History of India since 1971

West Bengal 1947-1971

The Establishment of West Bengal, 1947-1948 : The Indian National Congress had envisioned for all of British India, including the princely states, to gain independence as one undivided Republic of India. The Muslim League had campaigned for a separate Muslim state in India, called Pakistan, consisting of the Muslim-majority provinces of British India, and of those princely states which would join it; this vision of Pakistan included Bengal and Assam.
When independence came in 1947, Bengal broke in two; the western region, with the provincial capital of Calcutta, was to form the state of West Bengal, within the Republic of India; the east was to form the Pakistani province of East Bengal. The First Indo-Pakistani War of 1948 resulted in a large-scale population exchange, with many Muslim residents of West Bengal emigrating into East Bengal, and many non-Muslims from East Bengal immigrating into West Bengal.

Administration : In 1949, the princely state of Cooch Behar was annexed into West Bengal. In 1954, Chandernagar (until 1950 part of French India) was annexed. The position of PM of West Bengal, from 1947 to 1967, was held by politicians of the Indian National Congress (INC), interrupted by brief periods of president's rule in 1962, 1968-1969 and 1970-1971; from 1967 to 1970 by politicians from the Bangla Congress Party (BCP), from 1971 to 1977 by politicians from the Indian National Congress.

Annals : In 1949 the Indian Communist Party implemented a series of demonstrations and strikes, attempting to bring to a halt the rail transportation system. Calcutta was one of the centers of Communist activity; the government took swift action to prevent paralysis (BBoY 1950).
In 1950, India and Pakistan were engaged in an economic conflict; India ceased to supply Pakistan with coal; Pakistan responded by ceasing to supply India with raw jute. The port of Calcutta thus lost much of its traditional hinterland. In the mill regions around Calcutta, affected by the discontinuation of raw jute import, riots occurred (1950). Pakistan was to develop Chittagong as the new main port of East Bengal (BBoY 1951). In 1950 several thousand Tibetan refugees settled in Darjeeling District.
In 1951 state elections were held, in which the INC emerged as the strongest party.
In 1952, Mother Teresa opened the first House of the Dying in Calcutta.
In 1953 West Bengal experienced food shortage, in July 1953 disorder in Calcutta, in August 1953 inundation in the province (BBoY 1954).
In 1954 West Bengal again experienced severe inundation (BBoY 1955).
In 1957 state elections were held, in which the INC again emerged as the strongest political party with 46.1 %, followed by the CPI (Communist Party of India) with 17.8 %.
In 1961 Nepali was declared the official language in the Gorkha Hills of West Bengal.
In 1964 the CPI split into a pro-Soviet and a pro-Chinese faction; the latter held a party congress in Calcutta. Riots in East Pakistan caused an influx of several 100,000 Hindu refugees from East Bengal. Religious riots were reported in Calcutta (BBoY 1965).
The Second Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 affected West Bengal, as it was a frontier state.
In 1966, food riots occurred in West Bengal (BBoy 1967).
State elections were held in West Bengal in 1967; Congress emerged as the largest party. A government coalition without participation of the INC was formed, with a politician of the BCP taling the post of PM. In the village of Naxalbari, pro-Chinese communists - the Naxalites - organized an uprising; the Naxalite movement would continue, West Bengal being the center of its activities. West Bengal suffered from severe drought (BBoy 1968).
In 1968 severe floods caused midterm elections to be postponed (BBoY 1969).
In 1970 the government coalition in West Bengal, known as United Front, collapsed; President's rule was introduced (BBoY 1971).
1971 saw first military rule in East Pakistan, causing a massive stream of refugees into West Bengal (estimate 7 million), and then the Third Indo-Pakistani War, which resulted, with Indian support, in the creation of an independent Bangladesh. Coastal Bengal was hit by a Tsunami (BBoY 1972).

Social History : In 1951 the population of West Bengal was 26.3 million, in 1961 34.9 million, in 1971 44.4 million.
In 1947-1948 West Bengal experienced a large-scale population exchange : the exodus of much of its Muslim population and the arrival of millions of Hindu refugees from East Bengal. More refugees would arrive, especially in 1967 and 1971. The integration of the refugees into the West Bengali economy caused problems; Calcutta suffered from an extraordinarily high unemployment rate, all the more as the port of Calcutta and the city's jute mills had lost much of their traditional hinterland. The resulting poverty and social insecurity, occasionally exacerbated by drought or flood, explains why Communist parties had a large followership in West Bengal.
Bangla (Bengali) was declared official language in Bengal. In 1961 Nepali was declared the official language in the hill subdivisions of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and Kurseong (Gorkha Hills; Gorkhaland).

West Bengal Legislative Assembly, has history
Article West Bengal, from Wikipedia
Article Cooch Behar, from Wikipedia
Article Changernagar, from Wikipedia
Article Gorkhaland, from Wikipedia
Article Naxalites, from Wikipedia
Article Communist Party of India (Marxist), from Wikipedia
Article Mother Teresa, from Wikipedia
History of Darjeeling, from Wikipedia
History of Kolkata after Independence, from Wikipedia
History of Calcutta, from Calcutta Web
DOCUMENTS World Statesmen : India, by Ben Cahoon
Historical Population Statistics : India, by province (J. Lahmeyer)
Assembly Election Results of West Bengal 1951, 1957, from Wikipedia
Statistical Reports of State Elections, from Election Commission of India
REFERENCE Article : India, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1948 pp.383-386 [G]
Article : India, Dominion of, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1949 pp.337-340, 1950 pp.357-359 [G]
Article : India, in : Britannica Book of the Year 1951 pp.359-361, 1952 pp.353-355, 1953 pp.352-355, 1954 pp.352-354, 1955 pp.401-403, 1956 pp.342-344, 1957 pp.405-407, 1958 pp.338-340, 1959 pp.335-337, 1960 pp.334-336, 1961 pp.340-342, 1962 pp.332-333, 1963 pp.449-451, 1964 pp.426-427, 1965 pp.421-423, 1966 pp.372-375, 1967 pp.407-410, 1968 pp.409-411, 1969 pp.402-404, 1970 pp.408-410, 1971 pp.388-391, 1972 pp.355-358 [G]
Article : India, Republic of, in : Americana Annual 1957 pp.371-375 [G]
Article : India, in : Americana Annual 1961 pp.349-353, 1962 pp.354-358, 1963 pp.320-324, 1964 pp.319-322, 1965 pp.326-329, 1967 pp.347-350, 1968 pp.340-344, 1969 pp.348-351, 1970 pp.350-354, 1971 pp.343-346, 1972 pp.336-341 [G]
Article : India : West Bengal, in : Statesman's Yearbook 1970-1971 pp.380-382 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on May 11th 2007

Click here to go Home
Click here to go to Information about KMLA, WHKMLA, the author and webmaster
Click here to go to Statistics