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British rule in bengal

May 09, 2015




  • 1.Bangladesh StudiesBritish Rule in BengalHimadri Bhowmic08-02886

2. British Rule in BengalDuring British rule, two devastating famines were instigated costing millions of lives in 1770and 1943. Scarcely five years into the British East India Companys rule, the catastrophic Bengalfamine of 1070 one of the greatest famines of history occurred. Up to a third of the populationdied in 1770 and subsequent years. The Indian Mutiny of 1857 replaced rule by the Companywith the direct control of Bengal by the British crown.A centre of rice cultivation as well as fine cotton called muslin and the worlds main source ofjute fibre, Bengal, from the 1850s became one of Indias principal centres of industry,concentrated in the capital Kolkata (known as Calcutta under the British, always called Kolkatain the native tongue of Bengali) and its emerging cluster of suburbs. Most of the populationnevertheless remained dependent on agriculture, and despite its leading role in Indian politicaland intellectual activity, the province included some very undeveloped districts, especially in theeast. In 1877, when Victoria took the title of "Empress of India", the British declared Calcuttathe capital of the British Raj.Indias most popular province (and one of the most active provinces in freedom fighting), in1905 Bengal was divided by the British rulers for administrative purposes into anoverwhelmingly Hindu west (including present-day Bihar and Orissa) and a predominantlyMuslim east (including Assam) (1905 Partition of Bengal). Hindu - Muslim conflict becamestronger through this partition. While Hindu Indians disagreed with the partition saying it was away of dividing a Bengal which is united by language and history, Muslims supported it bysaying it was a big step forward for Muslim society where Muslims will be majority and theycan freely practice their religion as well as their culture. But owing to strong Hindu agitation, theBritish reunited East and West Bengal in 1912, and made Bihar and Orissa a separate province.Another major famine occurred during the second world war, the Bengal famine of 1943, inwhich an estimated 3 million people died.Bengal famine of 1770The Bengal famine of 1770 (Chhiattrer monnntr; lit The Famine of 76) was a catastrophicfamine between 1769 and 1773 (1176 to 1180 in the Bengali calendar) that affected the lowerGangetic plain of India. The famine is estimated to have caused the deaths of 10 million people(one out of three, reducing the population to thirty million in Bengal, which included Bihar andparts of Orissa). The Bengali names derives from its origins in the Bengali calendar year 1176.BackgroundThe famine occurred in the territory which was called Bengal, then ruled by the British EastIndia Company. This territory included modern West Bengal, Bangladesh, and parts of Assam,Orissa, Bihar, and Jharkhand. It was originally a province of the Mughal empire from the 16thcentury and was ruled by a Nawab, or governor. The Nawab had become effectivelyindependent by the beginning of the 18th century, though in theory was still a tributary power ofthe Great Mughal in Delhi.In the 17th century the British East India Company had been given a grant on the town ofCalcutta by the Mughal emperor Akbar. At this time the Company was effectively anothertributary power of the Mughal. During the following century the company obtained sole tradingrights for the province, and went on to become the dominant power in Bengal. In 1757, at the2 3. battle of Plassey, the British defeated the-then Nawab Siraj Ud Daulah and plundered theBengali treasury. In 1764 their military control was reaffirmed at Buxar. The subsequent treatygained them the Diwani, that is, taxation rights: the Company thereby became the de facto rulerof Bengal. About ten million people[5][6], approximately one-third of the population of theaffected area, are estimated to have died in the famine. The regions in which the famineoccurred included especially the modern Indian states of Bihar and West Bengal, but the faminealso extended into Orissa and Jharkhand as well as modern Bangladesh. Among the worstaffected areas were Birbhum and Murshidabad in Bengal, and Tirhut, Champaran and Bettiah inBihar.A partial shortfall in crops, considered nothing out of the ordinary, occurred in 1768 and wasfollowed in late 1769 by more severe conditions. By September 1769 there was a severedrought, and alarming reports were coming in of rural distress. These were, however, ignored bycompany officers. By early 1770 there was starvation, and by mid-1770 deaths from starvationwere occurring on a large scale. Later in 1770 good rainfall resulted in a good harvest and thefamine abated. However, other shortfalls occurred in the following years, raising the total deathtoll.As a result of the famine large areas were depopulated and returned to jungle for decades tocome, as the survivors migrated in mass in a search for food. Many cultivated lands wereabandonedmuch of Birbhum, for instance, returned to jungle and was virtually impassable fordecades afterwards. From 1772 on, bands of bandits and thugs became an established feature ofBengal, and were only brought under control by punitive actions in the 1780s.East India Company responsibilitiesFault for the famine is now often ascribed to the British East India Companys policies inBengal.As a trading body, the first remit of the company was to maximise its profits and withtaxation rights the profits to be obtained from Bengal came from land tax as well as trade tariffs.As lands came under company control, the land tax was typically raised fivefold what it hadbeen from 10% to up to 50% of the value of the agricultural produce. [7] In the first years of therule of the British East India Company, the total land tax income was doubled and most of thisrevenue flowed out of the country. [8] As the famine approached its height in April of 1770, theCompany announced that the land tax for the following year was to be increased by a further10%.Sushil Chaudhury writes that the destruction of food crops in Bengal to make way for opiumpoppy cultivation for export reduced food availability and contributed to the famine. [9] However,this claim has been disputed on the grounds that the total area under opium poppy cultivation inthe Bengal region constituted less than two percent of all the land. The company is alsocriticised for forbidding the "hoarding" of rice. This prevented traders and dealers from laying inreserves that in other times would have tided the population over lean periods, as well asordering the farmers to plant indigo instead of rice. By the time of the famine, monopolies ingrain trading had been established by the company and its agents. The company had no plan fordealing with the grain shortage, and actions were only taken insofar as they affected themercantile and trading classes. Land revenue decreased by 14% during the affected year, butrecovered rapidly (Kumkum Chatterjee). According to McLane, the first governor-general ofBritish India, Warren Hastings, acknowledged "violent" tax collecting after 1771: revenuesearned by the Company were higher in 1771 than in 1768. Globally, the profit of the companyincreased from fifteen million rupees in 1765 to thirty million in 1777. 3 4. The Indian Rebellion of 1857The Indian Rebellion of 1857 began as a mutiny of sepoys of the British East India Companysarmy on 10 May 1857, in the town of Meerut, and soon erupted into other mutinies and civilianrebellions largely in the upper Gangetic plain and central India, with the major hostilitiesconfined to present-day Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, northern Madhya Pradesh, and the Delhi region.The rebellion posed a considerable threat to Company power in that region, and it was containedonly with the fall of Gwalior on 20 June 1858.[3] The rebellion is also known as Indias FirstWar of Independence, the Great Rebellion, the Indian Mutiny, the Revolt of 1857, theUprising of 1857, the Sepoy Rebellion, and the Sepoy Mutiny.Other regions of Company-controlled IndiaBengal province, the Bombay Presidency, and theMadras Presidencyremained largely calm. [3] In Punjab, the Sikh princes backed the Companyby providing both soldiers and support. The large princely states, Hyderabad, Mysore,Travancore, and Kashmir, as well as the smaller ones of Rajputana did not join the rebellion.[5]In some regions, such as Oudh, the rebellion took on the attributes of a patriotic revolt againstEuropean presence.Rebel leaders, such as the Rani of Jhansi and Rani of Tulsipur IshworiKumari Devi of Tulsipur-State, became folk heroes in the nationalist movement in India half acentury later; however, they themselves "generated no coherent ideology" for a new order. Therebellion led to the dissolution of the East India Company in 1858, and forced the British toreorganize the army, the financial system, and the administration in India.[8] India was thereafterdirectly governed by the Crown in the new British Raj.Bengal famine of 1943The Bengal famine of 1943 is one among several famines that occurred in British-administeredBengal. It is estimated that around three million people died from starvation and malnutritionduring the period making the number of Indian deaths higher than the two world wars, the entireindependence movement and the massive carnage that followed the Partition of India.Background and Possible causesThe Second World War began simultaneously with a series of crop failures and famines. ByAugust 1939, out of 14 states in Rajasthan, the 9 largest had declared that they were suffering afamine under the Indian Famine Code as it then stood.[3] In Bengal in 1940-41 there was a smallscale famine although quick action by the authorities prevented widespread loss of life. Foodprices increased throughout India, and the Central Government was forced to undertakingmeetings with local government officials and release regulations of price controls .The United Kingdom

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