Partition of Bengal


5. Reasons of unrest

Mclane suggested four main reasons for the riots, namely, the Government Policy, the preaching of the Maulvis, agrarian tensions and the local leaders of the Swadeshi and Boycott Movement as well. Mention should also be made of the backward condition of the Muslim community that made them an easy prey to the British political exploitation. It took actually all these above-stated elements,

"the local and outside political elements. Communal tensions, social divisions, and administrative action combined to produce what are loosely described as communal riots". - Mclane(Partition of Bengal 1905:Apolitical Analysis)

5 a. Condition of the Muslims

The Muslim community, though the majority, was always been outstripped by the Hindu minority everywhere. A few facts will make things clearer:

In 1901 only 22 out of every 10,000 Muslims in Bengal knew English compared to 114 out of every 10,000 Hindus. - General report of the Census of India, 1901.

Muslims held only 41 of the 'high appointments' under the government, while the Hindus, who were less than twice as numerous, held 1,235 posts.... - ibid.

Muslims held less than one sixth of the appointments although they made up two thirds of the population in the new province..... - 25 May 1906. May Appointment Department, Judicial Proceedings, No. 16 Vol. 7215.

In the Eastern Bengal Range, where the Muslim equalled 59 percent of the population, they held 4 out of 54 Inspectorships, 60 out 484 Sub-Inspectorships, 45 of the 450 head constableships and 1027 of the 4594 constableships.

The same scheme of Hindu dominance was seen in the legal system as well. Most of the main responsible persons belonged to the Hindus- from barristers in High Courts to the local touts in small villages.

At the beginning of 1900, the Muslims in Eastern Bengal became acutely conscious of their backwardness - be it educational, economic, political, social or cultural. Compared to the UP Muslims, their degradedness became even more transparent. The partition, with all the government promises favouring Muslims seemed to provide them with all the possibilities of a future prosperity to climb up to the same platform as with the Hindus.

5 b. Religious provocation

Rural Muslims were provoked to attack Hindus by the preaching of the Maulvis the strong communal undertones, appealing to their religious sentiments. There is almost no doubt as evident from both official reports and newspaper articles that Maulvis or persons posing as Maulvis made religious appeals for attacking Hindus and that they were successful in their purpose to a large extent.

5 c. Economic reason

Another official view is that the Maulvis were successful in their purpose, owed to purely economic and not to religious reasons. There was enough discontent against Hindu landlords and moneylenders, which inspired them to rebel against the oppressive Hindu upper class. But the Muslim rioters did not discriminate between Hindu upper class or Hindu peasantry. There is not ample proof that the riots were agrarian in nature although in many cases the landed class was attacked.

5 d. The local leaders

The local leaders were more to blame. It is a common belief that the Nawab of Dhaka helped to prevent the spread of the riot. He was working merely as a Government catalyst. But we should not forget that he was also the most prominent of the Muslim leaders favouring the partition. A believable reason for his effort to check the spread of the riots could be his interest in keeping his own estates free of trouble.

Another Muslim leader, Salimullah's close political ally, Nawab Ali Chaudhuri, an arch communalist, hostile to both Hindus and the government, was more likely to ignite Muslim violence. His newspaper Mihir-O-Sudhakar in which the infamous Lal Ishtahar with its colourful and provocative language targeted against Hindus, was published, was violently communal in nature.

But it is almost impossible to state with certainty if any particular person directed the violence. The leaders always stayed out side the crowd only inspiring people with their oration, but without physically directing them on the road.

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