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Bengal Governor’s Fortnightly Report

Bengal Governor's Fortnightly Report practice of reporting fortnightly by the Governor to the Viceroy and Governor General was introduced by Lord linlithgow (1936-1943) at the very inception of provincial autonomy under the Government of india act, 1935. The practice continued uninterrupted until the final transfer of power in 1947. A copy of the fortnightly report marked as confidential, secret, or private was directly transmitted to the Secretary of State for India in London and eventually deposited with the record branch of the India Office Library and Records. Once these reports reached London they went through an exclusive review process generating many notations and comments, which were reflective of imperial processes. Originally archived as classified in the provenance of Public and Judicial, all these documents are now accessible to researchers.

The fortnightly reports of the Governor of Bengal, the highest representative of the Crown in the province, dealt with a variety of events, subjects, and issues that were perceived to be important by the Governor to appraise the Viceroy on provincial matters, and matters of other imperial concerns. The foci of these reports were the political developments of the province, especially the implementation and operation of schemes of provincial autonomy, and highlights of many significant matters not otherwise reported or recorded. This maze of routine bureaucratic transactions presented an array of facts and interpretation of the intricacies of British colonialism and imperialism in India in general and in Bengal in particular.

With the implementation of provincial autonomy, the annual published unclassified 'Report on the Administration of Bengal was terminated, thereby denying public access to any official versions of the administrative and political developments of the province except the departmental annual reports and occasional other documents of public interest. Since the Governor's reports were classed as top secret, the public and the politicians of the time had no means of gaining any understanding of the workings and minds of the British bureaucracy, and as such were at a great disadvantage. Obviously there was no openness in the administrative policy.

Routine enclosures to the Governor's Reports were the Chief Secretary's Confidential Reports, Press Officer's Reports, the occasional Commissioners Reports and the monthly reports of the Deputy Commissioner of the chittagong hill tracts. The first Report of the governor was dispatched on 17 October 1936 and the last one was dated 12 August 1947.

It needs to be stated that although the fortnightly reports were intended to be 'comprehensive mopping-up' communications, they provided only official versions or the British point of view. Confronted with many facts and events, the governor reported only those that were deemed to be of continuing interest or of immediate relevance, with the imperial interest upper in their minds. The governors were ever suspicious of the 'mischievous' 'conspiratorial' and 'hypocritical' attitude of the Hindu Bengali 'gentry class politics'. Apparently, the governor's sympathies were with the loyal Muslims.

Despite the fact that the reports reflected the imperial point of view, they nevertheless constitute a primary source of Bengal history. [Enayetur Rahim]