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History of Bihar’s Formation: A Testament to Hindu-Muslim Unity and Journalism’s Triumph

syed jaffer imam Reported By Syed Jaffer Imam |
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Bihar is one of India’s key states in terms of politics. The history of the state is even more predominant, with the likes of Buddha, Guru Gobind Singh, Aryabhatta, Chandragupta Maurya, Ashok, and Dr. Rajendra Prasad having profound connections with Bihar. Modern-day Bihar may not have lived up to the burden of expectations, handed over by its rich history but the story of Bihar, becoming a separate state during the British rule in India, is worth narrating.

Journalism’s Role in Highlighting Bihar’s Backwardness

In the book titled “Aadhunik Bihar ka Srijan” published in 2012, Dr. V.C. Prasad Chaudhary wrote that in the 1870s, the population of Bihar was 19.5 million, while its area was around 32,000 square miles. At that time, Bihar was a part of the Bengal province, and in 1878, Sir Auckland, the Governor of Bengal, acknowledged the pitiable economic condition and dissatisfaction of Bihar’s farmers.
In the 1880-81 edition of the “Bengal Magazine,” Bihar’s farmers were portrayed as helpless and it was written that the sentiment of happiness among Bihar’s farmers was negligible. This article in the “Bengal Magazine” was seen as an attempt to draw the attention of the people of Bengal towards the backwardness of Bihar. It was not the first attempt through journalism to highlight the plight and backwardness of Bihar.

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Dr. V.C. Prasad Chaudhary’s book, along with the book “The Urban Studies” written by Prabhash P. Singh and Ramesh Pandit, mentions several newspapers that began raising the demand for Bihar as a separate state or, in other words, started voicing for the rights of Biharis as early as the 1870s.

In 1874, the first Urdu newspaper called “Nadir-ul-Akhbar” wrote that the government discriminates against Bihar newspapers. It provided evidence that the government purchases advertisements from newspapers of other regions to boost their morale but does not buy from Bihar newspapers. Dr. V.C. Prasad Chaudhary writes in his book that initially there was no concrete demand to separate Bihar from Bengal, but the newspapers against the government’s discriminatory policy raised their voices.

Early Demand for Bihar as a Separate State

On February 7, 1876, a newspaper named “Murg-e-Suleiman” used the slogan “For the people of Bihar” in its article. In the same year, in April, a magazine named “Bihar-Bandhu” filed a complaint against Bengali lawyers, stating that they were obstructing the use of the Devanagari script in the courts. On January 22, 1877, a publication called “Kasid” wrote, “The union of Bengal and Bihar is as artificial as uniting England and France.” This publication highlighted the disparity in appointing more Bengali individuals to government positions in Bihar compared to the locals.

Sachchidananda Sinha’s Vision for Bihar

At the beginning of 1900, the demand for a separate Bihar state gained momentum. By the year 1900, the people of Bihar had started feeling a sense of discrimination and backwardness. Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha, who returned after obtaining a law degree from Britain in 1893, envisioned establishing Bihar as a separate state. In his book “Sam Amendments Bihar Contemporaries” published in 1944, Dr. Sachchidananda wrote that when he returned as a barrister from London in 1893, he saw a constable at a railway station in Bihar.

When he noticed the badge on the uniform of that Bihari constable with “Bengal Police” written on it, he felt uneasy. He wrote in his book, “Seeing ‘Bengal Police’ written on that constable’s badge, the joy of returning home after 3 years from abroad turned bitter. At that moment, I made a resolve that I would strive with all my strength to make Bihar a prestigious administrative region.”

He mentioned another incident from his time in London in his book. During those days, many law students from India were studying in Britain, including Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha. When he arrived in London and mentioned that he was from Bihar, people made fun of him and asked him to open a geography book to show where Bihar is in Hindustan, as they had never heard of such a place. Dr. Sachchidananda says that this incident deeply saddened him and made him feel as if his existence was being questioned.

When Sachchidananda returned to Bihar, he began his career as a lawyer in Patna. At that time, Bihar had notable figures in the fields of law and literature, such as Sayyad Ali Imam, Mazharul Haq, and Nand Kishore Lal, among others.

Formation of ‘The Bihar Times’ and its Impact

Sachchidananda Sinha started the newspaper ‘The Bihar Times’ in January 1894. Mahesh Narayan was the editor of this newspaper, while several famous writers, barristers, and intellectuals from Bihar, including Sachchidananda Sinha, used to contribute articles to it. ‘The Bihar Times’ gave a new dimension to the demand for Bihar as a separate state, and in the early years of 1900, the articles and slogans printed in it became so popular that discussions on the subject of separating Bihar from Bengal began in their meetings.

In 1894, when talks began about transferring the Chittagong Commissionership of Bengal to Assam, Dr. Sachchidananda took
advantage of this opportunity and started advocating for giving Bihar the status of a separate province. He published articles in his newspaper and started distributing pamphlets.

Partition of Bengal and Separation of Bihar

In 1903, English viceroy Lord Curzon proposed the partition of Bengal. It was referred to as a decision taken due to the increasing burden on the Bengal Presidency. When Bengal was divided based on the Hindu and Muslim populations on October 16, 1905, people of both religions strongly opposed it. After the success of the Swadeshi Movement, on December 12, 1911, East and West Bengal were reunited, but Assam, Bihar, and Odisha were separated from Bengal.

Before the formation of Bihar, several events took place. In 1906, Sachchidananda Sinha and Narayan Mishra initiated a campaign to separate Bihar from Bengal by sending pamphlets throughout the country. Sachchidananda wrote in his book that he made various efforts to separate Bihar from Bengal, but most of the journalists in Bengal started publishing against his campaign. Even the first English newspaper of Bihar, ‘The Bihar Herald,’ whose editor was Guru Prasad Sen, was against the idea of separating Bihar from Bengal because they believed that Bihar would become economically and politically weaker as a result.

Growing Demand for a Separate Bihar State

In 1906, Lord Minto was appointed as the new Viceroy. By that time, the desire for a separate state had been deeply rooted among the people of Bihar. According to the book ‘The Urban Studies’ by Prabhash P. Singh and Ramesh Pandit, both Hindus, and Muslims in Bihar were raising their voices together for the formation of Bihar as a separate state, and their approach was quite peaceful. No violent or aggressive demonstrations were witnessed during this campaign, which did not pose any problem for the British government.

Bihar Provincial Conferences and Memorandum Submission

In 1908, the first ‘Bihar Provincial Conference’ was organized in Patna under the leadership of Sayyed Ali Imam. In this conference, Syed Mohammad Fakhruddin presented a proposal to make Bihar a separate state, which received support from representatives of all districts of Bihar. On August 14, 1908, Bihar Landholders’ Association, Bihar Provincial Association, and Bihar Provincial Muslim League appointed a delegation.

This delegation submitted a memorandum to the Lieutenant Governor, demanding Bihar to be made a separate state and Patna to be its capital. They also demanded education, healthcare, justice, and administrative facilities for Bihar. Lieutenant Governor Sir Edward Baker assured that immediate steps would be taken to remove obstacles in the development of Bihar and its people. The second Bihar Provincial Conference was held in Bhagalpur in 1909, with Sachchidananda Sinha as its president.

Bihar’s Progress through Intellectuals’ Representation

For the progress of Bihar, intellectuals in Bihar started receiving good positions in the Indian government. Mazharul Haq and Sachchidananda Sinha were made members of the Imperial Legislative Council, while Syed Sharfuddin was appointed as a judge in the Calcutta High Court. Sometime later, Syed Ali Imam was appointed a permanent counselor to the Indian government.

Sachchidananda Sinha wrote in his book that he attended a ceremony of the Imperial Legislative Council as a member in 1910. During that time, he was invited to lunch with Viceroy Lord Minto. Lord Minto mentioned to Sachchidananda Sinha that after M.P. Sinha’s retirement from the Indian government, they were looking for a new Indian member in the Law. Lord Minto said that he wanted to give this position to a qualified Muslim person.

Sachchidananda Sinha’s Strategic Move for Bihar’s Statehood

Taking advantage of the opportunity, Sachchidananda Sinha recommended his friend Barrister Syed Ali Imam’s name. The next day, Viceroy Lord Minto handed over the letter written by M.P. Sinha to Sachchidananda Sinha, which was meant for Syed Ali Imam. When Sachchidananda Sinha showed the letter to Ali Imam, he initially hesitated but when he was told that accepting this position could make it easier for Bihar to achieve the status of a separate state, Syed Ali Imam accepted the position.

With this clever strategy, Bihar obtained the status of a state and an executive council. Sachchidananda Sinha writes in his book that during the Imperial Legislative Council ceremony in the following year, 1911, he stayed at the residence of Syed Ali Imam, who had been appointed as a law member. At that time, there was much discussion about the visit of Britain’s King to India.

Bihar’s Transformation into a Separate State with an Executive Council

Sachchidananda’s friend, Mohammed Ali, informed him that King George V of Britain was going to declare himself the “Emperor” of India by holding a Durbar in Delhi, and it was also possible that Delhi would be made the capital of British rule. In response, Sachchidananda Sinha demanded that Syed Ali Imam take steps to establish Bihar as a separate administrative state and suggested that they do something that would be the greatest gift to the people of Bihar from the hands of the British King.

When Syed Ali Imam read the pamphlet printed by Sachchidananda, he said, “Let’s assume that there is a regional change in Bengal, even then Bihar will not be able to obtain an executive council. Sachchidananda examined several law books and then discovered that if the word ‘Council’ is added to ‘Governor’ or ‘Lieutenant Governor,’ it would be considered an executive council in the Constitution.

When Sachchidananda informed Syed Ali Imam about this, he said that if he wrote a proposal for the state of Bihar, they would use the term ‘Lieutenant Governor in Council’ instead of ‘Executive Council for Bihar.’
On December 12, 1911, King George V of Britain announced in the Delhi Durbar that Bihar-Odisha would be granted the status of a new state under the title ‘Lieutenant Governor in Council.’

Bihar’s High Court Establishment

Finally, on March 22, 1912, Bihar was transformed into a new state, along with an executive council, and in 1916, Bihar also obtained its own High Court.

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Syed Jafar Imam, born in Kishanganj, began his journey in journalism from Delhi in 2017. He has worked for Public Vichar, A.M. 24 Bihar, Scribblers India, Swan Tree Foundation, and Jamia Patrika. Since the publication of his book "A Panic Attack On The Subway" in 2021, he has been vocal on social media about mental health issues.

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