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From Swadeshi to Swaraj
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Partition of Bengal
The Battle is Taken to the Legislature!
The Monk Who Shook The Nation
Father of Indian Unrest
An Old Man's Dream
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The British Raj in Black and White
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Barbarous Britannia
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Perishing in Peace
The Blue Mutiny
English Education
The Trial of the Last Emperor
Roll of Honour
The Empire Strikes Back
British Authority Collapses
Sepoys on the Move
Tribal Uprisings
The Empire Builders
For God and Country

Partition of Bengal

Calcutta was the capital and Bengal the nerve centre of the British empire in India. Bengalis were the first people in the country to be exposed to English education and also the first to enter government service. They were also the first to demand civil rights. This made the administration wary of Bengalis who came to be looked upon as troublemakers.
Later when patriotic fervour among the people began to grow the British decided to partition Bengal and disperse the Bengalis so that they would not develop into a threat to their empire.
Bengal presidency included besides Bengal proper the provinces of Bihar, Orissa and Chota Nagpur. It had an area of 190,000 square miles and a population of 78 million which was close to a quarter of the entire population of British India.
No one could have faulted the government for wanting to re-organise the huge presidency into smaller, manageable administrative units. But the scheme for re-organisation that had been drawn up showed that the British were taking advantage of the situation to further their own political interests. The presidency could have been pruned by divesting it of its provinces. This would have left Bengal intact.
Instead they proposed to separate Dacca, Chittagong and Rajshahi divisions of Bengal and merge them with Assam. The idea was to disperse the Bengalis and divide them along religious lines. Eastern Bengal would get a Muslim identity and the Bengalis of West Bengal would be outnumbered by Biharis and others in the new province.
Not surprisingly, the scheme, when it was announced in 1903, drew an angry response from the people. Thousands of meetings to condemn the scheme were held. Numerous petitions were submitted, including one to the secretary of state which was signed by 70,000 people. But the government was unmoved and went on with its plan to divide Bengal.
The Bengali weekly Sanjeevani then suggested that the government would be compelled to take note of the people's mood if the public stopped buying British goods. The idea may have been borrowed from the Chinese who at that time were boycotting American goods to protest against American policy towards Chinese immigrants, but it appealed to readers of the weekly. A meeting held at the small town of Berhat on 16th July, 1905 ended with the participants endorsing the policy of boycott of British goods. Meetings in other towns passed similar resolutions.

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