The agitation against the partition of Bengal made a deep impact on the Indian National Congress

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The agitation against the partition of Bengal made a deep impact on the Indian National Congress. All sections of the National Congress united in opposing the Partition.

At its session of 1905, Gokhale, the President of the Congress, roundly condemned the Partition as well as the reactionary regime of Curzon. The National Congress also supported the Swadeshi and Boycott movement of Bengal.

There was much public debate and disagreement between the moderate and the militant nationalists. The latter wanted to extend the Swadeshi and Boycott movement from Bengal to the rest of the country, to extend the boycott to every form of association with the colonial government.

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The moderates wanted to confine the Boycott movement to Bengal and even there to limit it to the boycott of foreign goods.

There was a tussle between the two groups for the president ship of the National Congress for that year (1906). In the end, Dadabhai Naoroji, respected by all nationalists as a great patriot, was chosen as a compromise.

Dadabhai electrified the nationalist ranks by openly declaring in his presidential address that the goal of the Indian national movement was ‘self-government’ or Swaraj like that of the United Kingdom or the Colonies.”

But the differences dividing the two wings of the nationalist movement could not be kept in check for long. Many of the moderate nationalists did not keep pace with events. They were not able to see that their outlook and methods, which had served a real purpose in the past, were no longer adequate.

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They had failed to advance to the new stage of the national movement. The militant nationalists, on the other hand, were not willing to be held back. The split between the two came at the Surat session of the National Congress in December 1907.

The moderate leaders having captured the machinery of the Congress excluded the militant elements from it- But, in the long run, the split did not prove useful to either party.

The moderate leaders lost touch with the younger generation of nationalists. The British government played the game of’ divide and rule’. While suppressing the militant nationalists, it tried to win over moderate nationalist opinion so that the militant nationalists could be isolated and suppressed.

To placate the moderate nationalists, it announced constitutional concessions through the Indian Councils Act of 1909 which are known as the Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909.

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In 1911, the government also announced the annulment of the Partition of Bengal. Western and Eastern Bengals were to be reunited while a new province consisting of Bihar and Orissa was to be created. At the same time the seat of the central government was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi.

The Morley-Minto Reforms increased the number of elected members in the Imperial Legislative Council and the provincial councils. But most of the elected members were elected indirectly, by the provincial councils in the case of the Imperial Council and by municipal committees and district boards in the case of the provincial councils.

Some of the elected seats were reserved for landlords and British capitalists in India. For instance, of the 68 members of the Imperial Legislative Council, 36 were officials and 5 were nominated non-officials. Of the 27 elected members, 6 were to represent the big landlords and 2 the British capitalists.

Moreover, the reformed councils still enjoyed no real power, being merely advisory bodies. The reforms in no way changed the undemocratic and foreign character of British rule, or the fact of foreign economic exploitation of the country.

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They were, in fact, not designed to democratise Indian administration. Morley openly declared at the time: “If it could be said that this chapter of reforms led directly or necessarily to the estab­lishment of a parliamentary system in India, I for one would have nothing at all to do with it.”

His successor as the Secretary of State, Lord Crewe, further clarified the position in 1912: “There is a certain section in India which looks forward to a measure of self-government approaching that which has been granted in the dominions. I see no future for India on those lines.”

The real purpose of the Reforms of 1 909 was to confuse the moderate nationalists, to divide the nationalist ranks and to check the growth of unity among Indians.

The Reforms also introduced the system of separate electorates under which all Muslims were grouped in separate constituencies from which Muslims alone could be elected.

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This was done in the name of protecting the Muslim minority. But, in reality, this was a part of the policy of dividing Hindus and Muslims, and thus maintaining British supremacy in India.

The system of separate electorates was based on the notion that the political and economic interests of Hindus and Muslims were separate.

This notion was unscientific because religions cannot be the basis of political and economic interests or of political groupings.

What is even more important, this system proved extremely harmful in practice. It checked the progress of India’s unification which had been a continuous historical process.

It became a potent factor in the growth of communalism both Muslim and Hindu in the country. Instead of removing the educational and economic backwardness of the middle-class Muslims and thus integrating them into the mainstream of Indian nationalism, the system of separate electorates tended to perpetuate their isolation from the developing nationalist movement.

It encouraged separatist tendencies. It prevented people from concentrating on economic and political problems which were common to all Indians, Hindu or Muslim.

The moderate nationalists did not fully support the Morley-Minto Reforms. They soon realised that the Reforms had not really granted much.

But they decided to cooperate with the government in working out the Reforms. This cooperation with the government and their opposition to the programme of the militant nationalists proved very costly to them. They gradually lost the respect and support of the public and were reduced to a small political group.

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