Divide and rule in politics and sociology is gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy. The policy of divide and rule is seen as a mechanism used throughout history to maintain imperial rule. It identifies pre-existing ethnoreligious divisions in society people’s unified challenge to rule by outsiders. Many Indian and other scholars have maintained that the British adopted this strategy in order to strengthen the Raj. Both communal conflict and Muslim separatism are seen as begin created by this strategy. This understanding sidelines all the factors which forced the Muslims to seek a homeland. Even the advocates of the theory deny the fact that unrest, turmoil, communal clashes, and poor condition of law and order weaken the grip of the ruling authorities over the country. Therefore, to argue for the existence of a divide and rule strategy implies that the British were prepared to risk instability which went counter to their requirement for law and order. Insolent behavior and injustice did not pave the way for harmony and cooperation. The Congress was infuriating the Muslims and their leadership although it was clear that the Britishers had been making the fullest use of the divide and rule policy regarding the Muslims. It convinces to conclude, whether the Congress leadership was not aware of the British’s ‘Divide and Rule’ policy or it adopted deliberately a supportive attitude towards the British in fulfilling their sinister objectives of vivisection of India
The British policy in India noted Sunderland,” has been from the beginning that known as ‘divide and rule or that which the old Romans described by their well known Latins words,’ divide et impera.”British rulers of India have employed the policy of fostering divisions among the people knowing well that divisions always weaken a nation and render it easier to hold in subjection. So the British imperialists from the very beginning of their rule tried to divide the Indians for the continuation of their Raj. Karl Marx said that all the civil wars, invasions, revolutions, conquests famines, strangely complex, rapid, and destructive as the successive action in Hindustan may appear, did not go deeper than its surface. So the balance of the village community system remained almost intact till the advent of the British. Pre-British Indian society was plural and like all societies of the middle age, was anti-secular but t was free from communal hostility.
Partition of Bengal
The first partition of Bengal in 1905 was a territorial reorganization of the Bengal presidency implemented by the authorities of the British Raj. The partition separated the largely Muslim eastern areas from the largely Hindu western areas on 16 October 1905 after being announced on 20 July 1905 by Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy of India. The Hindus of West Bengal, who dominated Bengal’s business and rural life, complained the division would make them a minority in a province that would incorporate the province of Bihar and Orissa. Hindus were outraged at what they saw as a divide and rule policy even though Curzon stressed it produce administrative efficiency. The ultimate motive remains questionable as in two letters dated 7 February and 6 December 1905, Herbert Risley, Lord Curzon’s Home Secretary, wrote”Bengal united is a force, Bengal divided will go in different ways. That the partition plan is opposed by the congress is its merit for us. Our principal motive is to weaken a united party against the government.
The partition animated the Muslims to form their own national organization along communal lines. To appease Bengali sentiment, Bengal was reunited by Lord Hardinge in 1911, in response to the Swadeshi movements riots in protest against the policy and they began an angry agitation, featuring belief among Hindus that East Bengal would have its own courts and policies. The middle class of Bengal saw this as the rupture of their dear motherland as well as a tactic to diminish their authority. In the six-month period before the partition was to be effected the congress arranged meetings where petitions against the partition were collected and given to impassive authorities.
Surendranath Banerjee had suggested from Bengal rather than dividing two parts of the Bengali speaking community, but Lord Curzon did not agree to this. Banarjee admitted that the petitions were ineffective and as the date for the partition drew closer began advocating tougher approaches such as boycotting British goods. He preferred to label this movie as”Swadeshi” instead of boycott. The boycott was led by the moderates but minor rebel groups also sprouted under its cause. Banerjee believed that other targets ought to be included. Government schools were spurned and on 16 October 1905, the day of partition, schools, and shops were blockaded. The demonstrators were cleared off by units of police and army. This was followed by violent confrontations due to which the older leadership in the congress members to stop boycotting the schools. The president of the congress, G.K.Gokhale, Banerji, and others stopped supporting the boycott when they found that Jhon Morley had been appointed as Secretary of state for India. Believing that he would sympathize with the Indian middle class they trusted him and anticipated the reversal of the partition through his intervention.
On 30 December 1889, Lord Curzon took over as the new Viceroy of India. Lord Curzon ordered the partition of Bengal in 1905. He wanted to improve the administrative efficiency in that huge and populous region, where the Bengali Hindu intelligentsia exerted considerable influence on local and national politics. The partition of Bengal came into effect on 16 October 1905, through a royal proclamation. The partition created a new province of East Bengal, which later became East Pakistan and present Bangladesh. The government explained that the partition was for stimulating the growth of the underdeveloped eastern region of Bengal. Finding the Bengal presidency too large to administer, in 1905 the British decided to redraw its boundaries and divide it into two parts. The province of Bengal and Assam were reconstituted to two provinces of manageable size. Eastern Bengal and Assam with a population of 31 million(12 million Hindu and 18 million Muslim). And Western Bengal with a population of 54 million (42 million Hindu and 13 million Muslim). The territory to be transferred from Bengal to the new province consisted of the districts of Chittagong, Dhaka, Rajshahi division excluding Darjeeling and the Malda district. Dacca became the capital of the new province and hence the center of Muslims political activities. Lord Curzon sent the proposal to London in February 1905.
The Secretary of state for India, sir Jhon Brodrick, sanctioned it in June, and the proclamation of the formation of the new province was issued in September. The province of Bengal and Assam came into being on 16 October 1905. The result of partition is a series of unprecedented agitation by the Hindus. They alleged that Lord Curzon had deliberately tried to divide the Hindus and Muslims by drawing a line between the Hindu and the Muslim halves of Bengal. Favoring the Muslims by giving them a new province in which they were in a clear majority, had struck a deadly blow to Bengali nationality. They branded him as the upholder of the devilish policy of ‘divide and rule’.The Hindu community strongly opposed it. The partition of Bengal sought to destroy the political influence of the educated middle class among whom the Bengali intelligentsia was the most prominent. It also set up a communal gulf between the Hindus and Muslims.
The Indian National Congress unanimously condemned the partition of Bengal. Actually the main most advanced region of the country at that time. All ill-conceived and hastily implemented action, the partition outraged the Bengalis. Not only had the government failed to consult the Indian public of their opinion, but the action appeared to reflect the British resolve to divide and rule’. Widespread agitation ensued on the streets and in the press, and the Congress advocated boycotting British goods under the banner of ‘Swadeshi’.The congress-led boycott of the British goods was so successful that it unleashed anti-British forces to an extent unknown since the Sepoy Rebellion. A cycle of violence, terrorism, and repression was ensured in some parts of the country. Indians launched a mass movement, declaring 16 October as the day of mourning in Kolkata raising Vande Mataram as the national cry protecting the Indian nationality. This organized and archaist movement took a terrorist turn, resulting in political sabotage and riots. Keeping in view the fluid political situation in India, the British tried to mitigate the situation by announcing a series of constitutional reforms in 1909, and by appointing a few moderates to the imperial and provincial councils. In what the British saw as an additional goodwill gesture, in 1911, king emperor George V (1910-1936)visited India for a Durbar, during which he announced the reversal of the partition of Bengal and the transfer of the capital from Kolkata to a newly planned city Delhi, which became New Delhi. The annulment of this partition saddened the Muslims. It was a catalyst in making the Muslims of India realize the “need for a separate homeland “. Then the Muslims realized that their loyalty towards the British can not pay fruition. Thus a new attitude was adopted by the Muslims to come closer to congress to find some common ground on which the two organizations could stand against the British.
Divide and Rule Policy
British always tried to make a gulf between the Hindus and Muslims for continuing their empire.J.T.Sunderland (1928)said that there seems to have been little hostility between Hindus and Muslims; everywhere they seem to have lived together for the most part peacefully and harmoniously. It was only since British rule in India began and in those parts of the country where British rule was most directly and strongly felt, that hostility becomes noticeable and riots of any importance appear. Rajani Palme Dutt(1970)also said that prior to British rule there was no trace of the type of Hindu Muslim conflicts associated with British rule. The British rulers used many stages of ideas to promote communalism between the Hindus and Muslims. They try to divide them based on social, cultural, economical, and political views.
The people of that time were found of religion. They easily mobilized in the name of religion. So religion was supposed to be one of the best factors to divide the people. It is used as an influential mechanism to attain economic, political, and other social activities. And British used religion as their weapon to divide the strength which India had as a whole. British always tried to sow the seeds of disagreement between Hindus and Muslims and encourage them to fight. British named the National Movement as a movement for establishing the ‘Hindu Kingdom’ in India and encouraged Muslims to set their own political organization. That’s why after partition in 1905 the Muslim community built the Muslim League in 1906, which was formed due to the British policy of divide and Rule’.From the above discussion, we can say that communalism is the colonial construction in British India and this communalism raised because of the British policy ‘divide and rule’; which was resulted in the partition of Bengal in 1905.