Muslim reaction to partition of Bengal

When the proposal for partition was first published in 1903 there was expression of Muslim opposition to the scheme. The moslem Chronicle, the central national muhamedan association, chowdhury kazemuddin ahmad siddiky and Dilawar Hossain Abmed condemned the proposed measure. Even Nawab salimullah termed the suggestion as ‘beastly’ at the initial stage. In the beginning the main criticism from the Muslim side was against any part of an enlightened and advanced province of Bengal passing under the rule of a chief commissioner. They felt that thereby, their educational, social and other interests would suffer, and there is no doubt that the Muslims also felt that the proposed measure would threaten Bengali solidarity. The Muslim intelligentsia, however, criticized the ideas of extremist militant nationalism as being against the spirit of Islam. The Muslim press urged its educated co-religionists to remain faithful to the government. On the whole the Swadeshi preachers were not able to influence and arouse the predominantly Muslim masses in east Bengal. The anti- partition trend in the thought process of the Muslims did not continue for long. When the wider scheme of a self-contained separate province was known to the educated section of the Muslims they soon changed their views. They realized that the partition would be a boon to them and that their special difficulties would receive greater attention from the new administration.

On the other hand, Muslims welcomed the partition. On October 22, 1905, Muslims held a meeting at Dhaka to express their approval of the partition The Muslims accorded a warm welcome to the new Lieutenant-Governor Bampfylde Fuller. Even the Moslem Chronicle soon changed its attitude in favour of partition. Some Muslims in Calcutta also welcomed the creation of the new province. The Mohammedan literary society brought out a manifesto in 1905 signed by seven leading Muslim personalities. The manifesto was circulated to the different Muslim societies of both west and east Bengal and urged the Muslims to give their unqualified support to the partition measure. The creation of the new province provided an incentive to the, Muslims to unite into a compact body and form an association to voice their own views and aspiration relating to social and political matters. Oh 16 October 1905 the Mohammedan Provincial Union was founded. All the existing organizations and societies were invited, to affiliate themselves with it and Salimullah was unanimously chosen as its patron.

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Even then there was a group of educated liberal Muslims who came forward and tendered support to the anti- partition agitation and the Swadeshi Movement. Though their number was insignificant, yet their role added a new dimension in the thought process of the Muslims. This broad-minded group supported the Indian National Congress and opposed the partition. The most prominent among this section of the Muslims was khwaza atiqullah. At the Calcutta session of the Congress (1906), he moved a resolution denouncing the partition of Bengal. abdur rasul, Khan Bahadur Muhammad Yusuf (a pleader and a member of the Management Committee of . the Central National Muhamedan Association), Mujbur Rahrnan, AH abdul halim ghaznavi, ismail hossain shiraji, Muhammad Gholam Hossain (a writer and a promoter of Hindu-Muslim unity), Maulvi Liaqat Hussain (a liberal Muslim who vehemently opposed the ‘Divide and Rule’ policy of the British), Syed Hafizur Rahman Chowdhury of Bogra and Abul Kasem of Burdwan inspired Muslims to join the anti- Partition agitation. There were even a few Muslim preachers of Swadeshi ideas, like Din Muhammad of Mymensingh and Abdul Gaffar of Chittagong. It needs to be mentioned that some of the liberal nationalist Muslims like AH Ghaznavi and Khan Bahadur Muhammad Yusuf supported the Swadeshi Movement but not the Boycott agitation.

The general trend of thoughts in the Muslim minds was in favour of partition. The All India Muslim league, founded in 1906, supported the partition. In 1908, the Muslim League passed a resolution which viewed the anti-partition agitation with great anxiety and expressed the hope that the government would stick to its guns. As a result of this partition, there was political, social, and economic uplift of the Muslims as well as a revival of education, This marked the end of the hundred year exploitation of Muslims at the hands of the Hindus and also gave Muslims an edge in the new province. In the meeting of the Imperial Council in 1910 Shamsul Huda of Bengal and Mazhar-uI-Huq from Bihar spoke in favour of the partition.

While Hindu-Muslims relations deteriorated, political changes of great magnitude were taking place in the Government of India’s policies, and simultaneously in the relations of Bengali Muslim leaders with their non-Bengalee counter parts. Both developments had major repercussions on communal relations in eastern Bengal. The decision to introduce constitutional reforms culminating in the morley-minto reforms of 1909 introducing separate representation for the Muslims marked a turning point in Hindu-Muslim relations.

Consequently, the antagonism between the Hindus and Muslims became very acute in the new province. The Muslim leaders, now more conscious of their separate communal identity, directed their attention in uniting the different sections of their community to the creation of a counter movement against that of the Hindus. They keenly felt the need for unity and believed that the Hindu agitation against the Partition was in fact a communal movement and as such a threat to the Muslims as a separate community. They decided to faithfully follow the directions of leaders like Salimullah and Nawab Ali Chowdhury and formed organizations like the Mohammedan Provincial Union.

Though communalism had reached its peak in the new province by 1907, there is evidence of a sensible and sincere desire among some of the educated and upper class Muslims and Hindus to put an end to these religious antagonisms. A group of prominent members of both communities met the Viceroy Lord Minto on 15 March 1907 with suggestions to put an end to communal violence and promote religious harmony between the two communities.

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