Monday, 15 December 2014

The Hunters and the hunted in the land (in 1600s) of fascinating Bengal tigers,India

Bengal tiger Gazi scroll.
The British lion and Bengal
Below are presented in brief two scenarios of Bengal in l600s. The prosperous rulers were losing ground against the British traders who already had a strong hold on them-something like a small prey held tight by a python ready to gobble.

 The fall of Bengal  in the 1700s was a major event not only in the history of India but also of the world because it paved the way for British imperialism and its subsequent expansionism across the globe. The advantage the British had was Bengal and later many parts of India which later came under the British rule generated surplus revenue for the Crown to finance expansionism as well to meet the needs of their country at the same time. This  pushed the pre-British India  to the brink of poverty and desolation.

Murshid Quli Khan, was the Diwan of Bengal from1700 to  till his death in 1727, followed by his son-in-law Shuja who ruled the province for 14 years. Later Alivardi Khan, seized the reins of office  from Murshid Quli Khan, Shujs'son  and ruled till 1756
All the three Nawobs were strong and competent administrators and under them Bengal greatly prospered, so much so that it was regarded as “the paradise of Bengal”. During the first half of the 18th century from 1706–1756, Bengal received in return for its exports nearly six and a half crores rupees worth of bullion and about Rs.2.3 crores of merchandise.

Decca, a major town  alone  accounted for a large volume of export worth nearly 30 lakh rupees of cloth to Asian countries.

Qasim Bazaar, center of major local trading activities, produced two and a half million pound of silk.

Commodities exported from Bengal included viz., saltpeter, opium, indigo etc. Hughli, which was the most important port of Bengal, grew into a great center of culture.

Since  trade, industry and agriculture saw excellent and sustained growth there was overall progress in down stream fields. This simulated the Bengal economy, better employment,better per capita income,etc that led to the growth and expansion of  of urban centers and banking. In banking sector  Jagat Seths (world bankers) were the leaders and their administration of the banking sector was on par with that of bank of England.
In the wake of booming economy and good administration by the Nawob and his officials, the population of Calcutta rose from 15,000 in 1704 to
one lakh in 1750 and Decca and Murshidabad became populous cities.

The English in Bengal:
Between the years 1633 and 1663 the British traders with their factories in Bengal were doing  peaceful trade under the protection of the Mogul power.That time they focused more on their company activities than on grabbing lands from the natives'

 The Mogul Governor of Orissa in 1633 gave the English merchants permission to build and operate factories at Hariharpur (near the confluence of the Mahanadi) and at Balasore further north. This was followed by a  second British factory  at Hughli in 1651.
Their progress was steady till Mir Jumla, Governor of Bengal, who put severe restrictions on the British trade. The British suffered badly during 1658 – 1663. Luckily they regained their trade privileges  under  Shayista Khan who became  the Mughal Viceroy in Bengal,  after the death of Jumla in 1663, their new deal resulted in three  important British settlements in Bengal - at Hughli, Qasim Bazar and Balasore, with subordinate factories at Patna, Rajmahal and Decca.

 Job Charnock, Chief of Qasim Bazar factory, chose Sutanuti or Sutanauti (the site of Calcutta) as the center of British trade instead of Hughli and he  laid the foundation of Calcutta as a British settlement. The addition of   a fortified factory known as Fort William in 1697 became  the seat of a new Presidency, officially called ''Presidency of Fort William in Bengal,'' in 1700. To accommodate rapid growth of population and to build new facilities and extend the area, the company bought  settlements  in the adjacent villages of Kalikata and Govindpur – from a local zamindar (land owner).

The treasury of  Bengal lost a lot of revenue as a result of  free trade facilities granted by the Mogul rulers to the British traders who never paid  taxes, whereas the local traders paid heavy taxes. As the British traders had an advantage over their Indian counter parts because of tax concessions, the Indian traders could not compete with the British. To compensate the loss of income to the treasury, in 1713, Nawob Murshid Quli Khan  annulled all the privileges bestowed on the  British and ordered them to pay the same duties as the local merchants. Later, upon representation to the mogul emperor 
Mogul Emperor Farrukhsiyar being carried in a palanquin,India.
Farrukhsiyar at Delhi, the British were able to get three
farmanas  in their favor in July, 1717. This  granted the British company special privilege to trade duty–free in Bengal, in lieu of an annual payment of Rs. 3,000.

After the Mogul empire's power started declining in the mid 1700, the local ruler became more assertive and independent. The British used the prevailing political situation in Bengal in their favor and bravely began making inroad into the path of conflicts and confrontation with the local ruler so that they could take advantage of the provocation from the ruler's side.