A century after the partition of Bengal, its time we looked at Lord Curzon in a new light.
The legendary belief in fairness of British was shattered on Oct.16 1905 –the day of partition of Bengal- and is regarded as a turning point in British India’s history. Curzon made it out to be an administrative decision to relieve an overburdened state that comprised of present day Bihar, Orissa and Bangladesh. But in truth it was a Machiavellian measure to divide and rule by tearing apart the province on communal lines and giving birth to Muslim majority province in east. Viceroy saw a political advantage in the decision, as it would have weakened a solid base of opponents. Lord Curzon had made no secret of his abhorrence for Indian National Congress and thought it was a way to assist in Congress’s peaceful demise.
To British dismay and shock exact opposite happened by partition of Bengal as aggressive militancy took over the reins of nationalism and patriotic sentiments, personified by cries of ‘Bande Mataram, shot up to an all time high thereby increasing Congress support base multifold. But in new province of Eastern Bengal and Assam the new Lt. Governor, Sir Bampfylde Fuller was busy igniting the fire of separatism. This move ultimately cost Fuller his job. By 1906 Aurbindo Goshe set into motion revolutionary terrorism on Irish lines against British imperialism and became the leader of extremist group in Congress. Soon Congress was demanding “absolute right of self-determination for the people of India”.
The severity of agitation further aggravated the growing divide.
Nawab of Decca was increasingly being patronised by British and he chose close cooperation with Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, who from 1869 was asking for a separate platform for Muslims via Aligarh Muslim University. This event brought Sir Syed to heart of Muslim Bengal and proved to be genesis of Pakistan. Soon Lord Minto promised separate electorates for Hindus and Muslims on Aligarh group’s initiative, opening a pandora box of communalism.
In Dec.1906 was formed All India Muslim League in Decca under Nawab’s patronage. Nationalism began to strike hammer blows to British power and separatism, fuelled by League, threatened India’s unity. This culminated into Partition of India, which Curzon never indented but was partly responsible for.
The Partition of Bengal was revoked in 1911 and Delhi was made the capital much to chagrin of Curzon, as he loved Calcutta. Ironically in many ways Calcutta remains to be Curzon’s city. His presence lingers in Archaeological Survey of India that he energised, in Government House, modelled on his ancestral home in Kedleston and in Victoria Memorial often referred to as Curzon’s Taj Mahal. But Calcutta is not ready to forgive the viceroy for his partition of Bengal a century ago.