A prominent part in the Swadeshi agitation was played by the students of Bengal. They practised and propagated Swadeshi and took the lead in organising picketing of shops selling foreign cloth. The government made every attempt to suppress the students.
Orders were issued to Penalise those schools and colleges whose students took an active part in the Swadeshi agitation; their grants-in-aid and other privileges were to be withdrawn, they were to be disaffiliated, their students were not to be permitted to compete for scholarships and were to be barred from all service under the government.
Disciplinary action was taken against students found guilty of participating in the nationalist agitation. Many of them were fined, expelled from schools and colleges, arrested and sometimes beaten by the police with lathis. The students however refused to be cowed down.
A remarkable aspect of the Swadeshi agitation was the active participation of women in the movement. The traditionally home- centred women of the urban middle classes joined processions and picketing. From then on they were to take an active part in the nationalist movement.
Many prominent Muslims joined the Swadeshi Movement including Abdul Rasul, the famous barrister; Liaquat Hussain, the popular agitator; and Guznavi, the businessman.
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad joined one of the revolutionary terrorist groups. Many other middle-and upper-class Muslims, however, remained neutral or, led by the Nawab of Dhaka (who was given a loan of Rs 14 lakh by the Government of India) even supported Partition on the plea that East Bengal would have a Muslim majority.
In this communal attitude, the Nawab of Dhaka and others were encouraged by the officials. In a speech at Dhaka, Lord Curzon declared that one of the reasons for the partition was “to invest the Mohammedans in Eastern Bengal with a unity which they have not enjoyed since the days of the old Mussalman Viceroys and Kings.”