Partition of Bengal

5 e. Role of the Government

The Government can also be blamed for their irresponsible favouritism to the Muslims. This partiality gave the Muslim hooligans the wrong impression as a signal to attack and loot Hindus. It seemed like, the Hindus were made to suffer for their anti-partition sentiments. When the wide acceptance of Congress among the Hindus threatened to spread among the Muslims as well, the partition came as an effort to protect Muslims from the influence of the Congress, to stir in them a communal interest separate from the Congress and to build a Muslim organisation to counter the Congress.

There is no doubt that the effect of partition resulted in communal tensions. This was not an accidental development but rather the very purpose of the British policy. It was the main British interest to divert Muslims from the Congress by promising them political power very much different from the Congress, that would enable the non Congress Muslims to organise themselves under their guidance. After the partition, special efforts were made to provide Bengali Muslims with extensive educational opportunities and to give them more opportunities in Government service. To provide the Muslims with employment, a large number of Hindus had to lose their Jobs in Barisal. This discriminatory treatment made the message very clear that Muslims were being awarded for their support to the partition and at the same time Hindus were being punished for their opposition of the same.

The account of Nevinson, an impartial observer, who was then on his visit to India, stated:

"I have almost invariably found English officers and officials on the side of the Mohammedans where there is any rivalry of race or religion at all.....the plea was that only the Hindus were opposed to the Government's policy of dividing them from the rest of their race, so that they alone needed suppression.... It was the beginning of a dangerous road, to which one could not see the end, and knowledge that our country was taking that road aggravated the sense of wrong." - Mr.H.W.Nevinson, (The New Spirit in India)

The subsequent riots that immediately broke out in he years 1906 to 1907, fully justified his apprehensions.

6. Changes in Hindu-Muslim relation

Some significant changes took place in the relations between Hindus and Muslims. The partition was favoured by the educated elite Muslims with the promise of their new educational, economic and political developments. On the other hand, the educated Hindus believed, and believed with reason that, partition would bring a decrease in their opportunities of development. The mutual trust was forever crushed with no hope for a further peaceful co-existence. The mental harmony was already divided even after the Provinces were united again in 1911 at the face of vast public opposition.

Secondly the new agitational politics of the Hindus frightened the Muslims. The successful agitations and processions of thousands of Hindus, the majority being students, as anti-partition demonstrator, could not find its Muslim counterpart, simply because the numbers of educated and advanced Muslim students and teachers were very limited.

Thirdly, for the first time, Muslims had the feeling of insecurity as a minority community in the field of politics. While the Hindu leadership was more vocal and agitative in their communication with the government, the Muslim leaders were yet to reach that stage to go for a direct opposition with the Government through mass demonstration for gaining concessions by showing the popularity of their demands.

7. After-effects

7 a. Spread of nationalism*

The anti-partition movement clearly showed the hidden potential of a passive protest. There was not much use of the physical force on the side of the people. On the other hand, the Government used all its methods of suppression, both civil and of course, military with full abundance while it was only the mental force of the people that made such a huge amount of resistance work successfully.

The very thought of such a passive opposition to the Government was soon adopted by the rest of India to fight for their common cause for getting themselves free from the British dominance. In the later period, the ideals of both the Swadeshi and the Boycott Movement were combined together in the wider spectrum of a full-fledged movement as an Indian national struggle for freedom.

7 b. The militant nationalism

As the military forces were being used by the British to control the movement, a counter force was also developed among people. They realised that only passive resistance was not enough, opposition by force was also important. A network of many secret revolutionary organisations, such as the Anusilan Samiti and Dhaka Anusilan Samiti, were established to practise the collection and the use of arms. Their main activities included collecting weapons, making bombs and killing and robbing the British officials, specially the jailors. The intensity of this type of military opposition from all over India, in Bengal, Punjab, Utter Pradesh as well as in London, almost unnerved the British.

* The term nationalism, used here, is not to compare with the nationalism in Europe.

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