Book I the Sultanate Period Chapters /. The Arabs and the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent 1

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Bk. II ] History of Muslim Civilisation in India & Pakistan 486
Decline of the Mughal Empire
[ Ch. 22
Bengal and Zakariya Khan of Lahore-were in charge of distant provinces, and the affairs of Delhi were handled by persons who were courtiers rather than administrators, but, till the end of his day, the outward dignity of the central government was maintained. Perhaps the fairest judgment on Muhammad Shah is that of the author of Siyar al-Muta’akhirin: ”In his reign the people passed thier lives in ease, and the empire outwardly retained its dignity and prestige. The foundations of the Delhi monarchy were really rotten, but Muhammad ,Shah by his cleverness kept them standing. He may be called the last of the rulers of Babur’s line, as after him the kingship had nothing but the name left to it.”31
1. Irvine, The Later Mughals, I, 89-90.
2. The Cambridge History of India, IV, 322.
3. Ibid., IV, 325.
4. Ibid., IV, 329.
5. Ibid., IV, 338.
6. Sydney Owen, Fall of the Mughal Empire, p. 147.
7. J. N. Sarkar, Fall of the Mughal Empire, p. 147.
8. The Cambridge History of India, IV, 344.
9. Irvine, op. cit., II, 58.
10. The Cambridge History of India, IV, 349.
11. Unsuccessful in war, the Nizam at last entered into a secret compact with Baji Rao, by which the Maratha government promised to leave the Deccan unmolested and to levy nothing beyond the stipulated chauth and Sardeshmukhti while the Nizam agreed to remain neutral during the projected Maratha invasion of Hindustan” (ibid., IV, 382). Baji Rao had succeeded his father Balaji Vishwanath as Peshwa on the latter’s death on 17 April 1720. He himself died prematurely years twenty years later, after a remarkable career. By then the office of Peshwa had become hereditary in the family of Balaji Vishwanath.
12. The Cambridge History of India, IV, 360.
13. S. Muhammad Latif, History of The Punjab (1st edn,), p. 200.
14. Siyar al-Mula’ akhirin (Nawalkishor).p. 484,
15. The Cambridge History of India, IV, 382.
16. In 1118/1706, the prince also moved to Patna, thus reducing the importance of Dacca which was now placed under the charge of a deputy.
17. J.N. Sarkar, Ed., History of Bengal, II, 397.
18. For examples of subordinate Hindu revenue officials of Murshid Quli, who acquired large areas, and established big estates (including Natore, Dighapatica and Mymensingh rajs), see ibid., II, 409-14.
19. J.N Sarkar, op. cit., I, 190.
20. Ibid., 1,190-91.
21. Mirza Kulichbeg Fredunbeg, History ofSind, II, 136-37.
22. Ghulam Rasul Mehr, Kalhoras Ki Tarikh, pp. 184-89.
23. Ibid., p. 214.
24. Ultimately they received a jagir in the province of Multtn »nd established the modern state of Bahawalpur.
25. Quoted in Sarkar, op. cit., I, 12.

Bk. II ] History of Muslim Civilisation in India & Pakistan 488
26. H. Goetz, The Crisis of the Indian Civilization in the Eighteenlh and the Early Nineteenth Centuries,, p. 14.
27. Ibid.
28. Bashir-ud-din Ahmad, Waqi’at Dar al-Hukumat-i Dihli, II, 586.
29. This is the view expressed in Bayan-i Vfaqi,\>y the secretary of Hakim ’Alvi Khan, who was forced to accompany Nadir Shah after the sack of Delhi.
30. For an account of the embassy, led by Sayyid ’Ala’ Allah Bukhari and the return embassy led by Selim Efendi, see Bernard Lewis’ article on ”The Mughal* and the Ottomans” in Pakistan Quarterly for Summer 1985.
31. Siyar al-Muta ’khirin, in, 25.
Chapter 23
FALL OF THE MUGHAL EMPIRE (1161-1218/1748-1803)
Ahmad Shah (1161-1167/1748-1754). After Muhammad Shah’s death, Prince Ahmad Shah, the hero of the battle of Sirhind in which Ahmad Shah Abdali was defeated, ascended the throne on 29 April 1748. He was a well-meaning and active young man, but he could effect no improvement in the affairs of government. Safdar Jang, who had distinguished himself at Sirhind, and was the first person to bring to Ahmad the glad tidings of his kingship, became wazir, but this appointment proved singularly unfortunate. Sarkar writes:
”The new imperial wazir, Safdar Jang, was the malignant star in Delhi firmament. Devoid of farsighted statesmanship, patriotism or devotion to the throne, he was destined to ruin the Mughal Empire by pursuing a policy of blind selfaggrandizement.1
Safdar Jang succeeded Qamr-ud-din, who had been the wazir for almost twenty-five years and whose father, Muhammad Amin Khan, the organiser of the successful revolt against the Sayyid brothers, had also held this office before his death. The new wazir did everything possible to uproot and . humiliate the relations of his predecessor, and in this he did not shrink from measures likely to bring ruin to the State he was expected to safeguard. Sarkar has described in detail the steps taken by Safdar Jang to hamper and harass Mu’in al-Mulk (Mir Mannu), the viceroy of the Punjab, because he happened to be the late Wazir’s son. In July 1750, Safdar bribed Nasir Khan,

Bk. II ] History of Muslim Civilisation in India & Pakistan

who had been a trusted employee of the viceroy and was
administering four districts, to revolt against his master. When
Nasir Khan was defeated by Mu’in al-Mulk and packed off to
Delhi, Safdar announced the appointment of Shah Nawaz as
independent governor of Multan and instigated him to oust the
viceroy. The result of Safdar Jane’s efforts in this difficult
province was that the Sikh power revived-never to be put
down again by the Mughals-and Ahmad Shah Abdali, who had
suffered a defeat in 1748 came and captured Lahore.
Safdar Jang’s other principal aim was to uproot all Afghans in India. This was hardly a sound policy, especially in view of the danger from the Marathas, and was not in the Mughal tradition, which since Akbar’s days had relied on harmonising different group interests and maintaining a balance between them. In Muhammad Shah’s reign, Safdar Jang very ” nearly broke the power of ’Ali Muhammad Khan, the Rohilla chief, but Mughal Emperor and the wazir Qamr-ud-din did not agree with his extremism, and ultimately there was a rapprochement between the Rohillas and the Mughals. In the reign of Ahmad Shah, Safdar Jang had a freer hand, and, with the help of the Marathas and the Jats, he destroyed the Bangash Nawabs of Farrukhabad (1164/1751).
Safdar’s policy brought him in conflict with the principal Turani family, but his initial difficulties came from the royal favourites headed by the chief eunuch Javid Khan, and the king’s mother. Safdar Jang had Javid Khan assassinated in August 1752, but now the king started encouraging Shihab-uddin, a grandson of Nizam al-Mulk, who, after his father’s death, was known as Ghazi-ud-din II (and later ’Imad al-Mulk), and was a clever, but completely unscrupulous, youth of eighteen. Safdar Jang lost the support of the Emperor, and on 4 May 1753, though still the wazir of the realm, openly rebelled against his master, and encouraged Suraj Mai Jat to loot Delhi. Ghazi-ud-Din II organised the opposition to Safdar Jang, and with his usual lack of scruple whipped up Shi’ah-Sunni controversy and Afghan-Irani differences to gain supporters.
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Safdar was defeated and forgiven, but realised, like Nizam alMulk, that the best field for the satisfaction of his high ambitions was away from the capital, and he withdrew to Oudh. The king soon became estranged with Ghazi-ud-din II, who was now all-powerful at the capital. He was planning some action against his former favourites but with the help of the Maratha chiefs, Ghazi-ud-din became wazir, and on 2 June

1754 deposed Ahmad Shah.

Alamgir II (1168-1173/1754-1759). The successor of Ahmad Shah, who ascended the throne under the title of ’Alamgir II, was a man of good intentions and placed before himself a pattern of Aurangzeb’s life, whose title he adopted. He was, however, an old man of fifty-five and the situation was completely beyond his control. In 1171/1757, the fateful battle of Plassey was fought, which resulted in the loss of Bengal and the beginning of British ascendancy. This went almost unnoticed at the Mughal capital which was, at the time, undergoing invasion and plunder by Ahmad Shah Abdali. The Marathas, who had grown more powerful owing to their collaboration with Ghazi-ud-din II, now dominated the whole of Northern India. In 1172/1758, they occupied Lahore and drove out Timur Shah, whom his father, Ahmad Shah Abdali, had appointed viceroy of Lahore a year earlier. This was the high water-mark of Maratha expansion. ”Their frontier,” says Elphinstone, ”extended on the north to the Indus and the Himalaya, and in the south nearly to the extremity of the peninsula; all the territory, which was not their own, paid tribute. The whole of this great power was wielded by one hand-that of Peshwa, who talked of placing Vishva Rao on the Mughal throne.”2
Third Battle of Panipat (1175/1761). Maratha dreams, however, received a shattering blow. Expulsion of Timur Shah provoked the wrath of Ahmad Shah Abdali, who was joined in the war against the Marathas by Najib al-Dhulah, Hafiz Rahmat Khan Rohilla, and Shuja’ al-Daulah, the new wazir of Oudh. The Afghan monarch entered India in August 1759, and

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took a considerable time in the preliminary work of scouting and preparation for the struggle against the Marathas. The principal battle, known in history as the Third Battle of Panipat, was fought on 14 June 1761. ”This, the most desperate of the three contests fought on the battlefield of Panipat, destroyed the great Maratha confederation.” Later, certain Maratha chiefs recovered portions of the Maratha empire but the Peshwa’s authority was broken and cohesion was lost. ”Maratha alliances and confederacies again vexed India but all hope of a Maratha empire was destroyed at Panipat.” The result of this battle made it clear that whoever succeeded the Mughals on the throne of Delhi, it would not be the Marathas. Ahmad Shah Abdali’s own design of building up an Afghan empire in India was frustrated by the impetuosity of his soldiers, who hated the heat of the plains, and clamoured for immediate return to Kabul with their plunder. The Afghan troops, not always easy to discipline, had been away from their homes for a long time and were on the verge of mutiny. Ahmad Shah had, therefore, to abandon his dreams, and returned to his country.
In November 1759, Ghazi-ud-din put to death ’Almagir II for co-operating with Najib al-Daulah and placed a puppet on the throne. After the battle of Panipat, Ahmad Shah Abdali nominated ’AH Gauhar, the son of murdered ’Alamgir II, as emperor of Delhi under the title of Shah ’Alam. Shuja’ alDaulah was appointed wazir and Najib al-Daulah, as Amir alUmara’, became regent of Delhi. Ghazi-ud-din disappeared from political life but lingered in obscurity till 1215/1800.
Najib al-Daulah (1119-1184/1707-1770). From 1175/1761 to 1185/1771, the capital was without a king. Ahmad Shah Abdaii had left the throne of Delhi to Shah ’Alam, but after his unsuccessful effort against the British at Buxar (1178/1764), he had settled down as their pensioner at Allahabad, and did not return to Delhi till 3 January 1722. These years were, however, full of peace and happiness for the capital and the realm. Najib al-Daulah, who, during this period, handled the
Fall of the Mughal Empire
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affairs of the shrunken empire, was a most remarkable person and, with the exception of Nizam al-Mulk, the ablest Muslim statesman of the twelfth/eighteenth century. Originally named Najib Khan, he was born in 1119/1707 in a village near Peshawar, but migrated to Rohilkhand and in course of time was entrusted with the command of 1000 men by the Rohilla leader, Hafiz Rahmat Khan. His chance came when Safdar Jang rebelled against Ahmad Shah in 1167/1753, and, prompted by the exhortations of a preacher, Maulvi Nadhar Muhammad, he left with his 1000 sawars to aid the king. On the way he tried to recruit other Rohillas and was accompanied by nearly

10,000 men when he reached Delhi. ’Imad al-Mulk recognised his worth, and had the title of Najib al-Daulah conferred on him along with a pan] hazari mansab. Najib’s importance increased when he won the confidence of Ahmad Shah Abdali, and he attained the summit of his diplomatic and military career when he organised the Muslim confederacy under the Afghan king which triumphed at Panipat. After this, he was naturally supreme at Delhi, but he remained thoroughly loyal to the Mughal king. As Regent at Delhi, his main task was to restore and maintain order in the Mughal domain around Delhi. After the battle of Panipat, the Marathas were quiescent for some time, but the Jats and the Sikhs were a standing problem. He defeated the Jats, killed the redoubtable Suraj Mai in battle, and rendered his son incapable of mischief. He was not so successful against the Sikhs, but the Phulkian Sikhs were detached from the Trans-Sutlej chiefs, and even the Sikh danger was greatly reduced.

Tragedy of Shah ’Alam. Najib al-Daulah died on 31 October 1770, and Shah ’Alam returned to Delhi under the protection of «Madhava Rao Sindhia, who (having become lame for life at the battle of Panipat) was an inveterate enemy of the house of Najib al-Daulah, and had his own plans for Northern India. Actuated either by his own known love for money or under the influence of Sindhia,3 within eleven days of his arrival in Delhi, Shah ’Alam left the capital to extort money

Bk. II ] History of Muslim Civilisation in India & Pakistan 494

from Dabitah Khan, son of Najib al-Daulah, who even before his death had entrusted the charge of his estate to his son. With the help of the Marathas and the brilliant general Najaf Khan, the Mughal army defeated Dabitah Khan, and on 16 March secured the surrender of Pathargarh, the strong fort built outside Najibabad. The Marathas now had their revenge on the co-victor of Panipat. According to Khare, the Marathas ”demolished” the tomb of Najib al-Daulah, but Sir Jadunath Sarkar says that they only ”defaced the curious workmanship of Najib-ud-Daulah’s tomb”.4
After some time there was a reconciliation between the Emperor and Dabitah Khan, who was appointed Mir Bakhshi, but in 1191/1777, there was another punitive expedition against his stronghold of Ghauthgarh, when the entire family of Dabitah Khan, other Rohilla leaders and many military officers were captured, and subjected to gross humiliation and illtreatment. Dabitah’s son, Ghulam Qadir, was among the prisoners, and was, according to tradition, castrated and made to serve as a page in the palace at Delhi. This expedition broke the back of Dabitah Khan, who went and joined the Sikhs, but ultimately the imperialists came to terms with him, and restored his family and jagirs. Dabitah Khan died in January

1785, and his son Ghulam Qadir Rohilla succeeded him.

Meanwhile, affairs at Delhi continued to follow their puerile and tortuous course. One man, who rose above others and was the last notable statesman warrior to serve, the Mughals was Najaf Khan, later known as Dhulfiqar al-Daulah. Born at Isfahan in 1150/1737, he had early migrated to India, and distinguished himself in the service of Mir Qasim. Later he left him, joined the British after Buxar, and such were his services and reputation that, in the treaty of Allahabad (August

1765), Clive guaranteed him an annual pension of two lakhs of rupees out of fifty-eight lakhs promised to the Emperor at the time of the grant of Diwani of Bengal. Najaf Khan accompanied the King to Delhi, and soon became the power behind the throne. Dabitah Khan, even when not in disgrace,

Fall of the Mughal Empire
[ Ch. 23
was usually away from the capital, and Najaf Khan was the real Mir Bakhshi of the Empire. His great achievement in this capacity was the organisation of a small but effective striking force, disciplined on Western lines, with which he defeated the Jats, and captured their stronghold, Dig, in April 1776. Najaf Khan became Regent (Wakil-i Mutlaq) on 19 November 1779, but in this capacity he proved disappointing. He became a tool in the hands of a wretched eunuch, Latafat ’Ali Khan, who introduced him to wine and women. He gave himself up to pleasure, developed consumption, and passed away on 6 April

1782, before he had attained the age of forty-five.

Najaf Khan was succeeded, as regent, by Afrasiyab Khan, a slave who claimed to be his adopted son and a little later by his nephew, Mirza Shafi’, but neither was a success. In December 1784, after both Shaff and Afrasiyab had been assassinated, and Sindhia had crushed Muhammad Beg Hamdani, another officer of Najaf Khan, the Emperor invited the Maratha leader to take charge of the administration at Delhi. Sindhia accepted the invitation. ”He presented himself before the Emperor in his camp near Fatehpur Sikri, placed his head on the Emperor’s feet, and paid a nazar of 101 gold muhars.”5 He was appointed Commander-in-Chief and Supreme Regent (Wakil-i Mutlaq) of the Empire. Sindhia tried to get the help of Ghulam Qadir in dealing with the Sikhs, but he was nourishing his own grievances, and showed no eagerness to accept the invitation. When in 1202/1787, Sindhia suffered a serious reverse in his war with the Rajputs and was forced to retreat from Lalsat (1202/1787), Ghulam Qadir felt that his opportunity had come. He entered Delhi, and, in September 1787, forced the Emperor to appoint him Mir Bakhshi and Regent. Hostilities, however, broke out between the Emperor who got the effective aid of Begum Samru, and the Rohilla chief and the latter had to leave the capital. Next year, he entered Delhi again, with more sinister designs. He deposed Shah ’Alam on 30 July 1788, and blinded him, with great cruelty, on 10 August. The inmates of the palace, princes

Bk. II ] History of Muslim Civilisation in India & Pakistan 496

and princesses, women and tiny babies were subjected to great hardships and humiliation. The drunken, degenerate ruffian acted with a brutality which has made him the ugliest character in the Indo-Pak history. He killed three valets and two watercarriers who tried to go near the bleeding king with a view to relieving his suffering. He would pull the beard of the old monarch, and say: ”Serve you right. This is the return for your action at Ghauthgarh,” Servants and maid-servants were tortured to point out the hidden treasures, and the entire palace was dug up to trace the buried wealth.
After ten horrible weeks (18 July to 2 October 1788), during which the honour of the royal family and prestige of the Mughal Empire reached its lowest ebb, Ghulam Qadir left with the booty for his stronghold, but the officers whom Sindhia had deputed hunted him down. He was captured on 19 December and was done to death, with tortures which equalled his own fiendish cruelties.
When Sindhia’s officers occupied Delhi, the blind Shah ’Alam was enthroned again. Ghulam Qadir had claimed that he would free the Mughal king from the control of the Marathas, but his action only strengthened the position of Sindhia. The steps taken by the Maratha chief to avenge the sufferings of Shah ’Alam reconciled the people to him, and though Shah Nizam-ud-din, his representative at Delhi, subjected the helpless Emperor and the inmates of the fort to want and humiliation, Sindhia continued to be the overlord of Delhi till he was defeated by Lord Lake in 1803, and Shah ’Alam came under the protection of the British.
The blinding of Shah ’Alam and looting of the fort increased the helplessness of the Emperor, and there was real poverty in the royal residence. This situation inevitably led to bickerings amongst the princes, intrigues and general degradation, but the usual impression of moral and intellectual decay in the Red Fort is not confirmed by those who are well qualified to speak. A French engineer, Pollier, was at Delhi from 1185/1771 to 1193/1779, and has left an account of the
Fall of the Mughal Empire
[ Ch. 23
elder sons of Shah ’Alam and the Emperor himself, and, although his personal knowledge extended to the time prior to the atrocities of Ghulam Qadir, his remarks are very complimentary about the court, which even then was afflicted with poverty and wrangling amongst the nobles. After describing various princes, Pollier says: ”I believe it may be affirmed, that few or no prince of India can vie with any of the royal persons above named, not only in acquired qualifications, but also in those qualities of mind, generally the gift of nature, and consequent to a good and virtuous education.”6 Sometime after the atrocities of 1203/1788, Mirza Zahir-ud-din Azfari, a prince of the royal family, fled from the Fort and, after wanderings in Northern India, made his way to Madras. His autobiography, Waqi’at-i Azfari, has been published by the Madras University, and shows a mind remarkably well informed, objective and alert.
The physical handicaps of Shah ’Alam did not completely destroy his political influence or ambitions. Indeed, his sufferings evoked general sympathy, and provided a bond of sympathy between him and the general population, including the Marathas. As late as 1213/1798 an attempt was made, to which the contemporary Afghan king Zaman Shah, Wazir ’AH the ruler of Oudh, and certain Maratha chiefs were a party, to strengthen the position of the Mughal Emperor. The attempt was taken so seriously by Lord Wellesley that he took action in Persia, Afghanistan and India and defeated the scheme. Writing about this, Professor H.W.C. Davis said in the course of the ”Raleigh Lecture on History,” delivered at Oxford on 10 November 1926:
”Warned both by rumour and by open threats to expect Afghan invasion, the objective of which would be the restoration of the Mughal empire, Wellesley employed Mahdi Ali Khan, a Persian subject, who was then our acting Resident at Bushire to foment a quarrel between Persian court and Zaman Shah, and to stir up a civil war in Afghanistan (1798). The novel experiment succeeded.”7

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Sir Percy Sykes gives some indication of the methods adopted by Mahdi ’Ali Khan. He wrote:
”Letters from Bushire to the Court of Tehran in which he excited the indignation of the Shah by an account of atrocities committed by the Sunni Afghans on the Shias of Lahore, thousands of whom, he declared, had fled for refuge to the territories ruled by the East India Company, at the same time urged that if Zaman Shah were checked a service would be rendered to God and man.”8
Mahdi ’Ali Khan was received in person by the Shah and by ”spending large sums in presents he succeeded in persuading the Persian monarch to continue hostility against Afghanistan”. In course of time, Mahdi ’Ali Khan’s efforts were augmented by those of Captain (later Sir) John Malcolm. The success of these measures compelled Shah Zaman to withdraw from Lahore and remain confined to his Afghan kingdom. Wellesley took more drastic action against the Indian parties to the scheme. He removed Wazir ’Ali from his gaddi at Lucknow and interned him in Benares where the furious Nawab later shot dead the British Resident and was removed to Calcutta. Wellesley also initiated action against the Maratha chiefs, which ended in the capture of Delhi by Lord Lake in

Change-over in Bengal (1171/1757). In the meanwhile farreaching developments had taken place outside the capital. ’Alivardi Khan, the able governor of Bengal, died on 10 April

1756, and was succeeded by his grandson, Mirza Muhammad, better known as Siraj-ud-Daulah. Soon, the disruptive forces which were kept under check by the resourceful ’Alivardi, got out of hand and overwhelmed the government. ’Alivardi’s commander-in-chief Mir Ja’far, to whom his half-sister was married, started plotting against his brother-in-law and had for a short time to be removed from the command. Another source of weakness was the East India Company which had established at Calcutta, not only a commercial, but also a political centre (a State within a State). The third source of weakness was the
Fall of the Mughal Empire
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attitude of Hindu zamindars, bankers, and officials who, always influential in Bengal, had grown very powerful since the days of Murshid Quli Khan. ’Alivardi Khan made no distinction between Hindus and Muslims. He had gained his masnad with the support of Hindu notables, and they shared the government with him. The position of Hindu officers under ’Alivardi Khan was so strong that, in the words of Orme ”nothing of moment could move without their participation or knowledge”. This, however, had not reconciled them to the Muslim Nawabs. Two years before the death of ’Alivardi, Col. Scott, the Chief Engineer of the East India Company, wrote to a friend: ”Gentu (Hindu) rajas and inhabitants were disaffected of the Moor (Muhammadan) government and secretly wished for a change and opportunity of throwing off their yoke.”9
These three forces sealed the fate of Siraj-ud-Daulah. The role of the treacherous Mir Ja’far, generally held responsible for the fate of Siraj-ud-Daulah, was comparatively minor one. It was the ”alliance of the Hindu merchants with the Company which gave Bengal to the British” and brought an end to Muslim rule in that province.10 On this point it would be useful to quote at length from Panikkar:
”When Siraj-ud-Daula became Nawab Nazim, he had succeeded to a situation which would have taken a far acuter mind to grasp and deal with. That situation was that while the Mughal viceroyalty conferred only the title of power, the actual authority had passed to the great Hindu merchant princes and their allies in the fort that dominated the Hooghly. The quarrel arose between the Company and the Nawab about the fortification they were erecting. In fighting that ensued Calcutta was captured and the English who had remained back imprisoned. This is the story of the Black Hole, evidence in regard to which is conflicting and scanty. Holwell, an early expert in war propaganda through horror stories, was a born liar and clearly the incident was exaggerated out of all proportion, though, no doubt, the Nawab was not particularly kind in the treatment of the prisoners. A British force under

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Watson and Clive, whom the defence of Arcot had made famous, arrived soon after in Bengal as war had broken out with the French. There was as yet no quarrel with the Nawab, whose neutrality the English were anxious to secure. But the Hindu merchants in Calcutta and Murshidabad had made up their minds to engineer a change. Jagat Seth, the first of the great succession of Marwari millionaires whose wealth is still legendary, had been insulted by Siraj-ud-Daula and he offered through Amin Chand, another Marwari in close relation with the Company, to have the Nawab replaced. An alliance was struck between the head of European baniadom, the English Company, and the Marwari Banias who commanded the wealth of Bengal. The Nawab’s fate was sealed.”11
Panikkar has utilised new material available from contemporary French sources, but his analysis should not lead to the inference that the British were merely passive instruments of Jagat Seth’s policy. A major role was played by him at this juncture, but he succeeded because the British had long cast covetous eyes on Indian territories, and only waited for a favourable opportunity. The accounts of Bernier and other travellers, with their detailed analysis of the military weakness of the Mughals, had already appeared in Europe. The example of the Portuguese, who had acquired a firm foothold on several keypoints on the subcontinent, was before all European nations. As early as in 1100/1688, the Directors of the East India Company had formally adopted a resolution expressing ”the determination of the Company to guard their commercial supremacy on the basis of their territorial sovereignty”. The Company had actually been at war with Aurangzeb for seven years, and it was only its failure in active warfare which led to the postponement of the realisation of its aims.
Aurangzeb’s firm handling of the East India Company delayed the British bid for political influence by half a century. In the meanwhile the initial probing into the weak spots of the Empire, away from the centre of Mughal authority, was carried
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