Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tyranny of the Company

The fifth and last part of the Allahabad Fort serial takes a look into the tyranny let loose by the Company’s servants. The far-reaching impact of exchange of robes between Shah Alam and Robert Clive changed the face of our country, forever.

CJ: Arindam Roy, 23 Feb 2008 Views:814 Comments:0

WHEN THE shortsighted Emperor Shah Alam signed the Treaty of Allahabad, with Robert Clive, on August 9, 1765, he wrote the death sentence of the Moghul Empire. By giving away the revenue collection rights of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, he had remained an emperor for namesake, a hollow ruler, with no powers, according to an underground publication, ‘Bharat mey Angrezi raaj’, by Pandit Sunderlal, a banned book in the British era, now with a private collector (name withheld on request).

Revenue collecting rights gave rise to rampant corruption amongst the East India Company’s servants. Their tyranny too was unparallel. Sample some of the English footnotes, of the book under reference.

In just over a month, after the signing of the Treaty of Allahabad, things had come to such a pass, that Clive wrote to the directors, on September 30, 1765, “The sources of tyranny and oppression, which have been opened up by the European agents acting under the authority of the Company’s servants, and the numberless black agents and sub-agents acting also under them, will, I fear, be a lasting reproach to English name in this country…. Ambition, success, and luxury, have, I find, introduced a new system of politics, at the severe expense of English honour, of the Company’s faith, and even of common justice and humanity.”

Warren Hastings’ period was perhaps the worst. He had only one aim, to make money by hook or crook. An English officer, Coolebrooke, wrote in a private letter to his father, on July 28, 1788: “It was Mr Hastings who filled the country with collectors and Judges, who adopted one pursuit --- a fortune. These harpies were no sooner let loose on the country, than they plundered the inhabitants with or without pretences…. Justice was dealt out to the highest bidder by the Judges, and thieves paid regular revenue to rob with impunity…

“Nor did his crooked policies and shameless breach of faith affect none but the princes and great men; the deposition of zaminders, the plundering of Begums, the extermination of the Rohillas may be forgotten, but the cruelties acted in Gorukhpore will forever be quoted to the dishonour of the British name.

“The system upon which the British dominions have been governed in the East, has affected the happiness of the people … not to mention the monopolies of salt and opium, or the principles upon which the Company’s investment has been provided, I may confine myself to stretching the land rent to the utmost sum they can produce. A proprietor of an estate under Moghul government seldom paid half of the produce of his estate, and in small properties much less; he was further allowed to take credit for a certain sum by way of pension or held rent-free land in lieu thereof. Under the Company, a landholder is allowed ten per cent of net produce as his share…

“The treatment of the people has been such as will make them remember the yoke as the heaviest that ever conquerors put upon the necks of the conquered nations.”


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