Partition Of Bengal
Bengal was one of the largest provinces of British India with a huge population of more 80 million spread over a small area.
It was increasingly becoming difficult to administer such a big and densely populated province by a single a governor.
Administrative difficulties included, collection of revenue / taxes, providing relief and rehabilitation to a population repeatedly hit by cyclones and floods, controlling the law and order situation that was gradually deteriorating.
Since there had been earlier examples of dividing huge territories like Khandesh and Narbada, the British began to consider partitioning Bengal into two provinces.
So in 1903, Viceroy Lord Curzon proposed partition of Bengal into two provinces.
The British were also closely observing the growing disparity between the Hindus and the Muslims.
Hindus dominated the politics and economy of Bengal while keeping Muslims underdeveloped and poor.
The period 1900-1911 was a period of improved British – Muslim relations.
Perhaps British wanted to give Muslims an opportunity to prosper in the newly created province of East Bengal with Assam and three districts Dhaka, Chittagong and Mymensingh where they would be in a majority and hence would be able to farm their own government (which exactly happened).
The other part, West Bengal, remained a Hindu majority province.
Muslims now began to develop a new seaport at Chittagong.
Finally the British were also mindful of the INC demand of self ruled in the 1890s.
For example, INC leaders like Mr. Bal Ganga Dhar Tilak used to deliver impassioned and provoking speeches to incite the people for pressurizing the government for self rule.
Such leaders were arrested and British decided to distract the INC attention from its demand for self rule.
Thus when Lord Curzon in October 1905 announced the partition of Bengal, the INC guns were directed against the partition instead of demand for self rule.
Congress Reaction To Partition
The INC did not like the partition and opposed it fiercely.
For the INC, it was yet another example of the old British policy of “divide and rule”.
By doing so the British were strengthening their grip on the Indian political affairs while dividing the two major communities, Hindus and Muslims.
The British power lay in the communal differences of India.
The INC also viewed the partitioned as a step against the Indian nationalism.
It believed that all people living in India were primarily Indians regardless of the cultural and religious differences and identities.
So, all communities living in Bengal were equally Indians whether they were Hindus or Muslims.
It viewed the whole country as “mother India” and therefore, condemned the partition of Bengal as a kind of vivisection of their motherland.
It declared 16th Oct 1905 as a day of mourning.
The Hindu dominated INC was also unhappy over the loss of monopoly over the economy and politics of Bengal.
In East Bengal, Muslims were a decisive majority and had formed their own government.
Therefore, their economic condition began to improve.
They decided to develop the Chittagong port in order to compete with the Calcutta port of West Bengal.
All this scenario was worrying for the INC who launched an aggressive campaign against the British.
British Reaction to Opposition of Partition:
British took many quick measures to deal with the Hindu protest.
They placed restrictions on newspapers and public meetings.
Between 1906 and 1908 several editors were arrested, trialed and imprisoned for writing articles against the British policies.
The Press Act of 1908 gave more powers to the government to restrict freedom of expression and media.
Between 1905 and 1909 thousands people were arrested and jailed.
The Government grants to schools and colleges participating in the Swadeshi Movement were discontinued.
Mr Tilak was arrested in June 1908, and after a speedy trial, was given six years imprisonment.
Many radical leaders left India in these circumstances as jails were filled with those the British considered as revolutionaries.
The British themselves deported many suspects without framing them in a case or conduting a trial against them.
The British got worried over the growing protest by the Hindu-led INC.
They realized that use of force against Hindus would not be sufficient.
Therefore, they decided to win the support of the moderate Hindus by drafting new constitutional reforms.
The Viceroy Lord Minto worked with the Secretary of State of India, John Morley.
Finally, the Indian Council’s Act 1909/ the Morley-Minto Reforms were introduced to win the support of the Hindu community.
The Simla Deputation
On 8th October 1906, a delegation of 36 Muslims led by Sir Aga Khan, called on the Viceroy Lord Minto at Simla.
The delegation conveyed to him a set of demands that included the right of separate electorates for Muslims, and recognizing them in respect of their political importance and the service they had rendered to the Empire.
It asked for a higher percentage of seats in the councils than their numerical strength.
The Viceroy promised to convince the British government for the acceptance of these demands.
This success became the immediate reason for the formation of the ML (Muslim League) in December 1906.
The British showed their sympathy towards Muslims.
The Muslim delegation was able to persuade the British to accept them as an important Indian community.
This was possible mainly due to the attempts of Sir Syed and his colleagues to improve relations with the British.
Now, their efforts had started bearing fruit as the British were prepared to work with the Muslims and grant them concessions like the separate electorates.
Success of the Simla delegation also showed the growing political awareness among Muslims about their rights and status in India.
Since the Hindus had already started making progress in all walks of life, the rivalry between Muslims and Hindus was bound to grow.
This rivalry was now going to be visible in the constitution, too.
The Muslims had started realizing that they needed to secure a better position in the British India.
It also showed the growing sense of nationalism among Muslims.
By asking for separate electorates and a greater share in the legislative councils and the government jobs demonstrated that Muslims had started working on proving themselves a distinct and important community of India.
For this reason, the Muslims decided to make their own political party only after two months on 30th December 1906.
The Muslim League was founded on 30th December, 1906.
Reasons for Formation:
The pro-Hindu INC policies were a major reason for the formation of Muslim League (ML).
The INC had been demanding enforcement of Hindi as the official language replacing Urdu in various provinces.
It also opposed the partition of Bengal in 1905.
This was shocking for the Muslims as they realized the hidden INC aims of denying Muslims to make any progress.
The way the INC launched the Swadeshi Movement with country-wide protests and strikes, proved to be an eye opening experience for the Muslims.
The reaction of Hindus meant they could not tolerate Muslims making progress.
So the Muslims increasingly felt the need of their own political party that could counter any anti-Muslim activities and campaigns.
Another reason for the formation of ML was the success of the Simla Delegation.
In October 1906 about 36 Muslim delegates led by Sir Aga Khan called on the Viceroy Lord Minto at Simla.
This delegation demanded a greater share of Muslims in the councils and the government jobs.
It also demanded separate electorates for the Muslims in view of their political importance and numerical weakness against the Hindu majority.
Lord Minto’s encouraging response convinced the delegates that the organized efforts were more likely to be successful.
For this a political party was needed.
By the start of the twentieth century the activities of the Hindu extremist party, Arya Samaj (Hindu Society), had become more intense.
The purpose of this party was to purify India from non-Hindu elements, especially Muslims.
With the passage of time it began to use force against the weak Muslims and there were reports of forcible conversion of Muslims into Hindus.
Muslims felt insecure about their cultural and religious identity and realized that a political party could protect and promote their cultural and political rights.
In February 1906, the Liberal Party won elections in England.
It was generally more sympathetic towards the Indians and especially, at times, towards Indian Muslims.
It announced that it would expand the legislative councils by including more Indians.
Muslims realized it was time to think of making their own political party because the INC had not been sincere towards them.
In order to join the legislative councils elections had to be contested through the platform of a political party.
Therefore, prominent Muslim leaders gathered at the residence of Nawab Salimullah Khan in Dhaka to attend the 20th session of the MEC (Muhammadan Educational Conference).
There they decided to convert the MEC into a political party name All India Muslim Confederacy that was soon renamed as All India Muslim League.
Its main objective was to protect political and socioeconomic interests of the Indian Muslims while keeping them loyal to the British.
The Morley-Minto Reforms
They were jointly drafted by the Viceroy Lord Minto, and the Secretary of State for India John Morley.
Under these all the councils were enlarged.
The Imperial Council now had 60 members, and 60 new members were added to the Central Executive Council.
Provincial Councils were increased to 50 members in the larger and 30 in the smaller provinces.
The councils, however, could not make, amend or annul any law but could only advise the government on important matters.
Muslims were given the right of separate electorate and, therefore, the INC opposed the reforms.
Opposition by INC:
The INC was disappointed by the reforms.
The reforms gave nominal powers to the central and provincial legislative councils.
They could not make, change or annul any of the laws. Instead, the members could only ask questions on important matters express their opinions or advise the government respectfully.
This went against the INC policy of making a demand for self-rule in India.
The INC also wanted a greater increase in the size of the councils at all levels so that a greater number of Indians could make way to the power corridor.
The British knew all this and therefore, they increased the size of the councils according to their own policies as they were in no mood to raise the legislative councils to the status of a parliament or establish a democracy in India as can be seen from the remarks of John Morley, “I for one would have nothing to do with it (democracy/parliament).”
The INC sharply criticized the granting of separate electorate to the Muslims.
It was unhappy on Muslims getting a relatively higher position in the councils despite their much smaller numbers.
The INC declared this an undemocratic step because such a special concession to Muslims directly threatened the Hindu dominance in Indian politics.
Reversal Of the Partition Of Bengal
INC reacted sharply and violently to the partition of Bengal. It considered the partition as another example of the British policy of “Divide and Rule” and a step against Indian nationalism.
Therefore, protest processions and strikes were organized. Mass rallies were taken out in several parts of India.
This created serious administrative difficulties for the British government as pressure on it grew day by day.
Events took a dangerous turn when some extremist Hindus adopted terrorist behavior by targeting senior British officials.
An attempt was made to assassinate Lord Minto.
This threatened the British rule and the government was forced to reconsider its decision.
British goods and institutes were boycotted under the Swadeshi movement.
At many places, British factory made cotton cloth was set on fire and people were persuaded to wear locally made clothes.
This caused economic problems for the British as the sale of British goods declined dramatically.
The British had to use harsh measures to suppress the campaign launched by the INC, but eventually decided to win the support of moderate Hindus.
Finally King George V announced the annulment of the partition in December 1911, in his coronation ceremony.
Indian Views on Supporting British in WW1
The Indians were divided when the War broke out in 1914.
Many of them were in a way ‘idealists’ as they believed that in case of the British victory they surely would reward Indian loyalty by introducing reforms to give the Indians a greater role in governing the country.
They, therefore, agreed with the idea of giving support to the British on the ground that the British were fighting for the rights of nations to determine how they should be governed (self-determination).
The British, too, admitted that the war would have prolonged beyond their calculations and indeed might not even have been won without the help of the Indians.
However, it is also true that many Indians were not
sympathetic to the British and wanted to exploit the British weakness during the War.
They saw Britain’s ‘necessity’ as ‘India’s opportunity’. They were, therefore, called the ‘opportunists’ or ‘realists’.
According to their views, Britain was in difficulty and needed help, so there was more opportunity for the Indians to press the British for self-government.
This ‘anti-British’ group soon began to take action in the form of the revolutionary activity in and beyond India.
They included the Mutiny Party of Lala Hardayal in the US in 1913, rise of the nationalists in the Punjab in 1915 and the Silk Letter Conspiracy.
The Lucknow Pact
It was an agreement signed between the Muslim League and the Congress in December 1916 at Lucknow.
Jinnah led the ML while Mahajan led the INC.
Congress agreed to the separate Muslim electorates and one third Muslim seats in the Central Legislative Assembly.
Both demanded more seats in the Councils, provincial autonomy and protection of minorities.
It was the first occasion of Hindu-Muslim unity that showed the possibility of starting some kind of Home Rule campaign.
Reasons For Signing:
The INC and the ML decided to work together.
Jinnah had joined ML in 1913 while retaining his membership of the INC.
He persuaded the ML leaders to change the policy of “loyalty to the British” and make a demand for self rule.
This brought ML closer to INC that already was demanding “Swaraj” (self rule).
Gradually both parties realized it would be better to ask for constitutional reforms jointly.
The British were planning to introduce fresh reforms and this was leaked to the two major parties.
The British had failed to grant more rights to the Indians in the period upto 1914.
Instead, the British policy of repression during the WW1 also brought the two parties closer to each other.
Therefore, both parties set up joint councils to improve common understanding on key issues.
So, both decided to cooperate with each other in order to generate feelings of goodwill and friendship.
ML and INC also wanted to reduce mutual friction and to accommodate each other.
The main figure in this regard was Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah who believed in a unity between the INC and the ML.
He was, therefore, given the title of the ‘ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity’ by Mr. Gokhle.
Thus, the INC and the ML held a joint session in Lucknow.
In this INC for the first time accepted the separate electorates for Muslims and one third Muslim seats in the central government, in addition to preparing a draft of common demands for Indians.
They were jointly drafted by the Secretary of State, John Montague and the Viceroy, Lord Chelmsford.
A bicameral set up was introduced at the Centre with an Upper House, the Council of States, and a Lower House, the Legislative Assembly.
Out of 145 members of the Legislative Assembly, 103 were elected.
At the provincial level, Diarchy was introduced under which some of the reserved subjects of the Governor were transferred to the ministers.
The right of separate electorates was extended to the Sikhs, too.
The number of voters was increased to 5.5 million.
Both INC and ML opposed the reforms.
The Rowlatt Act
The British anticipated a violent reaction to the Mont-Ford reforms.
They appointed an investigative committee under Justice Rowlatt in Dec, 1917.
In the light of its report the Rowlatt Act was passed in 1919.
The Act empowered the local administration/police to arrest anyone without warrant, detain him without the right of bail and decide where the people in a province should live.
Gandhi launched a countrywide strike against it, and Jinnah resigned from the Imperial Legislative Council in protest.
A protest by 20,000 unarmed people led to the tragic massacre at Jillianwala Bagh, a public park, in Amritsar, in April 1919.
The Amritsar Massacre
As part of protest against the Rowlatt Act, there was unrest in Amritsar and five Europeans were killed.
An angry mob of 20,000 gathered in a public park, Jillianwala Bagh.
Though all were peaceful protesters, General Dyer, the local British Commander was determined to restore peace as he had banned all public meetings.
He sealed the only exit of the park and ordered a shootout without warning.
Over 1600 rounds were fired and about 400 people were killed while another 1200 were wounded.
Dyer was trialed under the Hunter Committee and was removed from his service without any further punishment.