million Muslims. The new province of 'East Bengal and Assam' would have an area 106,540 sq. miles with a population of 31 million of which 12 million would be Hindus and 18 million Muslims.

On 16 Oct 1905, through a Royal Proclamation, a new province of 'Eastern Bengal and Assam' with its capital at Dacca (Dhaka) and subsidiary headquarters at Chittagong was formed. The partition created two provinces: Eastern Bengal and Assam, with capital at Dhaka, and West Bengal, with its capital at Calcutta (which at that time was the capital of British India).

The Hindus of west Bengal, who controlled most of Bengal’s commerce and professional and rural life, complained that the Bengali nation would be split in two, making them a minority in a province including Bihar and Orissa.

The Muslim population found the partition effective for them. Before the partition it was West Bengal, mainly Calcutta and its adjacent area came under the British influence and enjoyed the facility of education, development and industrialization. The eastern part of Bengal due to lack of communication could not have the benefits of development. The socio-economic condition of the Muslim population was poor and they suffered further under the rule of Hindu Zaminders and Landlords. The rivers were full of pirates and a minimum amount was funded for education. The Muslim populations outnumbered the Hindu population in Eastern Bengal. Muslims had feelings of alleviation in the partitioning of Bengal as they thought that they would enjoy more freedom and opportunity for education, employment, politics and economy etc. The partition caused a boost in Bengali Literature and language and Muslim society underwent a social, economic and educational uplift.

Following the partition of Bengal, Dhaka was reincarnated as the provincial capital of the newly constituted Muslim-majority province of Eastern Bengal and Assam. Dhaka's profile was raised in several spheres. The pulse of the public activities quickened too, and in 1906 the All India Muslim League was founded there at the initiative of the Nawab of Dhaka. The British set about developing its infrastructure by laying out a 'formal' city adjacent to Old Dhaka. A civil line type administrative quarter was developed around the Ramna area north of the railway line which served Old Dhaka from the new enclave. Big colonial-style bungalows and several important administrative buildings were constructed, interspersed with open spaces which were criss-crossed by straight roads and winding avenues. Among the other important buildings constructed in this period were Curzon Hall (which initially became the Town Hall and was subsequently taken over by Dhaka university), the High Court Building, Secretariat, Govt Press and the Museum. However, this expansion came to a frustrating halt in 1911 when, in the face of growing Bengali nationalism, the partition was annulled and the provincial capital moved to Kolkata. Dhaka once again relegated to the obscure position of a mere divisional headquarters. Its population which between 1901-11 had increased by 21 percent, saw its growth halved after the capital was removed (ref: The Aftermath of Partition in South Asia by Tai yong Tan and Gyanesh Kudaisya published in 2000 by Routledge from London, USA and Canada).

The partition met great opposition mainly from the influential educated middle-class Hindus. The educated Bengali Hindus of Bengal felt the partition a blow on them. The territorial adjustment touched their interest. They controlled most of Bengal's commerce and different professions. Calcutta lawyers apprehended that establishment of a Court of Appeal at Dhaka (Dacca) would diminish importance of their own High Court at Calcutta. Journalists feared that appearance of local newspapers would restrict circulation of Calcutta Press. Business community of Calcutta visualized shift of trade from Calcutta to Chittagong port. The Zamindars, mostly Hindus, who owned vast landed estates both in west and east Bengal foresaw extra expenditure. They believed the plan would encourage growth of a Muslim power in the Muslim majority eastern Bengal- mostly peasant and illiterate- to thwart the rapidly growing strength of the educated Hindu community.

The partition had stirred up the sentiments of Hindus. There were widespread agitations acrosss the state. October 16, 1905, the day on which the partition came into effect, was observed as a day of mourning and fasting throughout Bengal. The Amrita Bazar Patrika of Calcutta wrote in an editorial next day "the people of Calcutta observed it as the day of mourning." RabindranathTagore, the famous Nobel-laureate and writer, spoke out against this political event by means of a highly inspiring poem: Banglar mati Banglar jal, Banglar bayu, banglar phal, punya houk, hey Bhagaban…(roughly translated into English: "May the soil of Bengal, the water and the air of Bengal be hallowed ... "). Tagore himself led mass protest of people on the streets, singing the song and tying Rakhi (ornamental, colourful chord) on each other's wrists (to symbolise unity and brotherhood). Amar Shonar Bangla (My Golden Bengal) sung at a Calcutta meeting to protest the impending partition. It became a rallying cry for proponents of annulment of Partition. A huge amount of nationalist literature was created during this period.

In different parts of India a number of secret societies sprang up, particularly in Bengal and Maharashtra. To terrorize British authorities they trained members, mostly students in the use of fire-arms. This was the time when the Swadeshi movement to boycott British manufactured goods was first launched. They made public bonfires of foreign cloths, cigarettes, soap and anything that came handy all over India. The sale of British goods fell between 6 and 20 per cent of original levels. This was the time when extreme nationalists came to the forefront. A large number of young leaders in Bengal took up the task of educating people with Swadeshi spirit of the Indianisation of education, spearheaded by fanatic Hindu revolutionary Arobindo Ghose. In 1905, Aurobindo Ghosh wrote ‘Vawani Mandir’. In this book, he stated the plans and programmes of the Revolutionary Terrorist groups.

Though the revolutionary terrorists did not lead mass struggles against the British, their acts and sacrifices won them enormous popularity among the common people. Among the major groups were the Abhinav Bharat (centers in Nasik, and led by V. Savarkar), the Anushilan Samity (based in Dacca and led by Pulin Das), the Jugantar group (led by Jatindranath Mukherji) and the group led by Rash Behari Bose and Sachindranath Sanyal. These groups carried out several armed raids to raise funds and executions of English officials.

The anti-partition agitation passed into the hands of Hindu militant leaders. The clerical staff, Calcutta tram workers, jute workers, railway workers and younger generation drawn into politics, adopted terrorist methods by using firearms, pistols and bombs indiscriminately. Several assassinations were committed. The Swadeshi movement in Bengal also saw the emergence of labour unions and professional agitators. Bombay, Madras and Punjab also witnessed the growth of a spontaneous anti-imperialist labour movement - the most famous example being the 1908 strike of Bombay textile workers in protest against Tilak's arrest. The agitation took a turn towards anarchy and disorder.

The Congress and political activity in general, were strongest in Bengal. The leadership of the Indian National Congress viewed partition tantamount to vivisection of their 'Mother'. Vande-Mataram' (Hail Motherland) became their national anthem and agitation against partition started in the form of mass meetings and rural unrest. Pujas offered to emphasize the solemn nature of the occasion. Hindu religious militancy reached its peak on 28 September 1905, the day of Mahalaya, the new-moon day before the puja, and thousands of Hindus gathered at the Kali temple in Calcutta. In Bengal the worship of Kali, wife of Shiva, had always been very popular. She possessed a two-dimensional character both generative and destructive and took great pleasure in bloody sacrifices.

Such religious flavor aroused hostility in average Muslim minds. Protest rallies were held by them urging its educated co-religionists to remain faithful to the government. Communal disturbances became a familiar feature in Eastern Bengal and Assam and followed a pattern that was repeated elsewhere. The 1907 riots represent a watershed in the history of modern Bengal.

Sir Bampfylde Fuller, became the first Lieutenant-Governor of the new province of East Bengal and Assam on 16 October 1905. When he arrived Dhaka, the Muslims accorded him a rousing reception. On 16 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.

While Hindu-Muslims relations deteriorated, political changes of great magnitude were taking place in the Government of India's policies. In the new province, Lt.Governor Bampfylde Fuller was accused by the anti-Partition movement leaders as partial to Muslims. Lord Curzon had resigned as Viceroy in 1905 following dispute with the Commander-in-Chief of Indian Army. Coordinated and successful campaign and political protests and agitation led to the ouster of the Lt. Governor of East Bengal and Assam Sir Bampfylde Fuller. He resigned in August 1906. His resignation and its prompt acceptance were considered by the Muslims, a victory for the Hindus.

The civil disobedience and Swadeshi movement snowballed to such proportions that Viceroy Curzon's scheme, ostensibly for "administrative convenience", to divide Bengal into Eastern and Western provinces (whatever be the hidden reason 'divide and rule' alleged by the proponents of anti-partition) was nipped in the bud. In the face of rising opposition to colonial rule the British ended the division and the partition had to be annulled.

According to the suggestion of the Governor-General-in-Council, King George V at his Coronation Darbar in Delhi in December 1911 announced the revocation of the Partition of Bengal and the two parts of Bengal were reunited. At the same time, certain changes made in the administration, the Government of India should have its seat at Delhi instead of Calcutta. British government decided to annul the Partition of Bengal, the date chosen for the formal ending of the partition and reunification of Bengal was 1 April 1912.

To placate Bengali Muslim feelings, it was decided on 31 Jan 1912, to build a new University and High Court at Dacca.

The annulment of the partition sorely disappointed and had a negative effect not only the Muslims of Bengal but also the Muslims of the whole of India. Noted British scholar and historian W.W. Hunter in his book on "The Indian Musalmans" (23 June 1871) published from London in 1876 (3rd edition) in the preface said: "The greatest wrong that the English can do to their Asiatic Subjects is not to understand them." He said in the concluding part of the book "A hundred and seventy years ago it was almost impossible for a well-born Musalman in Bengal to be poor, at the present it is almost for him to be to continue rich."

The Muslims thus felt that loyalty did not pay but agitation would. Thereafter, the dejected Muslims gradually took an anti-British stance. The aim of annulment was to combine appeasement of Bengali sentiment with administrative convenience. This end was achieved for a time, but the Bengali Muslims, having benefited from partition, were angry and disappointed. This resentment remained throughout the rest of the British period. The final division of Bengal at the partitioning of the subcontinent in 1947, which split Bengal into India in the west and East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) in the east, was accompanied by intense violence.

WHKMLA : Map of Eastern Bengal & Assam Province 1905-1912 in green colour
Bangladesh in pictures by Thomas Streissguth (available in google)


Humaira said...

Dear Mr. Ahmed

Prothomey apnake osonkhyo dhonnobad janay eto sundor totthobohul bolg ti upohaar debar jonno.
Ami Florida theke ekti e magazine ( korchi. Amar e-magazine er photograph section er jonno ami ki ‘Heritage’ section theke kichu photo nite pari? Onumuti dile khub khushi hobo.

Ershad Ahmed said...

You are welcome to use pictures giving pic credit to this site.

Humaira said...

Dear Mr. Ahmed

onumuti deyar jonno dhonnobad. Feb masher jonno ekti file prostut korechi. File name :photograph.pdf
file size 265KB
file ti amar emagazine e sonjukto korar purbe apnake dekhate chayee. somoy pele kindly dekhben. kono vul thakle amay janale valo hoy, ami sudhre nebo.
Sincerely yours

Ershad Ahmed said...

apnake dhannyabad.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely amazing! I truly admire your dedication to painstakingly capture so many historical sites all around Bangladesh, compare them to historical pictures, and add historical background information.

I stumbled upon this site while researching the history of Shah Jalal and his followers (supposedly a mix of Persian, Turks and Afghans) in Sylhet. Although I didn't find what I was looking for, this site was a fascinating diversion.

--Ali Siddiquee (New York)

Anonymous said...

Mr Ali Siddquie
sounds very this a research your working on??

-MR Ahmed
Your a genius GOD BLESS you!!
Your doing a fab job!

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,
I am a Bengali from Kolkata and the view that most people have here is that the partition was an attempt to dissolve a unified pan-Bengali indentity by the British. Thus, it hurt many Bengali sentiments. Even Rabindranath Tagore wrote many peoms, songs to arouse a united Bengali identity during that time. So I feel that the partition was opposed also due to many cultural reasons.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Jaswant Singh MP, one among the most leading names of India’s public life and diplomacy today, says in his recently published book on Jinnah (India-Partition- Independence) in chapter under “The Language Divide”:

“…Let us pause in that fateful year of 1905. Once Eastern Bengal, a Muslim majority had got established, leading Muslims then began to see clearly its many advantages and with this vision new self-interest took birth…the Hindu leaders of anti-partition movement searching for a national hero endeavored to impart from Bombay the cult of Shivajee and appealed to the religion of the multitude by placing to their efforts under the patronage of Kali, the goddess of strength and destruction...Almost unavoidably, the Congress identified with this agitation. In turn, the Muslims, galvanized by these events persuaded their leaders to realise that the call of the times was for assertive action, and that it was a must for sheer self-preservation.”

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.

Anonymous said...

What a great resource!

Anonymous said...

I'm simply appalled at this blatant plagiarism. Although this is the age of information and the right to information is everybody’s these four pictures have been taken from the book, Rare Photographs of Eastern Bengal (1880 – 1940), sponsored and published by the Standard Chartered Bank in 2003 and is written by Waqar A. Khan, Bangladesh’s leading authority on vintage photographs. Mr. Khan’s work is recognized both at the national and international levels. I refuse to believe that in this day and age Mr. Ershad Ahmed would have the audacity to take somebody else’s pictures and captions and then use them as his own without even having the courtesy of mentioning the source! If this is not blatant plagiarism in broad daylight, I wonder what is…

Anonymous said...

I strongly oppose the views expressed by Mr. Anonymous above, it’s mean of him to make such comment on historical pictures meant for public view.

These ancient pictures have featured many times in different media, periodicals and books. Recently Premier Bank has printed many such pictures in their desk calendar. No public picture can be copyrighted more than 50 years after its creation. Pictures drawn by D’Oyly, Chinnery, Fritz Kapp or Johnston on Dhaka are all 100 years old and for public viewing. These are national treasure and no individual can lay particular claim on it, not to speak of so-called leading authority on vintage photographs (?) hitherto unheard.

Mr. Ershad Ahmed rightly mentioned the name of photographer at the bottom of pictures.

Dr Chanchal said...

Tribute to your service sir, u have done an amazing job i was looking for years.

Thank you very very much. I am just working with a TV programme on Dhaka. I am so grateful to you wish i will meet you one day soon

Dr. Shazedur Rahman
Mass Meida Expert.

Imran Najir said...

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Jyotishankar Raychaudhuri said...

A rather dishonest revisionist history similar to what BJP/RSS is doing in India. I have heard from my father how Sher E Bangla Fazlul Haque used to come and sit in my grandfather's verandah to learn public speaking from grandfather's Pathan Sardar who brought him up like a the name Inu Sardar looked at them and said "Era musolmaan noy Korta....eder Nur koi?"....Fazlul Haque a barrister was clean shaven. This same Pathan Inu Sardar went to the funeral of Jatin Das in 1929 very late at my grandfather was anxiously trying to find him....he came back late at night with a little putli of ashes from the crematorium....on enquiring Inu Sardar said, " Korta....Zailer modhyae Ranir songye Baad Bayidhyae Na Khae Poran Dishe...Kaemon Mayer Dudh Khaishilo.....ei shai aami ganye niya giya sobaire dimu." Hindu Muslim Unity of the heart was a reality then.....revisionist history will not work in Bangladesh as it will not in India....Banglar Mati Banglar Jol Punya Hoyuk He Bhagoban.....

Anonymous said...

After reading your post, I felt a little morbid for your reconstruction of actual History on behalf of Islamic propaganda. Yes, there was mass protests in Bengal(In your words, only in West Bengal and by only Hindus) and the protests were to discard the divide and rule policy and not to manipulate Hindutva...Feeling sorry for your politicizing of even Kaviguru as a pro-Hindu trying to unify Bengal for Hindutva...sorry we in India have not read History that you have constructed...Partition was a scar in 1905 and it was a scar even in 1947...We had opposed partition in both the occasions for promoting Hindu-Muslim unity...but we failed...we helped you to liberate yourself from autocratic rule of Pakistan but still even highly educated Bangladeshis promote Hindu hatred and manipulate Real History...Don't follow Pakistani lines and create a failed state like them...but we Indians would like to watch you thriving because we see you as younger brothers sharing the same loving language -our Bengali...