Partition of Bengal – Anti-Partition Struggle – Swadeshi
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We as Indians are already accustomed with two major partitions whether it be of India-Pakistan or it be within the states and territory. This often happens from time to time owing to public opinion, as part of administrative mechanisms, to identify a linguistic minority or regional minority, etc. Even though there are varying reasons contributing to the same, the people who once being part of a region are separated undergo an insurmountable amount of difficulties in shifting their existence to an entirely unknown space. One such partition took place during our freedom struggle where this was used as a weapon to stop the civilian unrest against the imperialistic and corrupted policies of the British rule in India.
Lord Curzon in the year 1905 partitioned Bengal on the grounds of initiating administrative governance. However, the real reason was to stop people from stemming anti-British resistance movements, especially centred around these regions. Lord Curzon was against anti-British movements and propagandas which he stated on various occasions and even considered Indian National Congress his sworn enemy. Following the partition people had to undergo unimaginable difficulties which never even dared to bother the British officials who administered and executed it with utmost rigidity and rudeness.
The Extremists took it as an opportunity to establish themselves as part and parcel of Indian Freedom Struggle and initiated Swadeshi and Boycott movements which got mass support. Leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and Bipin Chandra Pal, who later came to be known as Lal-Bal-Pal, spearheaded the movement whereby they began to non co-operate with the British; picketted shops; halted export and import of foreign goods, went for strike and actively participated in similar kind of resistance measures. All sections of society actively participated in the same. However, it couldn’t achieve its desired result except in the year 1911.
Partition, Extremists, Anti-Partition Movements, Swadeshi, Boycott, Gandhian Ideologies, Decadence
Lord Curzon was a true successor of Lord Dalhousie in the sense that he was a great imperialist, authoritarian in temperament, ruthless in his ways and wanted to achieve at a greater pace.The time of his governorship (1899-1905), was the formative phase of Indian national movement. He in this particular phase tried to strangulate Indian nationalism and freedom movement by all fair and foul means possible. The partition of Bengal can be witnessed as one such example where he tried to curb the rising anti-British feelings in those regions.
5.4.1 Reactionary policies of Lord Curzon
- Through Calcutta Corporation Act 1899 he reduced the number of elect-ed legislatures to deprive Indians from self-governance.
- He brought Indian Universities Act 1904 mainly to increase official control over universities and to stop the spread of nationalism among youths.
- He looked at Indians with contempt and insulted and injured their feelings. He described Bengalis as cowards, windbags, impracticable talkers and mere frothy patriots. He even refused to meet the president of the Indian National Congress.
- The biggest blunder he committed was the partition of Bengal. Although it was a political masterstroke to break growing Indian nationalism among Benga-lis, it proved disastrous for the British in the long term.
5.4.2 Impact of Curzon’s reactionary policies
Curzon by his impolitic utterances and imperialist designs brought political unrest in India to a bursting point. Curzon’s imperialistic policies provoked a reaction which in turn stung political life in India. Out of his tyranny was born a stronger sense of nationhood. In this scenario, in fact Curzon proved to be a benefactor of India without intending to do so.
Nature and direction of Indian freedom movement without Curzon
It was only after the decision of partition of Bengal that India’s first mass movement emerged in the form of Swadeshi movement in 1905. It intensified nationalism in the whole of India and marked the beginning of modern politics. The social base of the movement widened to include students and women. Had the Curzon not taken such a step, the Indian freedom movement might have to wait for another few years for witnessing the first mass movement and beginning of modern politics. Also without such mass movement nationalism would have been limited to educated sections of the society.
The debate over the swadeshi movement led to a split between moderates and extremists. This weakened the vigour and strength of the freedom movement for the next few years. However Indian leaders learnt an important lesson from it and such splits from within were successfully avoided in the future.
Curzon’s reactionary policies stirred the Indian consciousness and provided impetus to Indian nationalism. Therefore when leaders like Lokmanya Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi emerged on the scene people readily followed them without any hesitation.
Although Curzon’s policies played an important role in stirring nationalism among Indians, it should be taken into account that British rule as a whole was exploitative, insensitive, unethical and racist and Lord Curzon was just a small part of it. As the sense of nationalism and people’s sovereignty was spreading, British rule was bound to end. Curzon just intensified this sense and unintentionally helped in this cause.
5.4.3 Swadeshi Movement
Bal Gangadhar Tilak was an Indian nationalist, teacher, social reformer, lawyer and an independence activist. He was the first leader of the Indian Independence Movement. Tilak was one of the first and strongest advocates of Swaraj (“self-rule”) and a strong radical in Indian politics. He is known for his quote ,“Swarajya is my birthright and I shall have it!”.
The extremists like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai, and Aurobindo Ghosh demanded Swaraj or complete independence from British rule. They believed in self-reliance as a weapon against domination. They promoted Swadeshi and boycott of foreign goods. Swarajya, (self-rule) being the ultimate aim, was to be achieved through swadeshi and boycott movements.
The Swadeshi movement launched in the early 20th Century was a direct fallout of the decision of the British India government to partition Bengal.Use of Swadeshi goods and boycott of foreign made goods were the two main objectives of this movement.A Boycott Resolution was passed in Calcutta City Hall on August 7, 1905, where it was decided to boycott the use of Manchester cloth and salt from Liverpool.In the district of Barisal, the masses adopted this message of boycott of foreign-made goods, and the value of the British cloth sold there fell sharply.
“Vande Mataram” became the boycott and Swadeshi movement theme song.Among the movement’s various forms of struggle, it was the boycott of foreign-made goods that encountered the greatest visible success on the practical and popular level. Boycott and public burning of foreign clothes, picketing of shops selling foreign goods, all became common in remote corners of Bengal as well as in many major cities and towns across the country.
Another form of mass mobilisation widely used by the Swadeshi movement was the corps of volunteers (samitis). Ashwini Kumar Dutta, a school teacher, set up the Swadesh Bandhab Samiti in Barisal, which was the best – known volunteer organisation of all of them. The Shivaji and Ganapati festivals in Western India (Maharashtra) were organised by Lokmanya Tilak to spread the swadeshi message and boycott movements among the masses.
The Swadeshi and boycott movements placed great emphasis on ‘ Atmasakti ‘ or self – reliance as a means of reasserting national dignity in different fields. In the field of national education, this emphasis on self – reliance was most evident. The National College of Bengal was founded with Aurobindo as its principal. Numerous national schools have been established throughout the country in a short period of time. The National Education Council was established in August 1906.
In India’s entrepreneurial zeal, self – reliance was also evident. The period saw an explosion of textile mills, factories of soap and match, tanneries, banks, insurance companies, shops, etc. While most of these Swadeshi companies were set up and run as a result of patriotic fervour rather than any real business interest, they were unable to survive for a long time. In the field of culture, “Amar Sonar Bangla,” written by Rabindranath Tagore in protest against Bengal’s partition, became a rallying point for the Swadeshi and boycott movements, and later inspired Bangladesh’s liberation struggle.
126.96.36.199 Importance of the Swadeshi and Boycott Movements
The Swadeshi and boycott movements were India’s first 20th century movements that encouraged mass participation in modern nationalist politics by a large section of the society.
For the first time, women came out of their homes and joined processions and picketing of foreign-made goods shops. The Swadeshi and boycott movements also changed the character of the Indian National Congress (INC) from being driven largely by moderates to the main agenda now being set by the ‘Extremists’ who gave the Congress’s 1906 Calcutta session’s call for ‘Swaraj’ or self – government.The ideas of non – cooperation and passive resistance, successfully applied many years later by Mahatma Gandhi, found their origin in early 20th century Swadeshi and boycott movements.
188.8.131.52 Gandhian techniques used during Swadeshi movement
The concept of Swadeshi and Boycott of foreign goods were actually introduced by Gandhi as a way to oppose the British regime and to inculcate self-reliance among Indian natives. The process demanded boycotting foreign goods altogether and adopting goods made in India. He specifically gave emphasis to that lifestyle where one spins his own clothes using a “charka” or a spinning wheel. He insisted on this kind of self-reliance in various other aspects, such as farming, making one’s own food, self-development as an individual etc.
These strategies thus adapted as part of the protest against the Bengal partition bore results in the form of mass participation, with the masses turning to themselves and their society for sustenance rather than depending upon the government and their mercy to thrive in their own homeland. The British received a major set back to their strategies when this was practically applied in anti-partition movements. This in turn made them call off this partition after 6 years.
In the year 1911, Lord Hardinge annulled this Partition of Bengal and allowed it to be as it used to be before separation, owing to mass protests against such divisive policies. Moreover, the British found it difficult to govern this region in the long run.
Objective type questions
Answer to Objective type questions