Tuesday, 28 November 2017

The Siege of Calcutta (1756) by the Nawab of Bengal inspired the British to capture India

Nawob Siraj-ud-daulah and J.Z.Holwell,Black hole incident (1756),Calcutta historic-uk.com
On 18 June 1756, an important battle took place called the Battle of Lal Dighi between  Nawab Siraj-udud-Daulah and the forces of British East India Company, leading to withdrawal of the British from Kalikata temporarily. The English Company  recaptured Calcutta  and kept scheming and using various ruses to capture Bengal till their first major victory in the Battle of Plassey, Behrampore on 23 June 1757. It was a turning point in British India history and, for the British, it was a wonderful opportunity to set their foot firmly on the Indian soil, with  Clive taking control of Bengal, finally it became part of the EIC's land. The siege of Calcutta by the Nawab's forces and the Black Hole tragedy gave them the spark to act effectively for the take over of the Indian subcontinent. The Bengal Nawab's wrong move blinded by intolerance and inability to weigh the pros and cons of his action in dealing with country's security and future, at last landed him in serious trouble, all to the advantage of the EIC. 

The Nawab of Bengal Siraj ud-Daulah (Nawab Aliwardi Khan made Siraj his successor) in 1756 CE caused severe indignation and anger among the race conscious British officials that ultimately led to the battles of Plassey - 23 June 1757, and later Buxar. Within a short period, the whole of Bengal and part of Bihar and Orissa changed hands from the rich Nawabs to the British trading company that successfully and secretly engaged in conceit, cheating and breach of trust. From this huge victory, the British imperialists never turned back. Victories galore, the entire Indian subcontinent and its natives were at the mercy of  British masters by the middle of the 1800s. 

It was in Dalhousie Square, the old fort - Ft. William stood when it was raided by the Bengal Nawab for the reason that EIC not only failed to pay the  outstanding duty fees as specified in the trade treaty, but continued to defy the warning given by the Nawab  and  openly carried on the fortification work. Ft.William (old) was built to protect East India Company's trade in Calcutta. In 1756, EIC, to avoid confrontation with the French forces,  reinforced the fort without getting permission from the Nawab. Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah, unlike Aliwardi Khan who was quite amicable, was distrustful of the British and was not happy with their dishonest trade practices and was looking for a pretext to take on the British and drive them out of Calcutta.  Marched on  to Calcutta with some 50,000 troops and only after two days of attack, the Nawab sized Calcutta in June 1756. Ill-prepared, the surviving British soldiers left the fort leaving behind 146 soldiers under the command of J.Z. Holwell.  When the fort came under the control of the Nawab, It is said, the prisoners were imprisoned in a small dungeon - underground cell with poor ventilation. What was later called the Black Hole of Calcutta became a controversial issue as to the number of casualty. The fact is many died from suffocation, shock and dehydration.  The city - renamed "Alinagar" by the Nawab  - was only lightly garrisoned by the Indians. Calcutta was recaptured in January 1757 by the British enforcement forces from Madras led by Robert Clive  who got a name in the Carnatic war of south India that saw the decline of French influence in the south. The war resulted in recognition of the status quo in the Treaty of Alinagar, signed on the 9th of February 1757 between Clive and the Nawab. This allowed the East India Company to remain in possession of the city and to fortify it, as well as granting them an exemption from duties.  

Ft.William, Calcutta, Black hole. columbia.edu/i

Above image: The site of the ever-controversial "Black Hole of Calcutta in Fort William; a stereoscopic view, 1908...................

Archibald Campbell.builder new Ft.William Kolkata.wikipedia.org

The old Ft William was built under the supervision of  John Goldsborough in between 1696 and 1706 CE.  The SE bastion and NE bastion were built in 1769 and 1700 respectively and the factory (government house) in 1702. The entire work was completed in 1706.  The original building had two stories and projecting wings. An internal guard room became the Black Hole of Calcutta.  

Fort William, a view from the inside, c. 1828en.wikipedia.org

Above image:  The new fort was built in brick and mortar  by Archibald Campbell with meticulous care, using quality construction materials. Octagonal in shape it covers 5 sq. km with six gates.surrounded by 9m deep 15m wide dry moat. The design is that of a star fort- most suitable for  safeguarding  against cannon firing .............................

The siege of Calcutta led the British to build a new fort  in the Maidan and Robert Clive took the initiative. The construction was completed under the guidance of Archibald Campbell in 1781 at a cost of approximately two million pounds, indeed, a huge money in those days. The new fort is spread over an area of 70.9 hectares and is considered the most enduring edifice of the Raj era. The  old Fort was repaired and used as a customs house from 1766 onward. Today this fort  in the periphery of the lush green Maidan is the property of Indian Army. The headquarters of Eastern Command is functioning at Fort William. Being huge and heavy the fort has provisions for accommodating 100,000 army personnel. The Army guards it heavily, and civilian entry is restricted.

1807 Ft. William, calcutta www.columbia edu.

Above image: A view of Calcutta from Fort William (1807); a view of Calcutta from Fort William, from a set of prints published by Edward Orme. New arrivals sailing to the city first passed Fort William..............................

Some areas that once were part of the fort are  now occupied by the RBI, eastern railway HQ buildings  GPO, the Collectorate.


Normally, leaders or the heads of a country should use discretion when dealing with sensitive or serious political issues  concerning the security and welfare of the nation because, a wrong move would spell disaster or doom. At stake will be the country and the people, not to speak of human and financial loss if war ensues in the aftermath. In a jiffy, it will make a powerful nation become penniless and disoriented. If you take the world history, it is replete with a lots of instances where the arrogant and  egotistical  leader to save his personal honor, dignity and political ideology, ultimately made the country plunge into an abysmal chaotic situation from which redemption was very difficult.  The spark that triggered the WWI came from Europe in the  assassination

Franz Ferdinand of Austria

of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. This killing snow balled into the first world war (lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918) - bloodiest war in history. The end result was over nine million combatants and seven million civilians died as a result of the war (including the victims of a number of genocides).   The second World War was caused by the German invasion of Poland (1 September – 6 October 1939 )

History of Sorts

and the rise of Hitler and the threats posed by him  with his military might to other European countries, besides his extermination spree of the Jewish people. The Americans were drawn into WWII going on in the European theater  because of the bombing of Pearl harbor, Honolulu by Japan. 

The Liberty Web

This further pushed the American to  secretly develop atom bombs. The WWII came to a close with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 by the Americans and the defeat of German army in Russia. The WWII finally ended with surrender of Japan in in Aug. 1945. After the WWII, the British economy was in a shambles and, for Britain, maintaining the troublesome colonies was  not a good proposition.  The end result was the British empire had begun to show disintegration starting with the freedom of India in August 1947. In the Pandya kingdom of Madurai, the confrontation between two brothers -Jayavarma Veera Pandyan  (born out of wed-lock) and Jayavarman Sundara Pandiyan ( son of King Kulasekara Pandyan's rani) regarding  succession to the throne became a

Malik Kafur,  a homosexual & slave. bytwodesign.com.

Above image: A Muslim convert, an efficient military commander in the army of Alauddin Khilji of Slave Dynasty, Delhi.  In the early part of 1300s he raided Srirangam and Madurai temples to loot the treasures. Caused widespread destruction and chaos. He made the Pandya kingdom bleed. returned to Delhi with countless bags of loot -  mostly valuable stuff, gold coins, gemstones, etc, The Muslim army came to Tamil Nadu at the wrong invitation of help by the warring brothers of the Pandya king .........

contentious issue and the Pandya brother - Sundara Pandyan sought the help of Aladdin Khiliji whose military commander was in present day Andhra raiding the Yadhav kingdom. The Madurai  Pandya prince made a grave mistake by seeking the help of a wrong ruler. The Delhi Muslim army under Malik Kaufer in 1311 indulged in  looting  and destruction of the temple at Madurai. It was something like


stirring the hornet's nest. Later Madurai sultanate  was established  and it ruled Madurai till the Nayaks seized the power from them. The Nawab of Arcot had an alliance with the British to safeguard him from Tipu Sultan and his own rival and relative Nana saheb. The Arcot kingdom was on Subsidiary Alliance, and ultimately, the Nawab was at the mercy of the British. Ruler Dhana Nanda  earned the ire of Chanakya (4th century BCE), Philosopher  and political Guru by insulting him. Chanakya, bitten by indignation and  rage  plotted against ruler and saw  the down fall of king Dhana Nanda and his dynasty. This gave rise to  the Mayura kingdom.
Chanakya SlideShare

In the above mentioned cases vengeance, hatred and indignation pushed the victims to go to the extreme and ultimately they emerged victorious after felling their arch rivals. The same thing had happened in Bengal. The British prestige was very much affected by  the siege of Calcutta and the tragedy of Black hole. The English company seriously took refuge in vigilantism and  to teach a lesson to the Nawab. Being alienated Siraj-ud-Daulah did not have good relationship with people closer to him. Some of his  own relatives were against him, Taking advantage of his weakness and disunity among the royal family members, the British traders decided to topple Siraj and create a suitable situation to control Bengal.  Within a  few years after the battle of Buxar -  23 October 1764 they took control of Bengal and got the Diwani rights - rights to collect revenue from the vast land that was  yielding  far higher income  than  Britain and other few European countries put together.  It was a sort of Bonanza for the English company which was now running the  Quasi Government for the British Crown. Thus, Bengal was given to them  on a silver platter with which, they sustained, improved their economy and  expanded the  British empire. With vast income from the Indian subcontinent, that saw depredation, poverty and helplessness, Britain emerged as the most powerful imperialistic force in the world. 

Bengal. Capture of Calcutta British were like hornets CartoonStock

It all had happened only after the siege of Calcutta by Siraj-ud- Daulah  and their defeat  inspired the British company to take over the Indian lands. Their task was made easy by the then rulers' disunity and lack of  cooperation; they were busy squeezing each others throat.