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Snapshot of Bengal Partition


Lord Curzon used the State Efficiency argument to divide Bengal along communal lines.

Most such 'welfare schemes' cost more in administration than benefit the end user. (Graphic source and courtesy - firstpost.com.  Click for image.)

Most such 'welfare schemes' cost more in administration than benefit the end user. (Graphic source and courtesy - firstpost.com. Click for image.)

Thin is in

Classical Indian rulers, using भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra managed very thin governments – a structure that the British inherited.

To this thin structure the British added a huge army, which was used to subdue native polity. During WWII, when two million Indian soldiers were used to bolster the allied forces, the size of the Indian police force was increased.

This thin governance model has been progressively diluted over the last 800 years of regression from भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra.

Even today, the Indian Government is thin – by any measure. Expenditure to GDP ratio; no of government employes, et al.

Thorn in the flesh

This is not something that the Indian Government wants to continue with.

The Indian State is furiously finding ways to expand the role of the State – and Indian academia. which has become an extension of the State, finds ways to justify it. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) are the latest shots in this direction.

This economic model needs a perpetual supply of victims to support this bureaucracy. | Cartoon by Bill Day; courtesy - cagle.com| Click for larger image.

This economic model needs a perpetual supply of victims to support this bureaucracy. | Cartoon by Bill Day; courtesy - cagle.com| Click for larger image.

Same ending – different starts

The story of State efficiency has been forwarded as another reason to expand the State.

Lord Curzon used this argument for the partition of Bengal.

united Bengal straggled over much of east India, with a population — of roughly 84 million — greater than that of present-day France. The viceroy of India between 1898 and 1905, Lord Curzon, thought a Bengal of that size too difficult to govern. Curzon held strong views on the inefficiency of big administrative bodies; in 1892, when he was undersecretary of state for India, he had argued that such bodies in India were “apt to diffuse their force…in vapid talk.”

But Curzon’s decision to divide Bengal was more canny that pragmatic, and it flowed smoothly from the British Raj’s broader policies of divide-and-rule. In an official note in 1904, H. H. Risley, the home secretary in the Government of India and an ethnographer who had codified the caste system in the 1901 census, wrote:

Bengal united is a power. Bengal divided will pull in several different ways. That is what the Congress leaders feel: their apprehensions are perfectly correct and they form one of the great merits of the scheme… One of our main objects is to split up and thereby weaken a solid body of opponents to our rule.

It was this advice that Curzon was acting upon. In a February 1905 letter to St. John Brodnick, the secretary of state for India, the viceroy explained:

Calcutta is the centre from which the Congress Party is manipulated throughout the whole of Bengal, and indeed the whole of India. Its best wire pullers and its most frothy orators all reside here. The perfection of their machinery, and the tyranny which it enables them to exercise are truly remarkable. They dominate public opinion in Calcutta; they affect the High Court; they frighten the local Government, and they are sometimes not without serious influence on the Government of India. The whole of their activity is directed to creating an agency so powerful that they may one day be able to force a weak government to give them what they desire.

Any measure in consequence that would divide the Bengali-speaking population; that would permit independent centres of activity and influence to grow up; that would dethrone Calcutta from its place as the centre of successful intrigue, or that would weaken the influence of the lawyer class, who have the entire organization in their hands, is intensely and hotly resented by them. The outcry will be loud and very fierce, but as a native gentleman said to me — “my countrymen always howl until a thing is settled; then they accept it.”

The creation of an East Bengal — comprising a significant Muslim population — was designed to pit one community against another, playing to the grievances of the poorer Muslims in the region. During a speech in February 1904 in Dhaka, Curzon outlined the benefits that east Bengalis would receive from the partition, including a “unity which they have not enjoyed since the days of the old Mussalman viceroys and kings.”

Bengal was formally halved on October 16, 1905; “the people of Calcutta,” the Ananda Bazar Patrika reported in an editorial the next day, “observed it as a day of mourning.” The partition had particularly stirred up the nationalist sentiments of Rabindranath Tagore. That September, in the midst of an especially prolific month, Tagore wrote the poems Banglar Mati, Banglar Jal (Bengali Earth, Bengali Water) and Amar Shonar Bangla (My Golden Bengal), the latter first sung at a Calcutta meeting to protest the impending partition.

The two fragments of Bengal were rejoined in 1911, only to come apart once more in 1947. (via The Long View: The Partition Before Partition – NYTimes.com).

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