Lord Curzon

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    • The 119-year-old Curzon Gate in Bardhaman in West Bengal is at the centre of a political row.

    About Lord Curzon

    • Early Age: 
      • Born in 1859 into British nobility.
      • He was educated at the elite Eton College school and attended Oxford. 
    • Role:
      • In 1891, he became Under-Secretary of State for India (the deputy minister in the British cabinet responsible for India).
      • He served as Under-Secretary of State for India (1891-1892), and for Foreign Affairs (1895-1898), before being appointed Viceroy of India in 1899.
        • India’s Viceroy between 1899 and 1905.
    • He was both vexed and enraged by the growing nationalist movement in India. and he sought to throttle the growing aspirations of the educated Indian middle class.

    Major moves

    • He sent a British expedition to Tibet, established a separate police service, and established the Archaeological Survey of India, in order to study and protect historical monuments. 
    • He took a series of extremely unpopular measures, including passing, in 1899, the Calcutta Municipal Amendment Act which reduced the number of elected representatives in the Calcutta Corporation; the Indian Universities Act (1904), that placed Calcutta University under government control, and the Indian Official Secrets Amendment Act (1904) that reduced the freedom of the press even further.
    • The partition of the undivided Bengal Presidency in 1905 was one of Curzon’s most criticised moves, which triggered widespread opposition not only in Bengal but across India, and gave impetus to the freedom movement.
      • In July 1905, Curzon announced the partition of Bengal into two provinces. East Bengal and Assam, with a population of 38 million, was predominately Muslim, while the western province, called Bengal, was reduced to 55 million people, primarily Hindus.

    Return to London 

    • In 1905, Curzon resigned and returned to England after losing a power struggle with the commander-in-chief of the British Army, Lord Kitchener. 
    • The protests continued after his exit, and the colonial government in 1911 announced the reunification of Bengal, and the capital of the Raj was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi

    Famous Quotes 

    • He famously stated, “We could lose all our [white settlement] dominions and still survive, but if we lost India, our sun would sink to its setting.”
    • He stated in his budget speech in 1904, “Efficiency of administration is, in my view, a synonym for the contentment of the governed.”(quoted in Sumit Sarkar, ‘Modern India 1885–1947’).

    Why did the Partition of Bengal take place?

    • Calcutta was the capital of the British Raj, and Bengal Presidency was one of the largest provinces in India, populated by more than 78 million people, encompassing present day West Bengal, Bangladesh, Bihar, parts of Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Assam.
    • For long, the British had maintained that Bengal was too large to efficiently manage and administer; it was also believed that with Calcutta as the nerve centre of the educated nationalists, the resistance to colonial rule would only increase.

    Consequences of the partition

    • Popular anger against partition had been brewing since the British announced their scheme, but grew into a stronger and more organised movement after it was implemented in 1905.
    •  In opposition to the partition, nationalist leaders organised a campaign of boycott of British goods and institutions, and encouraged the use of local products. 
      • After a formal resolution was passed at a meeting in Calcutta in August 1905, the Swadeshi movement began.
        • The Swadeshi movement and boycott was not restricted to Bengal, and spread to other parts of the country, including Punjab, Maharashtra, and parts of the Madras Presidency.
    • There was a surge in nationalist rhetoric, and the song ‘Bande Mataram’, set to music by Rabindranath Tagore, became the informal anthem of the movement.
      • He led the marches at many places, and composed many patriotic songs, most famously ‘Amar Sonar Bangla’ (My Golden Bengal), which is now the national anthem of Bangladesh. 

    Source: IE