The Company had thought that Mir Kasim would prove to be an ideal puppet for them. However, Mir Kasim belied the expectations of the Company. Ram Narayan, the deputy- governor of Bihar, was not responding to repeated requests by the nawab to submit the accounts of the revenues of Bihar. Mir Kasim could not tolerate this open defiance of his authority. But Ram Narayan was supported by the English officials of Patna. The misuse of the Company’s dastak or trade permit (a permit which exempted the goods specified from payment of duties) by Company officials also resulted in tensions between the nawab and the English.

The misuse of the dastak meant the loss of tax revenue to the nawab. It also made the local merchants face unequal competition with the Company merchants. By an imperial farman, the English company had obtained the right to trade in Bengal without paying transit dues or tolls. However, the servants of the Company also claimed the same privileges for their private trade. The Company’s servants also sold dastak to Indian merchants for a commission. Besides, they used coercive methods to get goods at cheaper rates, which was against the spirit of the duty-free trade. The duty-free trade simply meant buying cheap in an otherwise competitive market. Mir Kasim decided to abolish the duties altogether, but the British protested against this and insisted upon having preferential treatment as against other traders.

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The Nawab-Company tussle over transit duty led to the outbreak of wars between the English and Mir Kasim in 1763. The English gained successive victories at Katwah, Murshidabad, Giria, Sooty and Munger. Mir Kasim fled to Awadh (or Oudh) and formed a confederacy with the Nawab of Awadh, Shuja-ud-daulah, and the Mughal Emperor, Shah Alam II, with a view to recover Bengal from the English.

The Battle of Buxar

The combined armies of Mir Kasim, the Nawab of Awadh and Shah Alam II were defeated by the English forces under Major Hector Munro at Buxar on October 22, 1764 in a closely contested battle. The English campaign against Mir Kasim was short but decisive

Robert Clive

A survey of this period of British rule cannot be complete without a reference to Robert Clive, who joined the army after resigning from a clerk’s post. He was instrumental in laying the foundations of British power in India. He was made the Governor of Bengal twice from 1757 to 1760 and then from 1765 to 1767. He administered Bengal under the dual government system till his return to England where he allegedly committed suicide in 1774.

After the battle, Mir Jafar, who was made Nawab in 1763 when relations between Mir Kasim and the Company became strained, agreed to hand over the districts of Midnapore, Burdwan and Chittagong to the English for the maintenance of their army. The English were also permitted duty-free trade in Bengal, except for a duty of two per cent on salt. After the death of Mir Jafar, his minor son, Najim- ud-daula, was appointed nawab, but the real power of administration lay in the hands of the naib-subahdar, who could be appointed or dismissed by the English.

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The Treaty of Allahabad

Robert Clive concluded two important treaties at Allahabad in August 1765—one with the Nawab of Awadh and the other with the Mughal Emperor, Shah Alam II.

Nawab Shuja-ud-Daula agreed to:

  • (i) surrender Allahabad and Kara to Emperor Shah Alam II;
  • (ii) pay Rs 50 lakh to the Company as war indemnity; and
  • (iii) give Balwant Singh, Zamindar of Banaras, full possession of his estate. Shah Alam II agreed to:
  • (i) reside at Allahabad, to be ceded to him by the Nawab of Awadh, under the Company’s protection;
  • (ii) issue a farman granting the diwani of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa to the East India Company in lieu of an annual payment of Rs 26 lakh; and
  • (iii) a provision of Rs 53 lakh to the Company in return for nizamat functions (military defence, police, and administration of justice) of the said provinces.

Clive did not want to annex Awadh because it would have placed the Company under an obligation to protect an extensive land frontier from the Afghan and the Maratha invasions. The treaty made the Nawab a firm friend of the Company, and turned Awadh into a buffer state. Similarly, Clive’s arrangement with Shah Alam II was inspired by practical considerations. It made the emperor a useful ‘rubber stamp’ of the Company. Besides, the emperor’s farman legalised the political gains of the Company in Bengal.

Mir Kasim, the dethroned Nawab of Bengal, spent the rest of his life in abject misery as a homeless wanderer and died in June 1777.

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