100 years ago in 1905 Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India, partitioned Bengal. It soon
became a rallying point for the freedom movement. Initially introduced as a way
to improve the administrative efficiency, the Partition of Bengal was seen as a
‘Divide and Rule’ policy to increase imperial control.
With a population of 85 million spread over 189,000 sq.
miles, Bengal was too big for efficient administration. However, Lord George
Nathaniel Curzon’s plan created a Muslim majority province of Eastern Bengal and
Assam and a Bihărì and Oriyă speaking Hindu majority province in West Bengal.
This left Bengali Hindus without a majority in either new Bengal province.
“Bhadralok” or intellectual Bengalis, who were more outspoken, thought this move
to marginalize them.
Their initial rhetorical protests soon translated into
boycott of British-made goods. This ‘swadeshi movement’ was later embraced by
Indian National Congress and turned into a potent non-violent weapon by Mahatma
Gandhi. After his first term as viceroy from 1899 to 1904, Lord Curzon was
offered a second term. However, His partitioning of Bengal along with
Universities Act of 1904 to reorganize governing bodies of Calcutta University
generated so much heat that he had to resign within a year of second term.
Source: Encyclopedia Britannica