Development After Aurangzeb’s Death
- It was in 1705 that Aurangzeb appointed Murshid Quli Jafar Khan as the Governor of Bengal and later on placed Orissa also under his authority.
- Murshid Quli transferred his capital from Dacca to Murshidabad, and soon after the death of Aurangzeb, developed a practically independent authority thus founding a new ruling dynasty in those provinces.
- He died in 1727, and was succeeded by his son-in-law, Shuja-ud-daula Khan who added Bihar also to his authority where he appointed Alivardi Khan as his deputy.
- When Shuja-ud-daula died in 1739, his son Sarfaraz Khan succeeded him.
- Through Isha Khan, Alivardi approached the emperor for a Sanad to fight Sarfaraz and occupying the government of the provinces himself, promising in return to present the imperial exchequer an amount of one crore rupees in addition to an annual tribute of the same amount and all the wealth he would confiscate from Sarfaraz.Aurangzeb
- By the middle of March 1740 he received orders from Delhi approving of his scheme and on 10 April 1740 he defeated and killed Sarfaraz in a fierce battle near Giria and captured the vice-royalty of Bengal for himself.
- Alivardi Khan who ruled Bengal, Bihar and Orissa from 1740 to 1756, should probably have proved an efficient ruler. But the repeated Maratha incursions into his territories made his days bitter and did not permit the country’s trade, agriculture and industries to flourish.
- In 1751 the Marathas forced a treaty on the nawab under which he agreed to pay them twelve lakh rupees annually as chauth.
- The Marathas also occupied Orissa and encouraged the nawab’s Afghan generals and soldiers to rebel against his authority.
- So long as he lived, Alivardi, however, was able to exert his authority over the Europeans.
- During the Anglo-French conflicts in the Deccan, the nawab closely watched their movements in Bengal, though he himself remained strictly neutral.
- When Alivardi Khan died in 1756, he had no son to succeed him. His three daughters were married, one to the governor of Purnea, the second to that of Dacca and the third to that of Patna.
- But all his sons-in-laws predeceased him, and he had to designate Siraj-ud-Daula, his grandson from his favourite youngest daughter, as his heir-apparent.
- For Siraj-ud-Daula, however, the throne of Bengal was not a bed of roses. He was merely in his twenties when he ascended the throne.
- His succession was immediately challenged by his cousin Shaukat Jang who was the son of the second daughter of Alivardi Khan at Purnea.
- Shaukat Jang raised a standard of revolt. Besides, Alivardi also had to reckon with the jealousy of his aunt Ghasiti Begum who was supported by her dewan Rajballabh.
- The events in the Deccan had taught him not to rely on the Europeans in Bengal while he also feared the Hindu restlessness under the continuing Muslim rule.
Events Leading to the Battle of Plassey
- By appealing to the sentiments of Ghasiti Begum, Siraj was able to win her over and then carried her to his own palace where she was placed under a strict surveillance.
- He then marched against Shaukat Jang, but before he could accomplish his job at Purnea, he turned about and marched against the British.
- It does not seem correct that at his death-bed Alivardi had advised Siraj to reduce the power of the Europeans in Bengal. He rather enjoined upon him not to quarrel with them.
- Siraj’s own attitude towards the Europeans, and particularly towards the English before he came to power, was sympathetic, as it is clear from the “utmost politeness and distinction” with which he received the president of the English Company when he came to Hooghly in 1752 after being designated heir-apparent. After his accession to the throne, however, the circumstances soon changed, which eventually brought about a rupture between him and the English.
- The study of the causes of this rupture is interesting. The story of the developments in the Deccan where Nasir Jang was murdered and the French established a protectorate at Hyderabad, and the story of Clive’s exploits at Arcot were well known to Siraj-ud-Daula. And his fears that the Europeans might create a similar situation in Bengal also were not quite unfounded. The following words which the Select Committee at Madras addressed to that in Calcutta in 1756, are revealing:
“We need not represent to you the great advantage which, we think, it will be to the military operations and the influence it will have in the nawab’s councils to effect a junction with any powers in the Provinces of Bengal that may be dissatisfied with the violence of the Nawab’s Government or that may have pretensions to the subaship.”
The Nawab’s enemy Shaukat Jang was said to be in correspondence with the British to get their help. Ghasiti Begum and her dewan Rajballabh also appreciated the English power and sympathy. All these developments were bound to make the nawab cautious towards these foreigners.
- Bitterness between the nawab and the English developed when Krishnaballabh, the son of Rajballabh, took protection under the British.
- Rajballabh had earned disfavor of the Nawab by some embezzlements of money, and his son was said to have carried to Calcutta all the wealth thus hoarderd, getting his admission into that city by bribing at least two men of Fort William with “upwards of fifty thousand rupees”, for protection against the Nawab. The Nawab’s demand to surrender Krishnaballabh was refused by the British.
- Then, the imperial firman of 1716-17 had granted some trade privileges to the British Company whereby they traded in Bengal custom-free.
- But this privilege began to be abused by the servants of the Company under the Company’s dustaks (free-trade passes) which they not only frequently used in their own private trade, but even went so far as to sell them to some Indian traders.
- The matter was precipitated when fresh hostilities in Europe broke out between the English and the French in the shape of the Seven-Year’s war.
- In view of this, the English and the French, both started raising fortifications in Calcutta and Chandernagore respectively. Both of them had assured Alivardi Khan to remain peaceful in Bengal, but now they seemed to be preparing for an open clash between them.
- The Nawab was naturally incensed and objected to such violation of his dominions. The French stopped their fortifications, but the British continued with their job.
- His passion for a quick revenge, young man as he was, however, got the better of him, and early in June 1756, the Nawab attacked and captured the British factory at Kasimbazar, taking Watts, its chief, a prisoner.
- On the 5th the Nawab’s estimated 50,000 sepoys appeared before Calcutta. Their attack on the northern side of the town was repulsed, where after, on 15 June Fort William was besieged. Four days after this, Drake together with most of the members of his council, joined by women and children, escaped through the back door down the river Hooghly and landed at Fulta.
- The besieged force. thus deserted by its leaders, placed command in the hands of one Holwell but their resistance could not last for more than two days, and ultimately they were compelled to surrender.
The Black HoleBlack hole of Calcutta
- Those who thus surrendered were taken by the Nawab’s officers to a dark cell within the fort.
- The cell was eighteen feet long and fourteen feet ten inches wide. Only two holes, barricaded with iron bars, admitted air from the dark. When the door was finally locked on them, 145 men, including twelve wounded officers, and one woman, Mary Carey, had been forcibly thrust and crammed into the prison. The next day at six a.m., ten hours after the lock had been turned in the door, when the door was opened, twenty-two men and one woman staggered across the bodies of their companions and stumbled out, one at a time, into the fresh air of the parade ground, leaving a hundred and twenty-three dead behind.
- J.Z. Holwell was one of the survivors, and it is from the graphic account which he prepared nine months after the event during his voyage home to England that most of the later references to this event have been drawn.
British March and the Peace Treaty
- When the news of the disaster in Calcutta reached Madras, the authorities there decided immediately to take steps to recover their settlement, failing which, they knew, they would lose their prestige in the eyes of Indians as it would weaken them before the French.
- They despatched Admiral Watson who was to command the expedition to Bengal by sea, and Colonel Clive who was put in charge of the expedition by land.
- Nine hundred Europeans and fifteen hundred Indian sepoys sailed with them on 16 October 1756.
- The fugitives at Fulta were relieved in December, while on 2 January 1757 they secured Calcutta from Manik Chand who had been bribed and who surrendered after a show of resistance.
- All this roused the Nawab’s anger and he collected 40,000 men and marched towards Calcutta with the determination to drive out the British once for all.
- But he was not known for tenacity of purpose, and after crossing the Hooghly on 30 January when Clive delivered a surprise attack on him, he was completely unnerved, not withstanding the fact that the fight was indecisive.
- Preponderantly large army as compared to that of the enemy did not give him the strength of mind needed in a war, and he accepted the advice of his officers to sign peace.
- When the proposal for peace came from the Nawab, Clive accepted it. A treaty was signed on 9 February 1757.
It is provided that:
- All the privileges secured by the British from the emperor of Delhi, were confirmed .
- The British would continue enjoying right to dastaks within Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.
- Their factories would be restored and they would be compensated for all other losses.
- They would be free to fortify Calcutta as they desired;
- They would have the right to coin their own money. In return for all this the British signed an offensive and defensive alliance with the Nawab.
- Immediately after that Clive captured the French settlement of Chandernagore.
Conspiracy Against the Nawab
- There was dissatisfaction among the nobles of the Nawab. Some Hindu bankers like Jagat Seth and zamindars like Maharaja Krishanachandra of Nadia disliked the Nawab for his anti-Hindu policies.
- Then a conspiracy seemed afoot to make Mir Jafar the Nawab. Mir Jafar was a commander of the Nawab’s forces, who had married the sister of Alivardi Khan.
- When, Clive learnt from Watts, the Company’s Resident at Murshidabad towards the end of April 1757, that the conspirators wanted the British to join them to overthrow the Nawab in favour of Mir Jafar, he readily agreed.
- The conspirators signed an agreement. It was believed that the Nawab’s treasury contained 40 million sterlings.
- Mir Jafar agreed that if he were placed on the throne:
- He would compensate through the British everybody for the losses suffered during Siraj-ud-Daula’s attack on Calcutta. Thus the Company would get a crore of rupees on this account, fifty lakhs would be distributed among the European residents of Calcutta, twenty lakhs among Hindus and Muslims and seven lakhs among the Armenians who had suffered losses.
- He was also to reward the company with certain territories.
- He would not raise any fortification near Hooghly.
- He would enter into an offensive and defensive alliance with the British.
- He agreed to deliver up to them all the Frenchmen and their property in the provinces of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.
- When the above secret agreement was drawn up, Omichand, a Sikh merchant at Calcutta, acted as the go between.
The Battle of Plassey
Battle of plasseyWhen everything was ready Clive wrote to the Nawab charging him of having violated the treaty of 1757, and without awaiting the reply he marched towards Plassey, a distance of fifteen miles, reaching there at one o’clock on the morning of June 23.
The Significance of the Battle of Plassey
- The British agreed to receive only one-half of the stipulated amount and the remainder within three years thereafter by equal six-monthly installments.
- The company also received the territory of 24 Parganas.
- Clive himself benefited to the tune of sixteen lakh rupees.
- Besides, the Company got full freedom to trade throughout the Nawab’s dominions.
- It established subordinate factories in the interior of the province and established its mint at Calcutta from which the first E.I.C. rupee appeared on 19 August 1757.
- The Battle of Plassey demonstrated bankruptcy of the existing system of administration, it brought to the surface the internal dissensions in the State and clearly exhibited that the days of the Muslim rule in Bengal were now numbered.
- As a result of the British success in this battle, the other European powers were completely eliminated from the political scene in Bengal.
- The French were delivered to the British hands and feet tied, and no other European power could now dare challenge the British supremacy in that part of the country.
- The judicial machinery of Bengal was paralysed, its law and order were wrecked and its wealth steadily drained out to England sapping its vitality till the country became poor and its people turned paupers.
- In 1772 two committees examined witnesses and published details. They found that between 1757 and 1766 no less than 2,169,665 had been given by the natives to the Company’s servants in presents, besides the yearly income of 30,000 paid to Clive as a noble of the Mughal empire, while 3,770,833 had been paid in compensation for losses.