The Nationalist Movement in Bengal was at its peak in the early 20th century. It became a considerable challenge for the British government at that time. To stop the movement from spreading the British government devised a plan to divide Bengal. In 1905, the viceroy and governor-general of British India Lord Curzon announced the partition of Bengal. Many leaders of the Indian Nationalist movement including Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore opposed this move of the British.
In a conversation with British governor Lord Curzon, many Muslim leaders agreed on the partition of Bengal under which Assam and Sylhet areas in the east were decided for the Muslim majority population. Parts of West Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa were agreed for the Hindu majority population. Before its partition, Bengal was as large as France in area. However, its population was several times larger than that of France. It was getting difficult for the British government to handle the administrative reins of such a large state.
The decision to divide Bengal was opposed throughout the country. The Congress announced Swadeshi campaign against the British government decision to Boycott all foreign goods. There were bonfires of foreign mill cloth everywhere. However, Bengal took a unique path of resistance under the leadership of Rabindranath Tagore.
The festival of Raksha Bandhan was around. Rabindranath Tagore appealed to the two communities to unite against the British policy symbolising the bond of defence for brotherhood and mutual harmony. His appeal was impactful. Hundreds of Hindus and Muslims took the streets of Kolkata, Dhaka and Sylhet to show unity. They tied rakhi to each other. This celebration of the festival of Raksha Bandhan was historical as a festival of communal harmony.
The unity of the people of Bengal inspired many. The anger against the British decision for the partition of Bengal spread across the country. Historical protests took place in different parts of the country. The Congress passed a resolution against the partition in Calcutta session. All of this increased the pressure on the British.
The atmosphere of communal unity and brotherhood among the people continued to grow. Both the communities stood in solidarity on the appeal of Rabindranath Tagore. As a result of all this, the British had to withdraw the decision of partition of Bengal in 1911.
The historical incident described in detail in A Majumdar’s book, “Tagore by fireside” in particular.