BRITISH – NAWAB CONFLICTS IN BENGAL: THE BATTLE OF PLASSEY to THE BATTLE OF BUXAR
The Battle of Plassey
- The Battle of Plassey was a decisive victory of the British East India Company over the Nawab of Bengal Siraj-ud-daulah on 23 June 1757. The battle established the Company rule in Bengal which expanded over much of India for the next hundred years. The battle took place at Plassey on the banks of the Bhagirathi River, about 150 km north of Calcutta and south of Murshidabad, then capital of Bengal.
Background and Causes of Battle
- By the early 18th century, the British East India Company had a strong presence in India with the three main stations of Fort St. George in Madras, Fort William in Calcutta and Bombay Castle in western India. These stations were independent presidencies governed by a President and a Council, appointed by the Court of Directors in England. The British adopted a policy of allying themselves with various princes and Nawabs, promising security against usurpers and rebels. The Nawabs often gave them concessions in return for the security.
- By then, all rivalry had ceased between the British East India Company and the Dutch or Portuguese. The French had also established an East India Company under Louis XIV and had two important stations in India – Chandernagar in Bengal and Pondicherry on the Carnatic coast, both governed by the presidency of Pondicherry. The French were a late comer in India trade, but they quickly established themselves in India and were poised to overtake Britain for control.
- Alwardi Khan ascended to the throne of the Nawab of Bengal in 1740 after his army attacked and captured the capital of Bengal, Murshidabad. Alivardi’s attitude to the Europeans in Bengal was strict. During his wars with the Marathas, he allowed the strengthening of fortifications by the Europeans and the construction of the Maratha Ditch in Calcutta by the British. On the other hand, he collected large amounts of money from them for the upkeep of his war.
- (Maratha Ditch was a three-mile long moat excavated by British around Calcutta in 1742, as a protection against possible attacks by Marathas. The “natives” had to pay for the construction of the Maratha Ditch to protect the British seat of power, Fort William.The Marathas, however, never came to the city. Later, the ditch proved to be useless when the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj ud-Daulah, came and ransacked the British settlement in 1756. It was mostly filled up in 1799 to build the Circular Road. The area bound by the ditch was considered to be the original town of Calcutta.)
- Alwardi Khan was well-informed of the situation in southern India, where the British and the French had started a proxy war using the local princes and rulers. He did not wish such a situation to transpire in his province and thus exercised caution in his dealings with the Europeans.
- However, there was continual friction; the British always complained that they were prevented from the full enjoyment of the farman of 1717 issued by Mughal Emperor Farrukhsiyar. (British East India Company had purchased duty-free trading rights in all of Bengal for a mere three thousand rupees a year from Farrukhsiyar. It is said that the Company’s surgeon, William Hamilton, cured Farrukhsiyar and the Emperor was moved to grant trading rights to the Company.)
- The British used to give passes to native traders to trade custom-free and levied large duties on goods coming to their districts – actions which were detrimental to the Nawab’s revenue.
- In April 1756, Alwardi Khan died and was succeeded by his twenty-three-year-old grandson, Siraj-ud-daulah. His personality was said to be a combination of a ferocious temper and a feeble understanding. He was particularly suspicious of the large profits made by the European companies in India.
- The British wanted to occupy the rich and prosperous region of Bengal by subjugating the power of the Nawab and the other European powers.
- Fort William was established to protect the East India Company’s trade in the city of Calcutta, the principal town of the Bengal Presidency. With the possibility of conflict with French forces, the British began building up the fort’s strengths and defences. Siraj ud-Daulah, was unhappy with the company’s interference in the internal affairs of his province and perceived a threat to its independence and immediately ordered them to stop such activities as they were doing it without permission. When the British refused to cease their constructions, the Nawab led a detachment to surround the fort and factory of Cossimbazar and took several British officials as prisoners, before moving to Calcutta. The defenses of Calcutta were weak and negligible especially against the Nawab’s force of nearly 50,000 infantry and cavalry.
- The city was occupied on 16 June by Siraj’s force and the fort surrendered.The garrison’s commander organised an escape, leaving behind 146 soldiers under the command of Holwell, a senior East India Company bureaucrat who had been a military surgeon.The fort fell on 20 June.
The Black Hole of Calcutta
- The Black Hole of Calcutta was a small dungeon in the old Fort William in Calcutta, where troops of the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj ud-Daulah, held British prisoners of war after the capture of the fort on 20 June 1756.
- One of the prisoners, Holwell, claimed that following the fall of the fort, British and Anglo-Indian soldiers and civilians were held overnight in conditions so cramped that 123 prisoners died out of 146 held from suffocation, heat exhaustion and crushing. However, the precise number of deaths, and the accuracy of Holwell’s claims, have been the subject of controversy.
The Holwell’s account
- Holwell wrote about the events after the fall of the fort. He met with Siraj, who assured him “on the word of a soldier that no harm should come to us“. After seeking a place in the fort to confine the 146 prisoners (including Holwell), at 8 pm, the jailers locked the prisoners in the fort’s prison which was 14 by 18 feet in size. When the “Black Hole” was opened the next morning at 6 am, only 23 people were alive.
- Regarding responsibility, Holwell believed that it was the result of revenge and resentment in the breasts of the lower Jemmaatdaars, to whose custody we were delivered, for the number of their order killed during the siege. So Siraj did not order it and was not informed about it.
- After the prison was opened, the corpses were thrown into a ditch. Holwell and three others were sent as prisoners to Murshidabad; the rest of the survivors obtained their liberty after the victory of a relief expedition under Robert Clive.
- As a result of Holwell’s account, Robert Clive was sent in October to retaliate.
- Some argue that, because so many non-combatants were present in the fort when it fell, the number who died cannot be stated with any precision.
- In 1915, British scholar J.H. Little challenged Holwell’s claims in his article, “The ‘Black Hole’ — The Question of Holwell’s Veracity”, arguing that Holwell was an unreliable witness and his veracity is questionable.
- A floor area of 267 square feet could not contain 146 European adults.
- Absence of any independent confirmation: It is stated that apart from Holwell’s account no other source mentioned such an incident. Given its nature, it seems very unlikely that all traces of such a thing having happened would have disappeared.
- Only forty-three of the garrison were listed as missing from Fort William after the incident and therefore the maximum number of deaths could only be forty-three. However, this is also subject to the objection that according to the Holwell account itself, not all the prisoners would have been listed as members of the garrison.
Response of British
- When news of the fall of Calcutta broke in Madras on 16 August 1756, the Council immediately sent out an expeditionary force from Madras under Colonel Clive and Admiral Watson.
- A letter from the Council of Fort St. George, states that “the object of the expedition was not merely to re-establish the British settlements in Bengal, but also to obtain ample recognition of the Company’s privileges and reparation for its losses” without the risk of war. It also states that any signs of dissatisfaction and ambition among the Nawab’s subjects must be supported.
- Clive assumed command of the land forces, consisting of 900 Europeans and 1500 sepoys while Watson commanded a naval squadron. The fleet entered the Hooghly River in December.
- On 29 December, the force dislodged the enemy from the fort of Budge Budge. Clive and Watson then moved against Calcutta on 2 January 1757 and the garrison of 500 men surrendered after offering a scanty resistance.
- With Calcutta recaptured, the Council was reinstated and a plan of action against the Nawab was prepared. The fortifications of Fort William were strengthened and a defensive position was prepared in the north-east of the city
The Bengal Campaign
- On 9 January 1757, a force of 650 men, under Captain Coote and Major Kilpatrick stormed and sacked the town of Hooghly, 37 km north of Calcutta. On learning of this attack, the Nawab raised his army and marched on Calcutta, arriving with the main body on 3 February and encamping beyond the Maratha Ditch.
- Despite their successes, the British were cut off from trade and resupply while the war lasted. It was in Nawab’s interest to prolong it. Instead, he made the strategic mistake of trying to finish off the war quickly. He brought his army – with 40,000 horses, 60,000 soldiers on foot and 50 elephants – up to Calcutta and began preparing to attack the city. Clive decided to launch a pre-emptive attack. It proved to be a winning decision. Nawab’s army broke up and many fled. The British lost 57 men, the Nawab 1,300. Faced with a surprising defeat, Siraj-uddaula capitulated and decided to negotiate a deal with the British. On 9 February a peace Treaty of Alinagar was signed.
Treaty of Alinagar (Feb. 9, 1757)
- The attack scared the Nawab into concluding the Treaty of Alinagar with the Company. The treaty was named after the short-lived title ‘Alinagar’ given to Calcutta by Siraj after his capture of the city.
- The Treaty of Alinagar was signed on February 9, 1757 between Robert Clive and Siraj Ud Daula. Based on the terms of the accord:
- Nawab agreed to restore the Company’s factories.
- Nawab would recognize all the 1717 provisions of Mughal Emperor Farrukh Siyar’s firman.
- All British goods that passed through Bengal would be exempt from duties.
- British would not be hindered from fortifying Calcutta, as well as mint coins in Calcutta.
- The Nawab withdrew his army back to his capital, Murshidabad. The signing of the treaty was one of the events leading up to the famous Battle of Plassey.
- For the moment there was peace, but it wasn’t to last. Clive had come to Bengal not just with the objective of retaking Calcutta. Even before setting sail for Bengal, he had written, “this expedition will not end with the retaking of Calcutta only – and that the Company’s estate in these parts will be settled in a better and more lasting conditions than ever.”
- After displaying extraordinary skills on the battlefield, Clive was now going to employ his other talent – trickery. In the coming months, he set about plotting the demise of all the potential rivals to the British power in Bengal. The intention was to secure Company’s profits, not to rule Bengal. But inadvertently, it will set about a chain reaction of events resulting in British as masters of one of wealthiest parts of the world, oceans away from their homeland.
- Concerned by the approach of Bussy to Bengal and the Seven Years’ War in Europe, the Company turned its attention to the French threat in Bengal. Clive planned to capture the French town of Chandernagar, 32 km north of Calcutta. Clive needed to know whose side the Nawab would intervene on if he attacked Chandernagar. The Nawab sent evasive replies and Clive construed this to be assent to the attack.
- Clive commenced hostilities on the town and fort of Chandernagar on 14 March. The French expected assistance from the Nawab’s forces from Hooghly, but the governor of Hooghly, Nand Kumar had been bribed to remain inactive and prevent the Nawab’s reinforcement of Chandernagar. The fort was well-defended, but Admiral Watson’s squadron forced the blockade in the channel on 23 March, On 24 March, a flag of truce was shown by the French.
- After plundering Chandernagar, Clive decided to ignore his orders to return to Madras and remain in Bengal. He moved his army to the north of the town of Hooghly.
- The Nawab was infuriated on learning of the attack on Chandernagar. His former hatred of the British returned, but he now felt the need to strengthen himself by alliances against the British. The Nawab was plagued by fear of attack from the north by the Afghans under Ahmad Shah Durrani and from the west by the Marathas. Therefore, he could not deploy his entire force against the British.
- Siraj started secret negotiations with Jean Law, chief of the French factory at Cossimbazar, and Bussy. The Nawab also moved a large division of his army under Rai Durlabh to Plassey, on the island of Cossimbazar.
- In Europe, the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763) was on between France and England and in a mirror of their European rivalry, the French East India Company sent a small contingent to fight against the British in favor of Nawab. Siraj-ud-Daulah had a numerically superior force. The British, worried about being outnumbered and also French help to Nawab, formed a conspiracy with Siraj-ud-Daulah’s demoted army chief Mir Jafar, along with others such as Yar Lutuf Khan, Jagat Seths (Mahtab Chand and Swarup Chand), Omichund and Rai Durlabh.
- Popular discontent against the Nawab flourished in his own court. The Seths, the traders of Bengal, were in perpetual fear for their wealth under the reign of Siraj, contrary to the situation under Alivardi’s reign.
- William Watts, the Company representative at the court of Siraj, informed Clive about a conspiracy at the court to overthrow the ruler. The conspirators included Mir Jafar, Rai Durlabh, Yar Lutuf Khan Jagat Seths and Omichund, a merchant and several officers in the army.
- When communicated in this regard by Mir Jafar, Clive referred it to the select committee in Calcutta on 1 May. The committee passed a resolution in support of the alliance. A treaty was drawn between the British and Mir Jafar to raise him to the throne of the Nawab in return for support to the British in the field of battle and the bestowal of large sums of money upon them as compensation for the attack on Calcutta.
- Mir Jafar and the Seths desired that the confederacy between the British and himself be kept secret from Omichund, but when he found out about it, he threatened to betray the conspiracy if his share was not increased to three million rupees. Hearing of this, Clive suggested an expedient to the Committee. He suggested that two treaties be drawn – the real one on white paper, containing no reference to Omichund and the other on red paper, containing Omichund’s desired stipulation, to deceive him.
Battle of Plassey
- On 14 June, Clive sent a declaration of war to Siraj. On 15 June, after ordering an attack on Mir Jafar’s palace in suspicion of his alliance with the British, Siraj obtained a promise from Mir Jafar to not join the British in the field of battle. He then ordered his entire army to move to Plassey, but the troops refused to quit the city until the arrears of their pay were released. The delay caused the army to reach Plassey only by 21 June.
- On 23rd June 1757 was the Battle of Plassey fought between the armies of Siraj-ud-daula (with French help also) and Clive. The confrontation came on a cloudy morning north of the village of Plassey on the bank of the Bhagirathi River. There could be no comparison between the respective forces of the enemies. The Nawab’s army contained 50,000 infantry, 28,000 Cavalry and Clive’s army consisted only 3,000 men including English Soldiers. Out of three division of Nawab, One division was commanded by Mir Jafar. From the beginning of the battle, Mir Jafar, Rai Durlabh and Yar Lutuf Khan assembled their troops near the battlefield but made no move to actually join the battle.
- Only two generals Mohan Lai and Mir Madan were fighting desperately on behalf of the Nawab. Mir Madan fell dead on the field and thus the Nawab lost courage. For hours the course of the war remained undecided and uncertain. Mir Zafar advised the Nawab to send order to Mohan Lai to stop war and return back. Siraj, who distrusted his generals and had already been warned of impending defeat by his astrologer (who had possibly been bribed), lost his nerve when Mir Jafar advised retreat. Siraj fled on a fast camel. His demoralized army followed suit.
- Siraj-ud-daula fled from the battle field for life but was killed by Miran the son of Mirzafar.
- Mir Jafar now entered Murshidabad as the new Nawab.
Q. “The battle of Plasssey was not a great battle but a great betrayal.” Comment.
- According to the treaty drawn between the British and Mir Jafar, the British acquired all the land within the Maratha Ditch and 600 yards beyond it and the Zamindari of 24 Parganas of Bengal.
- Besides confirming the firman of 1717, the treaty also required the restitution, including donations to the navy squadron, army and committee, of 22 million rupees to the British for their losses.
- However, since the wealth of Siraj-ud-daulah proved to be far less than expected, a council held with the Seths and Rai Durlabh on 29 June decided that one half of the amount was to be paid immediately – two-thirds in coin and one third in jewels and other valuables.
- As the council ended, it was revealed to Omichand that he would receive nothing with regard to the treaty, hearing which he went insane.
- In 1760 Clive returned home. His fame had spread all over England as the Victor of Plassey and the founder of British rule in India. The British Government honoured him with the title of Lord.
- It must be recognized that at this point the British were neither in control of Bengal, nor did they have desire to do so. All they wanted were more trading rights. While British had played an important role, it was a coup in which Mir Jafar had taken power from Siraj-uddaula. Jafar still remained the man with the largest army in Bengal. Moreover, Clive had no intention of ruling Bengal, which made no sense for a company to do. “So large a sovereignty may possibly be an object too extensive for a mercantile company,” Clive wrote.
Effects and Significance of Battle of Plassey
(Political, Economic, Military impact)
- Significance of Battle of Plassey lies in the fact that Bengal came under the oppression of the British. The battle was not important from the military view-point. It was a mere conflict. No military superiority was shown by the English army. The Nawab’s camp was deserted that lead to victory of Lord Clive. Lord Clive’s diplomacy excelled. He won the battle almost without fighting. According to some historians: it was a transaction in which the bankers of Bengal and Mir Jafar sold out Nawab to the English.”
- The battle of Plassey followed the subsequent plunder of Bengal as Bengal was placed at the disposal of the English vast resources. After Plassey a huge sum was given to the Company. Bengal was considered as the most prosperous province, industrially and commercially. The vast resources of Bengal helped the Britishers to conquer the Deccan and extend their influence over North India.
- Before the Battle of Plassey English Company was just one of the European Companies trading in Bengal and huge taxes were imposed by the Nawabs of Bengal. The tax and wealth earned from here helped the British to balance all of their trade liabilities. After Plassey the English virtually monopolised Bengal’s trade and commerce. The French was unable to recover their lost position. In 1759, the British defeated a larger French garrison at Masulipatam, securing the Northern Circars. The Dutch was also defeated. From commerce the English managed to exert an exclusive control on the administration too. Plassey proved as a battle that had far-reaching consequences in the fate of India.
- The Bengal plunder began to arrive in London and the effects appears to have been instantaneous, for all authorities agree that the the ‘Industrial Revolution’ began with the year 1770 after Plassey was fought in 1757.
- The condition of the common of Bengal gradually deteriorated due to the weakness of the Nawab. Lawlessness and continuous economic exploitation of the servants of the company broke the backbone of Bengalis who once upon a time used to lead a prosperous life.
- British built and trained an army with native Indian Sepoys who then fulfilled the ambition of further colonization. The British East India company also wanted to protect the rich colony of India for which it acquired buffer colonies in Singapore, Penang, Burma, Nepal, Malacca etc. The British advancement in Asia was also aided by superior military and modern artillery and Navy.
- The Battle of Plessey ushered in a new era in the history of India. It was a turning point not only in the history of Bengal but also in the history of whole of India. It has, therefore, been rightly remarked that the Battle of Plessey marked the end of one epoch and the beginning of another.
- The conflict at Plassey was also crucial to the East India Company’s triumph over its French rivals.
Mir Jafar (1757-1760)
- After the Battle of Plessey Mir Jafar became the Nawab of Bengal in name only. Mir Jafar was dependent on the Britishers so as to maintain his position in Bengal as well as protection against foreign invasions.An English army of 6,000 troops was maintained in Bengal to help the Nawab. All real powers passed into the hands of the Company.
- He was an incompetent person. So through out his reign real power remained in the hands of the English. He had to face great financial crisis, because the servants of the company began to extract money from him in various ways. He had also committed to pay a huge amount of money to Clive as a mark of gratitude.
- The English company also pressed him for payment of instalments. Thus, Mir Jafar became restless under the great financial pressure and growing supremacy of the English. In the meanwhile Dutch hatched out a conspiracy with Mir Jafar against the English in 1759.
Battle of Chinsura / Bedara (1759)
- Mir Jafar felt that his position as a subordinate to the British could not be tolerated. He started encouraging the Dutch to advance against the British and eject them from Bengal. In late 1759, the Dutch sent seven large ships and 1400 men from Java to Bengal under the pretext of reinforcing their Bengal settlement of Chinsura even though Britain and Holland were not officially at war.
- Clive, however, initiated immediate offensive operations and defeated the much larger Dutch force on 25 November 1759 in the Battle of Chinsura. Clive also repelled the aggression of the Dutch, and avenged the massacre of Amboyna (The Amboyna massacre was the 1623 torture and execution on Ambon Island (Maluku, Indonesia), of twenty men, ten of whom were in the service of the English East India Company, by agents of the Dutch East India Company, on accusations of treason. It was the result of the intense rivalry between the East India companies of England and the United Provinces in the spice trade )
- In the same year Ali Gohour, the eldest son of the Mughal Emperor, rose in revolt against his father. On his way to find out a shelter for himself he besieged Patna in Bihar with the help of Shuja-ud-daula, the Nawab of Oudh. Mir Jafar felt helpless to face Ali Gohour alone. He sought help from the English. With the help of the English Mir Jafar defeated the Mughal army. For the help Clive was given the right to realize revenue from South Calcutta, which was popularly known as Clive’s Jagir. By this arrangement Mir Jafar had to suffer further loss of rupees thirty thousand per annum.
- When Clive returned to England due to ill-health, he was rewarded with an Irish peerage, as Lord Clive, Baron of Plassey and also obtained a seat in the British House of Commons.
- After Clive’s departure the servants of the company became uncontrollable collectively and individually they began to acquire wealth by corrupt means. Mir Jafar became tired of payment and his treasury became empty.
Mir Kasim (1761- 1763)
- Mir Jafar felt restless by the exacting attitude of the English in Bengal. He failed to meet further demands of the English with an empty treasury. As he was running short of fund his interest in the Government began to decline. The people of Bengal began to despise him for his inefficiency to maintain the administration smoothly. Under these circumstances the English planned to look for an alternative successor who was none but Mir Kasim, the son-in-law of Mir Jafar. He promised to pay the British more than Mir Jafar.
- In the meanwhile, Clive had left for England in 1760 and Vansittart had become the governor of Bengal. He compelled Mir Jafar to abdicate in favor of his son-in-law of Mir Kasim, who was very much eager to become the Nawab of Bengal. As a mark of gratitude; he ceded Burdwan, Chittagaon and Midnapur districts to the members of the Council.
- Mir Kasim was more talented, vigorous and ambitious than his father-in-law Mir Jafar. He ruled from 1761 to 1763. He did not appreciate the idea of being a mere puppet in the hands of the British. He always tried to remain away from their undue authority. It was for this reason that he shifted his capital from Murshidabad to Monghyr.
- In order to fortify his position against the English, he reorganized his troops and set up factories for the manufacture of arms.
- He trained his army in the western fashion and realized the arrears of the state in order to replenish his empty coffer.
- In spite of several complaints of Vansittart, he did not reduce his military forces. All these measures of Mir Kasim gradually incurred displeasure of the English.
- Dastak was the trade permit sanctioned to the east india company by the Mughal government. Under the terms and conditions of farrukh siyar’s farman of 1717 the East India Company was entitled to trade in Bengal without paying the normal customs duty. Based on the right derived from the imperial farman, the company used to issue dastaks authorising their agents to trade customs-free within the province of Bengal.
- According to the farman of 1717, this right of free trade covered by the dastaks was restricted to the company alone. This right, according to the farman, was not to be exercised by the company’s private traders. But in practice, the private traders of the company generally abused the free trade right by producing the dastak to the chowkies of the government. But the chowkidars had reasons to believe that most of the dastaks produced by company traders were produced just to cover their own private trade. The company sold dastaks at high price not only to European private traders but also to native merchants. Many corrupt British used there dastak for Indian traders in lieu of money which impacted revenue of nawab.
- Consequently, the government was losing revenue on the one hand, and the native merchants were losing their business due to unequal competition with the company and private traders, on the other. Sirajuddaula’s policy against the abuse of dastak was also one of the important causes of his conflict with the company.
- Mir Kasim opposed dastak and its misuse as other local merchants were required to pay up to 40% of their revenue as tax.
- Being unable to persuade the company to behave as regards abusing dastak, Mir qasim finally abolished the inland duties altogether in order to save the local merchants from ruin. This upset the advantage that the British traders had been enjoying so far, and hostilities built up. Mir Qasim overran the Company offices in Patna in 1763, killing several Europeans including the Resident.
- In 1758 Warren Hastings was made the British Resident in the Bengali capital of Murshidabad. Hastings was personally angered when he conducted an investigation into trading abuses in Bengal. He alleged some European and British-allied Indian merchants were taking advantage of the situation to enrich themselves personally. Widespread fraud was practised and illegal trading took place by figures who travelled under the unauthorised protection of the British flag, knowing that local custom officials would therefore be cowed into not interfering with them. Hastings felt this was bringing shame on Britain’s reputation, and he urged the ruling authorities in Calcutta to put an end to it. The Council considered his report but ultimately rejected Hastings’ proposals and he was fiercely criticised by other members, many of whom had themselves profited from the trade. Ultimately, little was done to stem the abuses and Hastings began to consider quitting his post and returning to Britain. His resignation was only delayed by the outbreak of fresh fighting in Bengal. Hastings resigned in December 1764 and sailed for Britain.
Battle of Buxar
- The seeds of the Battle of Buxar were sown after the Battle of Plassey, when Mir Qasim became the Nawab of Bengal. The primary cause was the conflict between the English and Mir Qasim.
- As we have seen, Mir Qasim was an able Nawab. The English wanted Mir to remain as a puppet in their hands. But, he always wanted to keep himself away from the British influence. He undertook some reformation, under which there was a reduction in expenditure on administration and palaces; fire locks and guns were manufactured, there was regular payment of salaries, new taxes were imposed and the capital was shifted from Monghyar to Murshidabad, which annoyed the British nobles and officers. He abolished taxes altogether de to abuse of dastak by British which infuriated British.
- These situation led to a number of conflicts between him and the English. He was defeated in three successive battles (between June to September 1763) before the Battle of Buxar, which eventually compelled him to flee to Allahabad where he met Shuja-ud-Daulah.
- In the meantime, after the acquisition of power as the Mughal Emperor, Shah Alam II also wanted to combine several states as one physically stronger empire, which included Bengal (present Bengal+Bihar+Orissa). But, he also could not overpower the British and was under the shelter of Oudh Nawab Shuja-ud-Daulah who always wanted to destroy the English supremacy in Bengal.
- Thus, one of the main causes of hostility between the English and the three rulers was the share of Bengal. Mir Qasim, Shuja-ud-Daulah and Shah Alam II joined hands to fight against the English to establish their sovereignty over the whole of Bengal and reduce the power of the British.
- The Battle of Buxar was fought on 23 October 1764 at the battleground Katkauli, 6 kilometres from Buxar, then within the territory of Bengal, between the forces of the British East India Company led by Hector Munro and the combined army of Mir Qasim (the Nawab of Bengal), Shuja-ud-Daulah (the Nawab of Awadh) and the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II.
- The Mughal camp was internally broken due to a quarrel between the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II and Shuja-ud-Daula; Mir Qasim was reluctant to engage the British. The lack of basic co-ordination among the three desperate allies was responsible for their decisive debacle.
- After the war, Mir Kasim fled to the North-West and died. Shah Alam II left Shuja-ud-Daulah and sought shelter in the British camp. Shuja-ud-Daulah tried to defeat the British till 1765 but was not successful. He later fled to Rohilkhand.
- Clive was in England when Battle of Buxar was fought and won by the British. In 1765, Clive returned styled Lord Clive as Governor General of Bengal for the second time. By this time, the British had shown their military supremacy in India for, the Battle of Buxar was tough contested battle, than the Battle of Plassey which was won by deceit.
- Battle of Buxar ended with Treaty of Allahabad.
Treaty of Allahabad (1765)
- The important outcome of the Battle of Buxar was the Treaty of Allahabad.
- Two separate treaties were signed at Allahabad:
- First treaty was signed between East India Company (Lord Clive) and Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II, who had submitted to the British in the battle. As per this treaty:
Mughal Emperor granted Fiscal Rights (Diwani) or right to administer the territory and collect taxes to the East India Company at Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. These rights allowed the Company to collect revenue directly from the people of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Nizamat rights (police and judicial) were given to Nawab of Bengal.
In lieu of this Right, the Company gave an annual tribute of 26 Lakh Rupees to the Mughals
The districts of Kora and Allahabad were returned to Mughal Emperor.
- Second treaty was signed between East India Company (Lord Clive) and Nawab of Awadh Shuja-ud-Daulah:
- Awadh was returned to Shuja-ud-Daulah but Allahabad and Kora was taken from him.
- The Nawab of Awadh paid 53 Lakhs rupees of war indemnity to the British.
- The Zamindari of Banaras region was given to Balwant Rai.
- An English Resident would be stationed at Lucknow. Nawab should bare all the expenses of this person.
- Further, the Nawab entered into an offensive and defensive treaty with the Company binding him to render gratuitous military help to the Company in time of need and the Company to help the Nawab with the troops for the defence of his frontier on the latter agreeing to pay the cost of its maintenance.
- Thus Clive, in person settled the fate of almost half of the Northern India.
Effect and Significance of the Battle of Buxar
- The seeds of British imperialism sown at Plassey flowered after the Battle of Buxar, a fact that makes the latter battle historically more important. It finally consolidated British rule in Bengal, the Nawab was reduced to a mere figure-head, the Company started an unchecked plundering of the wealth of Bengal, the Nawab of Oudh turned to a submissive ally and the Mughal emperor was reduced to thriving on an allowance from the Company.
- The Battle of Buxar proved to be decisive resulting in the establishment of British sovereignty in Bengal. This battle brought out the political weaknesses and military shortcomings of the Indians and the hollowness of the Mughal Empire. Battle of Buxar proved the military superiority of the English and exposed the inherent weakness of the native force. It was more important than Battle of Plassey as Battle of Plassey was not won by military might but deceit. Also If Plassey saw defeat of the Nawab of bengal, Buxar saw defeat of Mughal Emperor and powerful Oudh.
- The Treaty of Allahabad heralded the establishment of the rule of the East India Company in one-eighth of India with a single stroke.
- While the Battle of Plassey secured a foothold for the British East India Company in India, the Battle of Buxar made them the dominant force in India. Buxar war completed the work of Plassey.
- The East India Company, after the battle of Buxar, gained dominance over entire Bengal. The Mughal emperor came fully under the control of British. All duties and revenues from the most prosperous Indian province (Bengal, Bihar and Orissa) went to the company. It also gained administrative power by controlling the army, finances, and revenues.
- With the wealth of Bengal, the British could conquer other regions of India. The supremacy of the British was established in the Eastern parts of India. Buxar finally riveted the shackles of company’s rule upon Bengal.
- The verdict of Plassey was confirmed by the English victory at Buxar.
Dual System of Administration in Bengal (1765-1772)
- Under this system, the administration was divided between the Company and the Nawab but the whole power was actually concentrated in the hands of the Company. This complex system remained in practice during the period from 1765 to 1772.
- Under this system, after obtaining diwani rights from Mughal Emperor, Clive gave the responsibility of collecting Diwani to the Indians and appointed two deputy diwans (Mohammad Raza Khan for Bengal and Raja Shitab Roy for Bihar.)
- Nizamat function (police and judicial) was with Nawab but it was also undertaken by the Company. For Nizamat functions the British gave the additional responsibility of deputy Nazim to Mohammad Raza Khan. The deputy Nazim could not be remove without the consent of the company. Thus, although the administration was theoretically divided between the company and the Nawab and the responsibility for administration – Diwani as well as Nizamat – was exercised through Indian agencies, the company acquired real power.
- Thus the system was very advantageous for the company: it had power without responsibility. In 1772, Warren Hastings put an end to this Dual System.
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Q. After 1757 there grew up a state of Bengal which was a ‘sponsored state’ as well as a ‘plundered state’. Commeent.
Bengal as a plundered state
- The battle of Plessey (1757) was followed in the words of the Bengali poet Nabin Chandra Sen, by ‘a night of eternal gloom for India’.
- The English proclaimed Mir Jafar the Nawab of Bengal and set out to gather the reward. The Company was granted undisputed right to free trade in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. It also received the Zamindari of the 24 Parganas near Calcutta. Mir Jafar paid a sum of Rs. 17,700,000 as compensation for the attack on Calcutta to the company and the traders of the city. In addition, he paid large sums as ‘gifts’ or bribes to the high officials of the company.
- Even though Mir Jafar owed his position to the company, he soon repented the bargain he had struck. His treasury was soon emptied by the demands of the company’s officials for presents and bribes, the lead in the matter being given by Clive himself.
- Mir Jafar soon discovered that it was impossible to meet the full demands; of the company and its officials, who on their part, began to criticise the Nawab for his incapacity in fulfilling their expectations. And so, in October 1760, they forced him to abdicate in favour of his son-in-law, Mir Qasim, who rewarded his benefactors by granting the company the Zamindari of the districts of Burdwan, Midnapore, and Chittagong, and giving handsome presents totaling 29 lakhs of rupees to the high English officials.
- Mir Qasim, however, belied English hopes, and soon emerged as a, threat to their position and designs in Bengal. He was defeated in a series of battles in 1763 and fled to Award where he formed an alliance with Shuja-ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Awadh, and Shah Alam II, the fugitive Mughal Emperor. The three allies clashed with the company’s army to Buxar on 22 October 1764 and were thoroughly defeated. In 1763, the British had restored Mir Jafar as Nawab and collected huge sums for the company and its high officials.
- On Mir Jafar’s death, they placed his second son Nizam-ud-Daulah on the throne and as a reward to themselves made him sign a new treaty on 20 February 1765. By this treaty the Nawab was to disband most of his army and to administer Bengal through a Deputy Subahdar who was to be nominated by the company and who could not be dismissed without its approval.
- The company thus gained supreme control over the administration (or nizamat) of Bengal. The company’s authorities on their part set out to gather the rich harvest and drain Bengal of its wealth. In the years 1766, 1767 and 1768 alone, nearly £5.7 million were drained from Bengal.
- The abuses of the ‘Dual government and the drain of wealth led to the impoverishment and exhaustion of that unlucky province. In 1770 Bengal suffered from a famine which in its effects proved one of the most terrible famines known in human history.
Bengal as a sponser state
- East India Company utilised the money and resources received from Bengal to sponser all the wars and control complete Sub Continent within 100 yrs. Thus making India the Jewel in the Crown of British Empire. (more explained in next to next question)
Q. ‘Clive was not a planner of empire, but an experimenter who revealed some of the possibility’. Comment.
Ans: (See the section of previous years solved paper)
Q. “Britain conquered India in a fit of absent mindedness.” Comment.
Ans: (See the section of previous years solved paper)
Q. “The rise and expansion of British empire was an accident rather than the result of a deliberate policy and design”. Critically examine this statement.
Ans: (See the section of previous years solved paper)
Q. “Neither Alexander the Great nor Napoleon could have won empire of india starting from Pondicherry as a base and contending with power which held Bengal and the command of the Sea.” Comment.
Ans: (See the section of previous years solved paper)
Q. “By certain of his actions Clive has marred both the glory and usefulness of his work.” Comment.
Ans: (See the section of previous years solved paper)