Thursday, August 26, 2021

Why did British occupy sovereign power of Bengal?

 Why did British occupy sovereign power of Bengal? 

British had come to India for trading but the fall of central leadership of Mughal Emperor created an opportunity for them to intervene in the military and political needs of the infighting provincial authorities. Their arms and trained soldiers were in great demand. 

The growth of opium trade had much to do with trade reciprocity, and the British appetite for tea and likes for silk and porcelain pottery. Sweetened tea had become an item of mass consumption in Britain. China was enjoying favourite trade balance with Europe, selling them porcelains, silk and tea exchanged for silver and gold. China was importing nothing from Britain, therefore, the ships would land in Canton (Guangzhou) empty, making tea import very expensive. British did start large scale tea production in India. 

The interest of the British was in the substantial opium cultivation in Bengal territories which the British wanted for export to China. That made the Diwani (revenue collection) worthwhile and when the margins were seen to be huge for the sovereign, it made sense to be the sovereign rather than the revenue collector. This promoted British to expand market of opium in China, using the manufacturing base of India.  By 1787, the company was sending 4000 chests of opium (each 77 kg) per annum. It went to 60000 chests by the 1800s. Poppy cultivation was like contract farming, where 2500 clerks of East India Company with 100 offices controlled millions of peasants. Slavery was banned in British Empire in 1833 but the conditions of farmers/labourers (men and women) who signed contract and cultivating opium, tea and indigo weren’t better than for slaves. 

China had developed millions of addicts and when the Chinese government banned the import of opium, the traders continued to smuggle. When the consignment of 20000 chests of opium was confiscated in 1839, British Govt waged Opium Wars (1839-42, 1856-60) on behalf of the merchants and won, forced China to open up ports for British Indian Opium and cede the island of Hongkong to the Crown to boot. What a human tragedy! Opium financed British rule in India.

When Chinese made trade in opium illegal, the East India Company sidestepped the ban by auctioning its opium off to smarter traders to smuggle to China. The company had given license to private traders to trade-smuggle opium in China. Many business communities tried but Parsis of Bombay flourished in opium trade with Canton (China) and generated fabulous wealth and constructed buildings in Bombay. Traders like Parsi Bahram Modi became successful in opium trading and became Barry Moddie but later faced bankruptcy when Chinese emperor ordered seizure of his rouge consignment. 

Parsis trade relations were developed from the time of Dutch East India Company. Their relations with Dutch in Surat and thereafter in Bombay placed them in advantageous position compared to others. With the rise of British, they sailed well with them too. The Bombay opium merchants later had moved to textiles in 19th century because they were unable to repatriate profits from China trade. 

Incidentally, the British layer awarded the monopoly opium trading to one company. Under the name Tata & Co, Ratanji Ratanbhoy Tata (first cousin of Jamsedji) ran an opium importing business in China, which was legal at the time. It is only subsequently that TATA moved to industry. TATAs were in the trading business before they ventured into industry with the start of the railroad business, that is how TELCO and TISCO started in Jamshedpur manufacturing rails and steel trusses for bridges and assembly of steam locos. Concrete made its way as late as the 1930 and later. Obviously the opium legacy is never mentioned in the History of the House of Tatas. One can rationalise it now by either stating that everybody has the right to turn over a new leaf and further that the present Tata group cannot be held accountable for what was considered as legitimate business.

One of the reasons for the backwardness and lawlessness in Bihar is the Narco culture that has been in vogue since the best part of last 500 years. The cultivation required cheap and forced labour and education of the masses was the antithesis of it. So the most fertile areas of Gangetic plain in Bihar, such as the Motihari, Dharbhanga, Bhagalpur region and through Nepal also provided land route to China have remained backward. The institution thrived in feudalist environment. 

In present era, Afghanistan is considered origin point of drugs smuggled to India via Pakistan. Poppy cultivation (2.2 lakh hac) is the chief source of their funding. Taliban’s growth in Afghanistan would lead to a spurt in smuggling of drugs and narco terrorism into India. Our agencies shall remain vigilant but we shall also not forget that India acted as a manufacturing base for cultivating poppy and exporting and smuggling ‘British Indian Opium’ to China during British rule. India remains the world’s biggest producer of legal opium for the global pharmaceutical market. 


26 August 2021

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Sub faith matters in Muslim marriages

 Sub faith matters in Muslim marriages 

Meer Jafar hold back his throne of Bengal after the defeat of Meer Quasim in the battle of Buxar in 1764. He was succeeded by his four sons one after another after his death in 1765. His first successor son Najimuddin Ali Khan was 15 years old and died of fever caught in a party given in honour of Clive in 1766. Thereafter, Jafar’s two sons, Najabat Ali Khan (21 Y) and Ashraf Ali Khan (11 Y) succeeded one after another in a period of one week as both died of small pox during Great Bengal Famine of 1770. Finally the fourth son 12 years old Mubarak Ali Khan when coronated in March 1770. They became puppet Nawab and were pensioners of the East India Company. But look at their pride. 

In 1790, the Queen of the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II, asked, through Lord Cornwallis, for one of Nawab Mubarak ud-Daulah's daughters in marriage with her son. The Nawab rejected the offer in the following terms, in a letter to Lord Cornwallis:

“Please request the Queen to pass over the matter. I cannot, by any means, accede to the proposal. there are many obstacles in the matter. Moreover, there is a longstanding usage in my family, that our daughters can never be given in marriage to any one other than Sayyids. If I act contrary to this, my family custom, I shall be ruined. At all events, my mother and I cannot accept the offer”. 

—Nawab Nazim Mubarak ud-Daulah of Bengal

Although, the Nawab, then had 13 daughters, and to some extent regarded himself as a servant of the Emperor, he, for family reasons, did not allow the marriage of one of the 13 with even such an honourable prince as the Prince of Delhi.

Not only in Hindus, but Muslims had reservation of races in marriage. Unlike the Mughals who were Sunni, the Nawab of Bengal and Awadh were Shia Muslim. 


25 August 2021

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Rise and fall of East India Company -3

 Rise and fall of East India Company-3 

It was might be an act of a lower rank Jemmaattdaars, but 10 hours (8 pm to 6 am) night of 20 June 1756 wrote the history of slavery for India. The Black Hole of Calcutta killing 120 of 146 (43 of 64) war prisoners by suffocation in a dungeon of 14x18 feet in Fort William fired the spirit and revenge of the British in India. Lieutenant Colonel Robert Clive was stationed in Madras retaliated and using shoulders of Mir Jafar and one local rich man, defeated and killed Siraj ud Daulah, the Nawab of Bengal in the battle of Plassey. 750 British soldiers with 2100 Indian Sepoy won the battle against 35000 infantry and 5000 cavalry of the Nawab. 5000 infantry and 15000 cavalry of Mir Jafar defected. The casualties were 22  on British side and 500 on Nawab side in a battle fought for 11 hours. What a shameful drama and defeat!

Before battle of Plassey in 1757, the establishment of the East India Company had been almost commercial. The effect of the battle was to raise Mir Jafar against company enemy Siraj I’d Daulah. Mir Jafar was disposed of in favour of his son in law Mir Quasim but he lost battles of Katwa, Murshidabad, Giria and Muger against the Company in 1763. He formed confederation with Nawab of Awadh Shuja ud Daulah and Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II and faced East India Company Forces under Hector Munro who with 7000 disciplined troops of British Army and 30 cannons defeated the native army of indisciplined 40000 soldiers having 140 cannons. 

Battle of Buxar (1764) rather than Plassey deserves to be considered the origin of British power in Bengal, as from that time found no native ruler exercised any real authority there. British defeated three Muslim powers of India. In the 3rd battle of Panipat neither Muslim nor Sikh supported the Marathas and they lost the battle against Ahmad Shah Abdali. In the battle of Buxar the Muslims rulers were isolated and they lost it against British. Mughal emperor granted diwani or rights to collect revenue throughout Bengal, Bihar and Orissa to the East India Company. 

However, from 1765 to 1772, the civil administration was in the hands of natives. The head of Bengal administration was Muhammad Rheza Khan, Dy Nawab of Bengal and Sehitab Roy in Bihar. In 1774, Warren Hastings was appointed as Governor General who abolished the places and removed both the heads through the agency of Nandkumar. Nandkumar was the first Collector appointed for tax collection by the East India Company was later executed by hanging in August 1775. It was height of the authority that Nandkumar was tried guilty by the Supreme Court of Calcutta and was hanged in 1775 under the the Forgery Act of 1728 enacted for England.  For committing this judicial murder, the GG Hastings along with his friend Chief Justice Elijah Impey was impeached by the Parliament of England. 

The Company was a political authority and was subject to the Emperor of Delhi and to the Nawab of Bengal but not to the Parliament of England. But when it went to the Government for financial assistance after the huge losses following famine (1770) in Bengal, and knowing the spectacular exploits of Clive, the Parliament of England took up the opportunity, enacted Regulatory Act 1773 and extended its political jurisdiction to “British Possession in India”. It was further corrected by the Pitt’s India Act 1774, resulted in dual control on British Possession in India by the Company with the final authority resting with the Govt of England. The Board of Control (political affairs) of EIC was kept under the Govt and the Court of Directors (commercial affairs) was under the Company.

The Court of Directors (COD) was the most important administrative organ of the East India Company, had 24 members and was major policy making body of the company. 12 major committees of nine members each handled different aspects of company affairs. Most important was the Committee of Correspondence which dealt with the political affairs and the administration of the various Indian establishments. The General Court of the Proprietors was the forum where company stockholders elect members of the COD expressed their opinions and had right to reverse the decision of the COD. But with passage of Pitt’s India Act, this power was withdrawn. 

In the early part of the 18th century the main thrust of the company was commercial, but this began to change as the French challenged British interests in India and conditions on the subcontinent demanded political and military involvement. The Army of the Company in India was made of three forces: King’s Troops, Company Army and locals. Before Arcot, in February 1760, 63% of the army was made up of King’s troops. During the war years the Company could sent 1001, 488, 202 and 197 army men to India in the years 1754, 1755, 1759 and 1761 respectively. In 1778, there were 10926 European Soldiers in India and 70,093 natives serving both the armies. The best men available were assigned to the artillery. 

Initially, when the Company was engaged in waging wars, units of regular army were sent to India to supplement the Company troops but that gave rise to disputes between the two military organisations regarding honours and status. The company army had manpower problem in addition to competition with the regular army. The high death rate caused by the long and dangerous passage to India and debilitating effect of tropical diseases drained the company forces. Service in India was terrifying many Englishmen. 

Unlike the regular army recruited by the Duke of York where the Army officers were free to roam the country, beating up for men. The Company was forced to deal with the agents or Crimps who for certain financial rewards (one guinea per raised man), supply the company with recruits. They had no authority for beating up in cities or market towns, by which means they are reduced to employ criminals and kidnappers to pick up men, as they can, at a great expense. Those only come, who from some defect, would not be received anywhere else or who from their debauchery and profligacy are in danger of a gaol and fly to the lock up houses of the company as a shelter. Due to scarcity of men the Company therefore used lock up houses to keep the men prisoners until the ships sailed. Their recruits after having been months confined go abroad the ships, as raw as ever, and ten thousand time more corrupted in body and mind. A great proportion of them die in the passage, and the rest carry insolence, mutiny, profligacy, debauchery and disease into their armies in India. It was most corrupt and inefficient method of raising men. The crimps were dumping men and lads on outward bound vessels within days and hours of sailing without training or due process of law. 

The company couldn’t find enough men therefore out of the recruits from 1771 (2049), 1772 (1429), 1776 (776), 1777 (728), 1778 (1684), 1779 (275) and 1780 (665); 65% of them were under 20 years age and 32% were 16 years or less. 46% were 5’2” or under. 30-35% were Irish born. One of the MPs, Thomas Townsend was saying, let them take the worst of men to die in India. 

There were cases where most recruits died at sea. In 1760, for example, out of 53 officers and men on the ship Osterdy, 33 died at sea. At the same year, 43 of the 61 men on the Worcester never reached India. In subsequent years, the death rate reduced but unfortunately, no details available of the physical conditions of those who were alive when their ships docked in India. Of the recruits, on an average kept 17.5% of the men away reporting for duty either sick or discharged. Death rate was 5.8%. 

The Company had a license renewed every year for recruiting army for Indian. But to maintain its independence from Govt, it had delayed the reforms for 30 years. To implement reforms, the Govt authority withheld the license and brought it to reform agenda. 

GG Lord Cornwallis was angry with the practice of sending ‘gentle men’ who are unfit for the duties of private soldiers but enrolled as recruits merely so get a passage on board the chartered ships to India. He began complaining to the company about the poor quality of the recruits. He had doubts that the six company battalions, he could complete one serviceable battalion onto that day establishment. He had shipped them back so many invalids, ‘height and age’ were being lowered, he protested. He objected the practice of taking sailors. He was unhappy with the quality of the wretched objects and proposed reforms including creation of training depot for the new recruits. His critics countered him by saying that he was more interested in how the men looked during parade than their fighting qualities. 

Finally reforms came in 1799, thereafter the recruitment was governed under GOI Act 1800 where the company officers were to recruit manpower under the IG of the Army. Training depot was set up. The company was given powers to punish the recruits on England soil. 

After ruling for 190 years, British left India by gifting their legacy of ‘gentle men’. 

23 August 2021

Monday, August 23, 2021

Rise and fall of East India Company-2

 Rise and fall of East India Company-2

Mughal Empire lost wealth and prestige both after the invasion of Nader Shah and it was disintegrated rapidly. Rebellions and disloyalty became commonplace. Muhammad Shah Rangila tried to regain his strength with the help of Asaf Jah I (the first Nizam of Hyderabad), developed diplomatic tie with Ottomans and his army defeated another foe Ahmad Shah Durani (Abdali) in the battle of Manupur in 1748. However, the heavy casualties made him sick and he died due to grief on 26 April 1748. Trusted noble man Nizam Asaf Jah I died on 1 June 1748. His successor emperors couldn’t stop the collapsing empire. His successor Ahmad Shah Bahadur was defeated by Maratha in the battle of Sikandarabad in 1753. He was blinded and imprisoned in 1754 and was succeeded by Alamgir II. Abdali invaded Punjab twice and established his control over Punjab, Sind and Kashmir in 1749 and 1752 and third time captured Delhi and Mathura in 1756. Maratha became the power centre. They had captured Gujarat and Orissa and installed Shah Alam II (Ali Gohar) as Mughal emperor under Maratha control. The empire of 17th Mughal emperor Shah Alam was squeezed from Delhi to Palam. The disintegrated subjects of Mughal in Deccan brought the Marathas and Muslims into direct conflicts that had strengthened the position of English and French in India. Maratha lost their strength after their defeat against Abdali in the third battle of Panipat in 1761. 

On Bengal side, the Clever Clerk Clive used a mean of bribery to win the battle of Plassey in 1757 and made the British East India Company a Nawab maker as Mir Jafar betrayed Sirajudaula and later Mir Quasim betrayed Mir Jafar. Mir Quasim was smarter, made union with the Nawab of Awadh Shuja ud Daula and Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II and took on British East India Company in the battle of Buxar on 23 October 1764 but lost. It was a turning point of Indian history as the defeat forced the Emperor Shah Alam II to sign “Allahabad Treaty” on 12 August 1765 to grant “Diwani” (to collect revenue) of Bengal (it includes Bihar and Orissa) to the British East India Company in return for an annual tribute of ₹ 2.6 million to be paid by the company from the collected revenue. The company was exempted from the tax. Nawab of Awadh paid ₹5 million as war indemnity to BEIC and became dependent on company for security of state. BEIC became the imperial tax collector from 20 million people. The company appointed a deputy Nawab Muhammad Reza Khan to collect revenue on behalf of the company. Clive pocketed £234,000 (current value £23 m) and transferred to EIC treasury £2.5 million (current value £250 m) seized from the defeated rulers of Bengal. 

However, the turf was not that easy. Famine (1770) in Bengal led to massive shortfalls in expected land revenue. EIC was left with debt of £1.5 million and a bill of £ 1 million unpaid tax owned to the Crown. The directors of the company took loan from Bank of London and British Government in 1772.  The Govt passed Regulating Act of 1773 and to control political policy in India passed India Act of 1784. The company appointed Warren Hastings as the first Governor General in 1784. The man who founded British rule in India Robert Clive committed suicide in 1784 by slitting his own throat with a paperknife. His remains in Shropshire village marked with a small wall plaque inscribed: “PRIMUS IN INDIS”. 

It was a ‘dual rule’, where East India company was enacting laws to maximise collection of revenue and the Nawab appointed by Mughal emperor looked after affairs of the province. The company later discontinued tribute of ₹2.6 million and abolished Nizamat and annexed Bengal in 1793. 

The Maratha captured Delhi in 1771 and Shah Alam II returned to the throne. Mughals became Maratha protectorate. Maratha occupied Delhi for two decades. But infightings amongst Marathas took price. Peshawa and Scindia were defeated by Holkar. Peshwa Bajirao II fled to EIC and signed treaty of Bassein in 1802, known as the death knell of Maratha Empire. Divided they were defeated by the EIC in second Anglo Maratha War in 1803-05. Mughals became British protectorate. 

EIC was an outsourced company, took over Diwani rights, raised force of Indian Sipoy to collect revenue and became a big arm force in the country. The company London office had permanent staff of 159, but it had made armies of Indian Sepoys in Bengal, Madras and Bombay by 1785. When they captured Delhi in 1803, it had 2.6 lakh soldiers, twice to British Army of that time. Indian rulers were ceiling territory to the company for the maintenance of subsidiary force and making the British Empire bigger. It was an “empire within empire” with a vast and sophisticated administration and civil service. There were two India. India under direct rule of the company and Princely India under the suzerainty of the Company. 

The Diwani was a legal document of the company not the Crown even though the Govt had spent a massive sum on naval and military operations protecting the EIC in India. It is said that it was not the British government that seized India at the end of the 18th century, but a dangerously unregulated private company headquartered in one small office, five windows wide, in London, and managed in India by an unstable sociopath. However 1/3 of the MPs were holding company’s stock and therefore, it was protected by British foreign policy where the Company was the trade face but British Crown was the power face behind. It was beginning of British rule and loot in India. Artisans and weavers were made slaves and Indian markets were flooded with British products. 


23 August 2021

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Rise and fall of East India Company

 Rise and Fall of East India Company-1

It is the spending capacity of a King or a Company that makes his/its army big or small and accordingly he/it acquires power or empire. 

The story of the rise of British in India starts with Afghan rebels. They were disturbing the kingdom of Persian Emperor Nader Shah, creating insurgence and used to run away to Indian side. 13th Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah Rangila didn’t respond to Nader’s repeated requests to deliver the afghan rebels to him. Rangila became more Indian as he replaced Persian with Urdu as Court language and replaced Turkic Robe with Sherwani. 

After the death of Aurangzeb on March 3, 1707, none of the emperors were as cautious as Akbar and as brave as Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb stayed in south for 27 years to curb Maratha and didn’t return to Delhi. Maratha and others had sacked the power of Mughals after his death. By 1739, the Mughals were weak and many of the provinces had acquired autonomy. Nader knew that the emperor was weak but still extremely wealthy. Therefore, he invaded India and defeated the big army of Sada Rangila (pen name of Muhammad Shah) in a battle of Karnal on February 13, 1739. Rangila handed over the keys of Red Fort to Nader Shah who looted the treasures of Mughal empire amassed in its 200 years of conquest. His returned caravan of riches includes Peacock Throne, Koh-I-Noor, Darya Nur; 700 elephants, 4000 camels and 12000 horses carrying wagons all laden with gold, silver and precious stones, worth an estimated £87.5 million in the currency of the time. An empire from Kabul to Madras with one third contribution in world GDP was sacked when East India Company was operating from the home of its governor with a permanent staff of few clerks. 

It was a meeting of 80 merchants and adventurers at the Founders Hall in London on September 24, 1599, agreed to petition Queen ElizabethI to start up a company. A year later, it received a Royal charter, giving them a monopoly for 15 years over the “trade to the East” with a right “to wage war”. A joint stock British East India Company was founded on December 31, 1600 “by command of the King and Parliament of England” (Auspicio Regis RT Senatus Angliae). 

William Hawkins, the first British man of EEC landed at Surat on August 28, 1608, made his way to Agra, met the emperor Jahangir and returned to England with a wife offered to him by the emperor. Six years later, Jahangir welcomed Sir Thomas Roe, the Royal envoy of King James in 1614. He resided in Agra for three years, developed friendship with the emperor and became his drink partner. He initially failed to convince the emperor to grant trading rights to EEC but when Empress Noorjehan fell ill at Ajmer, the British doctor cured her fever with allopathic medicines, won confidence of the emperor and obtained permission and protection for the EEC factory in Surat. 


22 August 2021

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