Partition of Bengal,1905

Lord Curzon was a true successor of Lord Dalhousie. He was great imperialist, authoritarian in temperament, ruthless in his ways and wanted to achieve too much at too great pace.

The time of his governorship (1899-1905), was the formative phase of Indian national movement. Thus he tried to strangulate Indian nationalism and freedom movement by all fair and foul means.

Reactionary policies of Lord Curzon

  • Through Calcutta Corporation act 1899 he reduced the number of elected legislatures to deprive Indians from self-governance.
  • He brought Indian universities act 1904 mainly to increase official control over universities and to stop the spread of nationalism among youths.
  • He looked at Indians with contempt and insulted and injured their feelings. He described Bengalis as cowards, windbags, impracticable talkers and mere frothy patriots. He even refused to meet to president of Indian national congress.
  • The biggest blunder he committed was the partition of Bengal. Although it was a political masterstroke to break growing Indian nationalism among Bengalis, it proved disastrous for British in longer term.

Impact of Curzon’s reactionary policies

Curzon by his impolitic utterances and imperialist designs brought political unrest in India to a bursting point. Curzon’s imperialistic policies provoked reaction which in turn stung political life in India. Out of his tyranny was born a stronger sense of nationhood. Taken in this light Curzon proved to be a benefactor of India without intending to do so.

Nature and direction of Indian freedom movement without Curzon

It was only after the decision of partition of Bengal that India’s first mass movement emerged in the form Swadeshi movement in 1905. It intensified the nationalism in whole of India and marked the beginning of modern politics. The social base of movement got widened to include students and women. Had the Curzon not taken such a step Indian freedom movement might have to wait for another few years for witnessing first mass movement and beginning of modern politics. Also without such mass movement nationalism would have got limited to educated sections of society as earlier was the case.

The debate over the swadeshi movement led to split between moderates and extremists. This weakened the vigour and strength of freedom movement for next few year. However Indian leaders learnt an important lesson from it and future divides were successfully avoided.

Curzon’s reactionary policies stirred the Indian consciousness and provided impetus to the Indian nationalism. Therefore when leaders like Lokmanya Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi emerged on the scene people readily followed them.

Although Curzon’s policies played important role in stirring nationalism among Indians it should be taken into account that British rule as a whole was exploitative, insensitive, unethical and racist and Lord Curzon was just small part of it. Even without lord Curzon Indian movement would have got flourished. As the sense of nationalism and people’s sovereignty was spreading, British rule was bound to end. Curzon just intensified this sense and unintentionally helped in this cause.