The French, Battle of Buxer, Dual Administration of Bengal

The British and French East India Companies clashed (1744-1763)

The French East India Company was established in 1664. They had occupied some islands in Indian Ocean like Mauritius and Reunion islands apart from establishing factories on both the east and west coasts. Among these factories were Pondicherry (which was fully fortified) and Chandernagore (near Calcutta). The British and French East India Companies clashed whenever war broke out between England and France. Each tried to expel the other. In this effort, French Governor-General Dupleix formulated the strategy of taking sides in internal feuds between Indian princes. This would help them gain their trust as well as grant (be it monetary or land). The instability in Hyderabad and Carnatic had pushed both the states into chaso. This provided Dupleix with opportunity to carry out his plans.

Here is an account or what conspired in these states:

  • Carnatic Chanda Sahib was conspiring against the Nawab Anwaruddin
  • Hyderabad Death of Nizam-ul-mulk Asaf Jah I in 1748 led to scramble for power between his son Nasir Jung and grandson Muzaffar Jung.

The French Governor General Dupleix tatents of intrigue helped the French gain advantage of this situation. He allied with both Chanda Sahib and Muzaffar Jung. The three combined their forces and took on each enemy together. Both Anwaruddin (Nawab of Carnatic) and Nasir Jung (Hyderabad) were subsequently defeated and killed. However, Anwaruddin’s son Munammad Ali- fled to Trihinopoly after defeat in war which took place in 1749. This success proved to be beneficial for the French as. They gained land grants and huge sums of money from both the newly anointed princes. They got territories surrounding Pondicherry and the town of Masulipatnam from the new Nizam in addition to Dupleix getting Jagirs which generated Rs 1, 00,000 a year.

The Taking Over of Bengal

THE BATTLE OF PLASSEY: It was 23rd of June, 1857 and Colonel Robert Clive was anxiously watching the situation unfold from the terrace of his hunting lodge. It was located on the bank of river Bhagirathi at Plassey, near Murshidabad. The English were camped in a mango grove and a section of Nawab’s army was advancing towards soon after breaking of dawn. He was hoping that everything goes as per the deal which he had struck with Nawab’s men Mir Jafar, and other such as Yar Lutuf Khan, Jagat Seths (Mahtab Chand and Swarup Chand), Omi Chand and Raja Rai Durlabh.

  • The aforementioned deal was struck between Clive and the conspiring nobles in Siraj-ud-Daulah’s – the Diwan of Bengal, Yar Lutuf Khan- general in the army and Michaud a merchant apart from several officers in the army.
  • They were discontented with Siraj’s policies as opposed to the policies of previous Nawab Alivardi khan (grandfather of Siraj-ud-daula). Wealthy merchants (also known as Jagat Seth’s) were in constant fear for loss of their wealth under the reign of the new Nawab.
  • They agreed to support the alliance and install Mir Jafar as the new Nawab in return for large sums of money to compensate for the attack on Calcutta. The British also wanted the conspirators to support them in the battle against Siraj-ud-Daula.

A treaty was farmed to put down the deal on paper. Michaud was omitted from the beneficiaries of the deal on insistence of Mir Jafar and Seths. However, he found out about this ‘arrangement’ and threatened the British to spill the beans in front of the Nawab unless he was given a share of 3 million rupess. Thus, Clive came up with a plan to address that problems which is known as ‘The plan of the White and the Red Treaty’.

The Plan of the White and the Red Treaty

Robert Clive suggested that two treaties be drawn one on White paper with no reference to Michaud and another on red paper with conditions as per Omichand’s desire. The Red treaty was prepared to deceive Michaud. The Select Committee of British East India Company’s servants, who were legally empowered to strike the deal, were required to sign on the real treaty i.e. the While treaty.

They also signed on the Red treaty except Admiral Watson (who was one of the members of the select committee). Whose signature was counterfeited. Hence, the Red treaty was actually a fictitious one. Later, when the British successfully deposed Nawab Siraj-ud-daula, Michaud was informed that he would receive nothing out of the fake treaty.

This eventually drove him to insanity. Robert Clive defended himself in an inquiry conducted by the British Parliament into his conduct. He claimed that “and the House, I m fully persuaded, will agree with me, that, when the very existence of the Company was at stake, and the lives of these people so precariously situated, and so certain of being destroyed, it was a matter of true policy and of justice to deceive so great a villain.”

Coming back to the battlefield, here is a description of the belligerents:

  • English East India Company – Colonel Robert Clive was supported by men like Major Kilpatrick and the then Major Eyre Coot (who later became Sir Eyre Coot).

Nawab of Bengal- Had the support of French Artillery officer Monsieur Sin fray apart from his own court men and nobles like:-

  1. Mir Jafar- The demoted army chief of Nawab
  2. Yar Lutuf Khan- A general in the army of Nawab.
  3. Rai Durlabh- The Diwan of Bengal state.
  4. Mir Madan- The Bakshi or Paymaster General of the Army appointed in place of Mir Jafar.
  5. Mohan lal- Appointed as Peshkar of his Diwan Khana (an influential post in the Nawab’s administration).

The Fiasco of Royal Farman (of 1717)

The English did not appreciate the Nawab’s effort to check Farman of 1717. They wanted their goods – whether for internal sale or external export – to be duty free. However, Indian merchants paid duties on their trade. This was hurting the very Indian trading interests on Indian land and also depriving the state from much needed revenue. The excesses of Company were now openly visible. Percival Spear (a British historian) calls this time- “the period of open and unashamed plunder’. The Company officials forced Nawab’s officials and zamindars to pay those bribes and also compelled Indian merchants, artisans and peasants to sell cheap and buy dear from the Company.

Mir Qasim found a way out of this quagmire and freed all merchants, including Indians, from paying duties. This abolition of duties led to equal treatment of both English and Indian merchants. However, this led to a series of battles with the British as they could not tolerate equal treatment with Indians and wanted reimposition of duties on Indian trade. Subsequently, Mir Qasim was defeated in 1763 and he fled to Awadh to from an alliance with the them Nawab of Awadh, Shuja-ud-daula. The British restored Mir Jafar as the Nawab again.

The Battle of Buxer-1764

The combined army of Mughal Emperor – Shah Alam II, Nawab of Awadh-Shuja-ud-daula and Nawab of Bengal – Mir Qasim faced the British East India Company in a town known as Buxer on the banks of Ganges, on 23rd October, 1764 about 130 km west of Patna. The British troops led by Hector Munro won the battle inspite of facing an army multiple times larger than their. The primary reason for the loss of Mughals was poor coordination and mutual hostilities. Shah Alam II was not going along with Shuja-ud-daula while Mir Qasim was reluctant to engage with the British. Shuja-ud-daula left his soldiers and allies on the battlefield. He was pursued by Hector Munro’s force but he blew a bridge after crossing it. Mir Qasim decamped with Rs 3 million worth of gemstones and later committed suicide. It was Shah Alam II who remained on the battlefield with some of the abandoned forces of Shuja-ud-daula. Finally, he had to negotiate a settlement with the British.

Shah Alam II had to sign the treaty of Allahabad with the British in 1765. As per the treaty, the British secured Diwani rights of almost 100 million acres of land (which included present day Bengal, Bihar and Odisha) in return for annual tribute of 2.6 million. This had hitherto been enjoyed by the Nawab of Bengal.

In fact, as the viceroy of Bengal, the Nawab used to discharge two functions namely:

  1. Nizamat- military power and criminal justice
  2. Diwani- revenue collection and civil justice.

The Dual Administration of Bengal

After the decisive win of English East India Company in battle of Buxer in 1764, the Company became Diwan of Bengal. Then onwards, it directly collected the revenue as well as nominated a deputy Subahdar who was responsible for the Nizamat (police and judicial powers). Mir Jafar was dead by 1765 and his son Najam-ud-daula was raised as the new Nawab by the Company. He was made to sign an-agreement with the Company in 1765. According to this agreement, administration of Bengal was left in the hands of a deputy Subahdar who was nominated by Company and who could not be removed without its permission by this arrangement, the Company had the power without any responsibility associated with it while Nawab and his officials had the responsibility but no power to fulfill that. Thus, it not only had the military power and the revenue power, but also the judicial and police powers through the proxy of deputy Subahdar. This was the apparatus of Dual administration in Bengal. The government could be blamed for the misery of the people while the British enjoyed the riches of Bengal.

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