Eastern Bengal and Assam

Eastern Bengal and Assam was an administrative subdivision (province) of the British Raj between 1905 and 1912. Headquartered in the city of Dacca, it covered territories in what are now Bangladesh, Northeast India and Northern West Bengal.

Eastern Bengal and Assam
পূর্ব বাংলা এবং আসাম
পূৰ্ৱবঙ্গ আৰু অসম
ꠙꠥꠛ ꠛꠣꠋꠉꠟꠣ ꠀꠞ ꠅꠢꠝ
Province of the British Raj
16 October 1905–21 March 1912
Flag of Eastern Bengal and Assam
Location of Eastern Bengal and Assam
Eastern Bengal and Assam in 1907, bordered by British Indian Bengal and Bihar, Nepal, Bhutan, British Burma and Tibet
Historical era New Imperialism
 •  First Partition of Bengal 16 October 1905
 •  Creation of Bengal Province and Assam Province 21 March 1912
Today part of  Bangladesh
 India (Northeast India, some part of West Bengal)


The British East India Company annexed Bengal in 1765, and Assam in 1838

As early as 1868, British administrators saw the need for an independent administration in the eastern portion of the Bengal Presidency. They felt that Fort William in Calcutta, the capital of British India, was already overburdened. By 1903, it dawned on the colonial government on the necessity of partitioning Bengal and creating prospects for Assam's commercial expansion. The British promised increased investment in education and jobs in the new province called Eastern Bengal and Assam.[1]

George Curzon2
Lord Curzon initiated the creation of Eastern Bengal and Assam
All India Muslim league conference 1906 attendees in Dhaka
Founding conference of the All India Muslim League in Dacca, 1906

Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India, proposed the Partition of Bengal and put it into effect on 16 October 1905. Dacca, the former Mughal capital of Bengal, regained its status as a seat of government. Sir Bampfylde Fuller was the province's first Lieutenant Governor. He served for a year in office, and resigned in 1906 after disagreements with Lord Minto and pressure from the British Parliament. He was succeeded by Sir Lancelot Hare (1906-1911), who in turn was succeeded by Sir Charles Stuart Bayley (1911-1912).

The partition stoked controversy among hardline Hindu nationalists, who described it as an attempt to "divide and rule" the Bengali homeland.[2] The merchant class in Calcutta also feared losing their economic influence in the region. In 1906, the All India Muslim League was formed in Dacca during the All India Muhammadan Educational Conference, as a response to rising Hindu nationalism. This in turn sparked the creation of the All India Hindu Mahasabha. At the Delhi Durbar in 1911, King George V announced that the British government had decided to annul the partition. The move by the colonial government was seen as an appeasement of hardline communal forces. Eastern Bengal was reunited with western Bengali districts, and Assam was made a chief commissioner's province.


Eastern Bengal and Assam had a total area of 111,569 sq m and was situated between 20° 45' and 28° 17' N., and between 87° 48' and 97° 5' E. It was bounded by Tibet and the Kingdom of Bhutan to the north, British Burma to the east and the Bay of Bengal to the south. Within these limits, were the princely states of Hill Tippera, Cooch Behar and Manipur.


Dept Of Chemistry
An example of European-Mughal architecture introduced in Dacca after the First Partition of Bengal

The Viceroy represented the British monarch and the Lieutenant Governor was the chief administrator. Dacca was the provincial capital, with the Legislative Council and the High Court. Five commissioners acted under the Lieutenant Governor.

The Eastern Bengal and Assam Legislative Council was composed of 40 members. Elected councillors included representatives of municipalities, district boards, Muslim electorates, the landowning gentry, the tea industry, the jute industry and the Port of Chittagong. Nominated members included government officials, educationists and commercial leaders.[3]

The High Court of Dacca was subordinate to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London.

Shillong was the summer capital of Eastern Bengal and Assam.[4]

There were 4 administrative divisions in the province, including the Assam Valley Division, Chittagong Division, Dacca Division, Rajshahi Division and the Surma Valley and Hill Districts Division. There were a total of 30 districts, including Dacca, Mymensingh, Faridpur, Backergunje, Tippera, Noakhali, Chittagong, the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Rajshahi, Dinajpur, Jalpaiguri, Rangpur, Bogra, Pabna, Malda, Goalpara, Kamrup, Darrang, Nowgong, Sibsagar, Lakhimpur, Sylhet, Cachar, the Garo Hills, the Khasi and Jaintia Hills, the Naga Hills and the Lushai Hills.[1]

Cooch Behar fell under the jurisdiction of Rajshahi Division, Manipur under the Assam Valley Division and Hill Tippera under Chittagong Division. The provincial government in Dacca also managed relations with Bhutan.


The population of Eastern Bengal and Assam was 30,961,459 in 1901.[1] The densely populated districts in East Bengal and the Surma and Brahmaputra Valleys were home to Indo-Aryan ethnic groups, including the Bengalis (27,272,895) and the Assamese (1,349,784).[1] Hill districts were home to a predominantly Tibeto-Burman population, including groups like the Chakmas, Mizos, Nagas, Garos and Bodos. There were 18,036,688 Muslims and 12,036,538 Hindus.[1] The remainder included Buddhists, Christians and animists.

With reference to the census in 1911, the population of Dhaka was 21% higher than that of 1906, when it was made the capital of the newly formed state.[2]


An illustration of tea cultivation in Eastern Bengal and Assam

Eastern Bengal and Assam possessed one of the most fertile lands in the British Empire. The eastern Bengal delta was the rice basket of the Indian subcontinent. It produced 80% of the world's jute, and dominated supply in the once thriving global jute trade. The Assam and Sylhet Valleys were home to the largest tea plantations in the world, and became famous for producing high-quality Assam tea. The province was also a center of the petroleum industry, due to crude oil production in Assam. The Port of Chittagong began to flourish in international trade, and was connected to its hinterland by the Assam Bengal Railway. Shipbuilding was a major activity in coastal Bengal, and catered to the British naval and merchant fleets. Dyeing industries were set up in several districts, particularly in Pabna and Dhaka.


First Ever Steam Engine of Bangladesh
A 19th century train preserved at the Chittagong Central Railway Building
Viceroy of India arrives in Dhaka
Ferries were an important mode of provincial transport. Seen here is the arrival of the British Viceroy in Dacca by a fleet of steamers in 1908

The two main rail lines in Eastern Bengal and Assam were the Eastern Bengal Railway and the Assam Bengal Railway. The port city of Chittagong was the main rail terminus, as routes connected the interior hinterland with the main regional maritime gateway. Railways were vital for the export of tea, jute and petroleum.

A number of new ferry services were introduced connecting Chittagong, Dhaka, Bogra, Dinajpur, Rangpur, Jalpaiguri, Maldah and Rajshahi. This improved communication network created a positive impact on overall economy, boosting trade and commerce. Newly built highways connected the inaccessible areas of Assam and the Chittagong Hill Tracts. All district capitals were connected by an inter-district road network.[2]


The British Indian Army had cantonments in Dacca, Chittagong, Shillong, Comilla and Gauhati. The Assam Rifles guarded the eastern frontier of the province, while the Gurkha regiments and the Bengal Military Police patrolled northern borders.


Within its short lifespan, the Provincial Education Department promoted a significant expansion and improvement of higher education. Persian, Sanskrit, mathematics, history and algebra were among different disciplines introduced in the college level curriculum. Female colleges were established in each district. School enrollment increased by 20%.[2] A committee was formed for the creation of the University of Dacca, which was established later in 1921, and came to be known as the Oxford of the East.


The partition of 1905 created a precedent for the partition of British India. The British partitioned Bengal and Assam again in 1947, making Muslim-majority districts a part of the Dominion of Pakistan. Later renamed East Pakistan, the region gained independence as the country of Bangladesh in 1971.

Most of the colonial Assam Province became a part of the Union of India, and was eventually divided into several states, including Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Assam proper, Tripura and Manipur.

In modern times, Bangladesh and India have sought to revive British Raj-era transport links. The BBIN Initiative has taken shape to promote economic integration and development in the region. The Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM) grouping also seeks to stimulate economic growth in this Asian sub-region.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e "Eastern Bengal and Assam - Encyclopedia". Theodora.com. Retrieved 2015-09-24.
  2. ^ a b c d "Eastern Bengal and Assam - Banglapedia". En.banglapedia.org. 2014-05-05. Retrieved 2015-09-24.
  3. ^ Ilbert, Sir Courtenay Peregrine (1907). "Appendix II: Constitution of the Legislative Councils under the Regulations of November 1909", in The Government of India. Clarendon Press. pp. 432-5.
  4. ^ "Searching for Shillong - Wall Street International". Wsimag.com. 2015-04-04. Retrieved 2015-09-24.

Coordinates: 23°42′00″N 90°21′00″E / 23.7000°N 90.3500°E

1911 Delhi Durbar Honours

The 1911 Delhi Durbar was held in December 1911 following the coronation in London in June of that year of King George V and Queen Mary. The King and Queen travelled to Delhi for the Durbar. For the occasion, the statutory limits of the membership of the Order of the Star of India and the Order of the Indian Empire were increased and many appointments were made to these and other orders. These honours were published in a supplement to the London Gazette dated 8 December 1911.In the lists below, names of recipients of honours are shown as they were styled before their new honours. Archaic transliterations of personal and place names are retained as shown in the London Gazette. Similarly, place names are given as shown in the Gazette, e.g. Madras (now Chennai), Bombay (now Mumbai), etc. The term "India" refers to British India as it was in 1911, comprising territories which are now the nations of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar.

Abhay Ashram

Abhay Ashram (Bengali: অভয় আশ্রম) is a social welfare organization founded by Dr. Prafulla Chandra Ghosh, Dr. Suresh Bandyopadhyay, Haripada Chattopadhyay and Dr. Nripen Basu in 1910 in Comilla in the then Eastern Bengal and Assam, in present-day Bangladesh. Initially named Savita Mission (Bengali: সবিতা মিশন), it was rechristened to Abhay Ashram by Mohandas Gandhi in 1921.

Assam Province

Assam Province was a province of British India, created in 1911 by the partition of the Eastern Bengal and Assam Province.

Its capital was in Shillong.

The Assam territory was first separated from Bengal in 1874 as the 'North-East Frontier' non-regulation province. It was incorporated into the new province of Eastern Bengal and Assam in 1905 and re-established as a province in 1912.

Assam Rifles

The Assam Rifles is the oldest paramilitary force of India. The unit can trace its lineage back to a paramilitary police force that was formed under the British in 1835 called Cachar Levy. Since then the Assam Rifles have undergone a number of name changes—the Assam Frontier Police (1883), the Assam Military Police (1891) and Eastern Bengal and Assam Military Police (1913), before finally becoming the Assam Rifles in 1917. Over the course of its history, the Assam Rifles and its predecessor units have served in a number of roles, conflicts and theatres including World War I where they served in Europe and the Middle East, and World War II where they served mainly in Burma. In the post World War II period the Assam Rifles has expanded greatly as has its role. There are currently 46 battalions of Assam Rifles with a sanctioned strength of 63,747 personnel.It is under the control of the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and they perform many roles including the provision of internal security under the control of the army through the conduct of counter insurgency and border security operations, provision of aid to the civilians in times of emergency, and the provision of communications, medical assistance and education in remote areas. In times of war they can also be used as a combat force to secure rear areas if needed. Since 2002 it has been guarding the Indo–Myanmar barrier as per the government policy "one border one force".

Bampfylde Fuller

Sir Joseph Bampfylde Fuller (20 March 1854 – 29 November 1935) was a British inventor, writer and first Lieutenant Governor of the new province of Eastern Bengal and Assam, knighted for his service in India.

Bengal Presidency

The Bengal Presidency (1757–1912), later reorganized as the Bengal Province (1912–1947), was once the largest subdivision (presidency) of British India, with its seat in Calcutta (now Kolkata). It was primarily centred in the Bengal region. At its territorial peak in the 19th century, the presidency extended from the present-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan in the west to Burma, Singapore and Penang in the east. The Governor of Bengal was concurrently the Viceroy of India for many years. Most of the presidency's territories were eventually incorporated into other British Indian provinces and crown colonies. In 1905, Bengal proper was partitioned, with Eastern Bengal and Assam headquartered in Dacca and Shillong (summer capital). British India was reorganised in 1912 and the presidency was reunited into a single Bengali-speaking province.

The Bengal Presidency was established in 1765, following the defeat of the last independent Nawab of Bengal at the Battle of Plassey in 23 June 1757, and the Battle of Buxar in 22 October 1764. Bengal was the economic, cultural and educational hub of the British Raj. It was the centre of the late 19th and early 20th century Bengali Renaissance and a hotbed of the Indian Independence Movement.

The Partition of British India in 1947 resulted in Bengal's division on religious grounds, between the Indian state of West Bengal and East Bengal, which became the nation of Bangladesh.

Chowdhury Kazemuddin Ahmed Siddiky

Chowdhury Kazemuddin Ahmed Siddiky, (1876–1937) was a Bengali Muslim aristocrat and politician during the British Raj. A Khan Bahadur, he was one of the founders of the University of Dacca. He was President of the Eastern Bengal and Assam Muslim League between 1908 and 1912. He was also a member of the governing council of Jagannath College.Siddiky was fluent in Bengali, English, Urdu, Arabic and Persian.

Colonial Assam

Colonial Assam (1826–1947) refers to the period of History of Assam between the signing of the Treaty of Yandabo and Independence of India when Assam was under the British colonial rule. The political institutions and social relations that were established or severed during this period continue to have a direct effect on contemporary events. The legislature and political alignments that evolved by the end of the British rule continued in the post Independence period. The immigration of farmers from East Bengal and tea plantation workers from Central India continue to affect contemporary politics, most notably that which led to the Assam Movement and its aftermath.

Divisions of British India

The Divisions of British India were administrative units of the Government of the British Raj or Indian Empire.


Dkhar or Utkhar is a term used by the Khasis to refer to non-tribal peoples in Meghalaya and Assam. In real terms, the words mean the affluent, educated settler from West Bengal or the Hindu, Bengali-speaking "East Bengal" man who made Assam or Meghalaya his home 50 years or even 100 years ago. The term is a Khasi word which means a foreigner. It is sometimes abbreviated to Khar.

The resentment against the non-tribal outsiders were mostly against the Bengalis and the Nepalis who constituted bulk of the non-tribal population of the state. In 1979-80, Khasi mobs attacked the Bengali speaking people in Meghalaya resulting in an ethnic cleansing.

Government of India Act, 1912

The Government of India Act 1912 was an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which made changes to the governance of British India. It received royal assent on 25 June 1912.The act addressed several problems related to the reorganization of Bengal. In 1905, the Bengal Presidency was divided in two, and the eastern portion combined with Assam Province to become the new province of Eastern Bengal and Assam. The division generated considerable opposition and unrest, and in 1911 Bengal was reorganized again into three provinces - Bengal (present-day West Bengal and Bangladesh), Bihar and Orissa, and Assam.

The first section of the act modified the powers of the newly appointed Governor of Bengal. Until 1912, the Governor-General of India also served as Governor of Bengal Presidency. In March 1912, the Secretary of State for India proclaimed that the reunified Bengal Province would be a province under its own governor. The Act gave the new governor the same powers as the governors of Bombay and Madras, including acting as governor-general in the governor-general's absence, the salary of the governor and his council, and the number and qualifications of members of the executive councils.

The second section of the Act permitted the immediate creation of a legislative council for the new province of Bihar and Orissa, and amended the Indian Councils Act 1909 to eliminate Parliamentary review of newly created legislative councils for provinces under a lieutenant-governor.

The third section of the Act permitted the creation of legislative councils for provinces under chief commissioners. This authority was used to establish a legislative council for Assam Province on 14 November 1912, and for the Central Provinces on 10 November 1913.

Ithell Colquhoun

Ithell Colquhoun (9 October 1906 – 11 April 1988) was a British painter, occultist, and author. Stylistically her artwork was surrealist in content and for a brief time she was part of the organised British surrealist movement.

She was born in Shillong, Eastern Bengal and Assam, British India. From the 1930s to her death, her work was exhibited widely in Britain and Germany.

James Alexander Richey

James Alexander Richey CIE (8 March 1874 – 24 October 1931) was a British educational administrator in South Africa and India.

The son of Sir James Bellet Richey, an administrator in Bombay, he was educated at Elstree School, Rugby School and Balliol College, Oxford, where he read Classics. His first post was as a lecturer at the Diocesan College, Rondebosch, Cape Colony. In 1902 he transferred to the Transvaal Education Department.

In 1908 he was posted to the Indian Education Service, where he remained for the rest of his career. He served as an Inspector of Schools and Assistant Director of Public Instruction in Eastern Bengal and Assam until he was appointed Director of Public Instruction of the North-West Frontier Province in 1911. In 1917 he was transferred to the same post in the Punjab. In 1920, he was appointed Educational Commissioner of the Government of India. In these posts he introduced many educational reforms designed to increase literacy among the Indian peasantry. He retired in 1929.

He was appointed Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) in the 1920 New Year Honours.Richey had suffered from ill-health since his youth and died at the age of 57 after an illness of a few months.

Legislative Council of Eastern Bengal and Assam

The Legislative Council of Eastern-Bengal and Assam was the legislative council of Eastern Bengal and Assam, a province of the British Indian Empire covering Bangladesh and Northeast India. It would meet in the Government House of Dacca, the provincial capital. Its ex-officio head was the Lieutenant Governor of Eastern Bengal and Assam.

Naib Nazim of Dhaka

The Naib Nazim of Dhaka, officially the Naib Nazim of Jahangir Nagar, was the chief Mughal political officer in the city of Dhaka, the present-day capital of Bangladesh, between the mid-18th and mid-19th centuries. It was the second highest office in the political hierarchy of Mughal Bengal, including as a nominal position during the British East India Company's occupation of Bengal. The Naib Nazim was the deputy of the Nawab of Bengal, who was based in Murshidabad. The Naib Nazim was responsible for governing territories in eastern Bengal, including for revenue collection, army and navy affairs; and administering justice. In the later period of British rule, the Naib Nazims were heavily influenced by English culture, spoke fluent English and collected Western art. The 19th century office holder Nusrat Jung was described as an anglophile.

Dhaka's status as a leading financial and commercial center of Mughal India lent significant influence to the office of the Naib Nazim. The Naib Nazims initially resided in Islam Khan's Fort and the Bara Katra. The Nimtali Kuthi was their last official residence.The government and era of the Naib Nazims is known as the niabat. Prior to the niabat, Dhaka was the viceregal capital of Subedar of Bengal. The Naib Nazims can be compared with the position of Lieutenant Governor in rank and equivalence. The abolishing of the Naib Nazim's office coincided with Dhaka's decline as the leading city of Bengal. The next time Dhaka's political prominence was revived was during the short lived British province of Eastern Bengal and Assam.

Partition of Bengal (1905)

The decision to effect the Partition of Bengal (Bengali: বঙ্গভঙ্গ) was announced on 19 July 1905 by the Viceroy of India, Curzon. The partition took place on 16 October 1905 and separated the largely Muslim eastern areas from the largely Hindu western areas. The Hindus of West Bengal who dominated Bengal's business and rural life complained that 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 (where the colonisers turned the native population against itself in order to rule), even though Curzon stressed it would produce administrative efficiency. The partition animated the Muslims to form their own national organization on communal lines. In order to appease Bengali sentiment, Bengal was reunited by Lord Hardinge in 1911, in response to the Swadeshi movement's riots in protest against the policy and the growing belief among Hindus that east Bengal would have its own courts and policies.

Six point movement

The six point movement was a movement in East Pakistan, spearheaded by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, which called for greater autonomy for East Pakistan. The movement's main agenda was to realize the six demands put forward by a coalition of Bengali nationalist political parties in 1966, to end the perceived exploitation of East Pakistan by the West Pakistani rulers. It is considered a milestone on the road to Bangladesh's independence.

United Bengal

United Bengal is a political ideology for a unified Bengali-speaking nation in South Asia. The ideology developed among Bengali nationalists after the first partition of Bengal in 1905. The British-ruled Bengal Presidency was divided into Western Bengal and Eastern Bengal and Assam to weaken the independence movement; after much protest Bengal was reunited in 1911.

The United Bengal proposal was the bid made by the Bengali Prime Minister Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy and nationalist leader Sarat Chandra Bose to found a united and independent nation-state of Bengal. The proposal was floated as an secular alternative to the partition of Bengal on communal lines. The initiative failed owing to British diplomacy and communal conflict between Muslims and Hindus that eventually led to the second partition of Bengal.

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